A spark of hope: Helping people build a future for themselves in North Iraq

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has assisted more than 57,000 people from Syria and North Iraq to build a future for themselves. More than 35,000 of them have been supported through employment measures provided by GIZ.

Sparks are flying and arcs of light flare up – the concentration amongst the 15 young men in the welding workshop at the vocational training centre in the northern Iraqi town of Jiner is palpable. For the past two weeks, they have come to the workshop every morning to learn how to handle a welding machine. Most of the participants are Syrians who are living in Dohuk Province as refugees. Others are Yazidis who fled from the Sinjar Mountains to escape the advance of the so-called Islamic State. All have one thing in common: they live in camps and aspire to live self-sufficient lives that will allow them to realise their hopes for a better future.

In Northern Iraq, where more than one million internally displaced people and around 250,000 Syrians have sought refuge since the end of 2014, Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has commissioned the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to assist the autonomous Kurdish region in getting people to be self-sufficient again. GIZ’s inputs combine short-term aid with medium to long-term structure-building projects – and they always provide benefits to the local population, too.

Through Jiner training centre GIZ is currently offering 15 different training courses. Between November 2016 and March 2017, some 300 young people will get an opportunity to improve their professional qualifications. The centre offers short-term technical courses that teach basic plumbing, electrical and welding skills as well as courses for confectioners or computer technicians. The range of skills on the syllabus is the result of a job-market survey. Training is only provided in occupations for which there is a demand, as trainees are to stand on their own two feet once they qualify. Under the critical eyes of the instructors, they learn how to use the relevant technical equipment. 'They are highly motivated. They all want to learn something. There is no one here who is disinterested or needs encouraging,' says Martha Gutierrez, Head of the Governance, Crisis Management and Construction Division. In the final week of their 30-day training course, they look to see how they can apply their new qualifications and examine the kind of prospects that await them.

In addition to these longer-term qualifications, GIZ operations in 2016 have also prioritised the implementation of projects in North Iraq that are designed to deliver swift and immediate assistance. Through 'cash for work', people get the chance to earn a temporary income and so meet their basic needs for a short while. There are many different employment options to choose from, including road construction, the renovation of schools and the maintenance of drains and sewers. Work offers people a welcome escape from their forced passivity. Depending on their qualifications, people can earn a daily wage of between EUR 20 to 30 – money they get cash in hand immediately after the job is done. 'In 2016, we will reach 35,000 people in Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan – with North Iraq accounting for some 22,000 of these people alone,' says Martha Gutierrez, adding that, 'The families can use these wages to buy food or schoolbooks, for example. With no other options for earning a little extra money, this constitutes their first step towards a self-sufficient life.'

Martha Gutierrez will be available for a telephone interview on 21 December 2016. If you would like to speak to her, please contact GIZ’s Press Office.