International Day of Peace 2021 – a reminder that children and young people need long-lasting peace
The story of a young girl facing conflict in Iraq - International Day of Peace
Baghdad, 21 September 2021 – Too many children and young people in Iraq have experienced closely why an International Day of Peace is needed, having been exposed to years of conflict and internal forced displacement, too often losing their loved ones and their most basic human rights on protection, education and health.
Hawraa is one of them - “My name is Hawraa. I am 15 years old. I used to live in an agricultural area, Jurf al-Sakhar, 50km south of Baghdad, an area rich in everything sweet you can imagine. We had an orchard and we used to plant everything in it, with my mother and my brothers.”
The story of this young girl is the story of countless girls and boys in Iraq whom due to conflict have had to leave school and move away from their homes, being exposed to numerous risks along the way.
“I remember fourth grade of primary school, I used to go to school every day very happy and play with my friends and when I came back I would prepare my lessons and also bring my clean clothes for the next morning. However, in 2014, ISIS arrived in our region, and due to the big battles that took place, I was forced to flee with my family to Latifiya camp. In the camp, I replaced my big house with a tent, clean clothes with dirty clothes, and worst of all, due to conflict with ISIS, I lost my father, the house and everything I had. Now we are displaced – that is how people refer to us now...”
Reality in the camps has a toll on children and young people, and organizations like UNICEF and implementing partners like Umel Yateem for Development Foundation, work in the camps and in informal settlements to make the situation more manageable for girls and boys, including age-appropriate psychosocial support and case management, in which girls like Hawraa can engage with their peers and get the support they need to develop and reach their full potential.
“My mother has to work long-hours because we need food and money. When my mother couldn´t go to work, I had to fill in as a farmer in Basateen Al-Latifiya - the work was very difficult and cheap. However, I made sure to go on with my education, and now I am in third grade of secondary school. I also participated in the Child Protection Center where I was able to hangout, play and talk about the problems we suffered from, helping us solve our problems as well as support us with our studies.”
Thanks to the support of these interventions, Hawraa now has a chance to look at a future under a different light – a light that many children and young people still have no access to. In UNICEF, we will continue to champion our call #ForEveryChild, so that every girl and boy have an equal chance to thrive.