Young People and Climate Action
Aspirations to green their community
Basra, Iraq, 05 November 2022 - Fatima, 22-year-old, is a young finance student in her junior year at Basra University.
Fatima remembers the day during which the Ministry of Youth and Sports (MoYS), in partnership with UNICEF, called for young people’s nominations to participate in a training programme on participatory action research.
“In 2018, I received a WhatsApp message from the MoYS calling to participate in a training,” recalls Fatima. “I applied and I was so happy that I got accepted.”
She was part of a group of 36 young people from Basra that participated in the participatory action research training.
“I really enjoyed the training,“ recalls Fatima. “The session that I liked the most was the problem tree.”
Youth Participatory Action Research is an innovative approach to engage young people by allowing them to explore issues that affect the wider community from their perspective and take corrective actions. With guidance from the MoYS, young people are in charge of collecting information, reporting and taking those corrective actions.
Following the training, Fatima identified a group of four other trainees and led research on the lack of young people’s participation in Basra. “Our research showed that most young people do not participate in their communities due to social norms and parents’ lack of awareness on the importance of young people’s participation,’ says Fatima. “Girls were the most impacted.”
In Basra, many families do not allow girls to leave their houses and participate in community activities. Fatima is the only girl in her family. She has three brothers, two are older Ahmed and Mohammed and Abdallah is younger. “My late father Ibrahim is my role model. He always encouraged me to participate in my community,” says Fatima. “We need to change this mentality by engaging more young girls to participate in activities.”
Funded by the European Union, and as part of the Youth Participatory Action Research, UNICEF held a training on the impact of water scarcity and climate change last year. During the training, Fatima met Abdel Aleem, a 22-year-old young man who also participated in the same training.
Abdel Aleem is a new graduate from Basra University, as he recently earned a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology Engineering.
Following the completion of the 5-day training programme, both Fatima and Abdel Aleem led two different teams of four. Each team conducted participatory action research on water scarcity and climate change in Basra. “I made sure that we were a gender-balanced team with two girls and two boys,” says Fatima. “I led the team and ensured that all the tasks were completed on time.”
Like many countries in the Middle East, Iraq faces many challenges related to climate change, including water scarcity and extreme temperatures. The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) ranks Iraq 61 out of 163 countries and 42nd among the most water-stressed countries in the world.
“My father showed me old pictures of Basra and its green fields,” says Abdel Aleem. “Now, as water resources dwindle due to climate change, the fields are yellowish and dry.”
The research that both Fatima and Abdel Aleem led showed that Basra community in general, and young people in specific, lacked awareness on water scarcity and the impact of climate change on their livelihoods.
“The main findings of our research showed that young people do not take any action to save water wherever possible,” says Abdel Aleem. “They also did not know much about climate change.”
Following the results, Fatima and Abdel Aleem initiated actions to preserve their community. This included raising awareness among their peers on the importance of rational use of water, and how to go green in their daily lives.
For Abdel Aleem, Basra’s dry fields and the training inspired him not only to conduct research but also to take up a job at Basra Water Station. “The research I did on climate action and water scarcity inspired me to take on a job with the water station in Basra. “I aspire to continue my education and to turn Basra into what it used to be – a greener and healthier place to live.”