Evaluation northern Iraq: together for a strong network against violence
Until today thousands of people from Iraq and the neighbouring conflict regions live in refugee camps and host communities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Here, an unsafe situation for many women who survived extreme forms of violence persists, which is often characterised by violence as well. In addition, the resources of the Kurdish host society and their regional government approach exhaustion.
Professional counselling for refugees and their families
medica mondiale and HAUKARI e.V. together supported authorities and other points of contact in the provinces of Dohuk and Sulaymaniyah with capacity building. More professional counselling and provision of information for refugees were urgently needed, along with specialised staff and executives who know about the causes, consequences and prevention of sexualised violence and who work in a trauma sensitive manner.
To achieve this, the project partners trained mobile counselling teams in camps and host communities, improved their equipment, organised information events for refugees and their families, and trained specialised staff and executives of authorities, hospitals, counselling offices or the police in trauma sensitive working procedures. They also arranged for the exchange between state and non-state supporting institutions to establish sustainable standards. In Sulaymaniyah this work was intensively supported by the local women centre Khanzad.
Women felt more secure, encouraged and informed about women’s rights after the counselling
In spite of the political instability and the tense security situation in the project region, the South African Jikelele Consultancy and the Institute for Social Work of the University Sulaimani mainly find positive results.
Training and better equipment for the mobile counselling teams facilitated their work in refugee camps in the province Sulaymaniyah (Germian) and led to more women and also men receiving good legal and psychosocial counselling and information. Affected women who were interviewed some time afterwards felt more secure, encouraged to make own decisions, and knew more about their rights. Participants of the trainings for specialised staff showed significant changes in their attitude and knowledge about and in their behaviour towards women and girls affected by violence, and they were able to apply this right away.
Information and sensitisation trainings for police and security personnel increased their awareness of the problem of sexualised violence itself and of behaviour towards survivors. Executives stated that they have already integrated what they learnt into their work and passed on their knowledge to colleagues.
Evaluation recommends focusing on local expertise
Yet, for more sustainability, better cost efficiency and a greater reach of the project the evaluators recommend strengthening the training of local specialised staff and supervisors who develop and use local approaches. This way, the number of participants could be increased, since it is still too low, especially considering the high costs for international trainers. Furthermore, more suitable materials should be provided and subsequent supervision should be offered in order to get the training contents across better and stabilise them. Local specialised staff also criticise the partially unclear responsibilities and content repetitions during the trainings. For the project results to become permanent and to be extended HAUKARI and medica mondiale should collaborate even better, with more frequent exchanges and more detailed documentation of their work.
Awareness programs successfully tailored to the needs of severely traumatised women
Realising the project in both refugee camps and host communities at the same time proved to be very positive, as existing tensions could be decreased through counselling and exchange. The evaluators also stated that supporting more counselling services on the one hand and improved protection on the other through addressing state-run and civic structures highly met local needs. In this context, HAUKARI’s approach was found to be very constructive; the targeted and common training of specialised staff and executives of different professions and from diverse state-run and civic services. This led to higher efforts by trainers who had to integrate diverse levels of knowledge and experiences, but the heterogeneity fostered the exchange and holistic discussions about solutions.
A particularly successful aspect, as emphasised by the evaluators, is that HAUKARI innovatively tailored the awareness and sensitisation programs especially to the needs of severely traumatised women and girls who have a very high need for security and high inhibitions.
Evaluation follows participatory approach using trauma sensitive methods
The data collection and analysis required for the evaluation is based on qualitative and quantitative methods (mixed methods evaluation): The evaluators collected information during group discussions and intensive interviews and through the analysis of case documentation, questionnaires and project reports. Following a participatory approach that includes all parties and beneficiaries of the project in the evaluation, interviews were conducted in a targeted way, yet depending on availability, with participants of awareness programs, several specialised staff and executives, police officers and project staff. This procedure resulted in a wide range of statements for the evaluation even though bias could not be ruled out completely. Since many women survivors of violence who were interviewed found themselves in very vulnerable situations the interviews were always accompanied by a psychosocial counsellor.
Networking with state-run and civic actors in northern Iraq strengthens sustainable support of refugees
The project created a strong basis for future cooperation between public and civic institutions and organisations through a steady and close coordination process with local governmental structures such as the health ministry or the ministry of labour in KRI. Together with project experts, universities and the implementing organisations, training materials, training programs and working standards were developed that, in accordance with state institutions, should ensure the quality of counselling and facilitate respective trainings for specialised staff.
Overall, the evaluation identifies the combination of skills and potential as special strength of the project: in this case, the local expertise of HAUKARI and Khanzad paired with medica mondiale’s knowledge about sexualised violence enable suitable and trauma sensitive support for survivors. In addition, the integration of both public and civic actors fosters their exchange and encourages them to cooperate in order to improve the living conditions of refugees and host communities in KRI.
Author: Eva Maria Helm, writer by order of medica mondiale