Flagship Workshop for Persons with Disabilities Makes History in Iraq, MENA Region
Iraq has one of the largest populations of persons with disabilities in the world. Persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in Iraq are increasingly being asked to advocate for their rights to their government and humanitarian and development agencies.
Yet, there has been limited opportunities for persons with disabilities from various governorates in Iraq to develop a strong and comprehensive understanding of their rights.
In partnership with the International Disability Alliance (IDA), the Iraqi Alliance of Disability Organizations (IADO), and the Arab Organization of Persons with Disabilities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) organized the Bridge CRP-SDGs* Module 1 training in Erbil from 9-16 November - the first Iraq-specific training of its kind, and the first national Bridge workshop in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA).
Bridge CRPD-SDGs* is a three-module, intensive capacity building initiative. It supports persons with disabilities to comprehensively advocate for the realization of all human rights for all persons with disabilities.
"After waiting for years to find donors to support the implementation of Bridge in Iraq, finally our dream came true! 108 candidates with different types of disabilities applied from across Iraq," said Mwafaq Al-Khafaji, Head of IADO. "Bridge is a great opportunity to improve advocacy skills of persons with disabilities in Iraq."
23 participants with diverse disabilities and experiences were selected, representing 12 Governorates across Iraq. Global Bridge Quality Criteria were followed to ensure that representatives of underrepresented groups, including people with intellectual disabilities, Deaf people, people with psychosocial disabilities, autistic people, women with disabilities, youth with disabilities, older people, Yazidis with disabilities and internally displaced people with disabilities were included in the training.
Accessible and inclusive facilitation included sign language interpreters; illustrators drawing concepts for participants with specific visual learning styles; personal assistants; translators; and accessible training materials. Arabic speaking trainers with disabilities from the MENA Region (including Iraq) facilitated the module.
"This training is very useful and relevant; I'm benefiting a lot," said Yadgar Kareem, a Bridge participant and Head of Kurdistan Union for the Blind and People with Low Vision, during the first week of the session. "Such trainings [help empower] members of Organisations of persons with disabilities members to defend their rights."
Globally, IOM is committed to reducing and addressing barriers facing people with disabilities. In December 2019, the IOM Iraq Disability Inclusion Strategy 2019-2021 was launched to help the government develop programmes that support the needs of migrants with disabilities. In 2021 IOM has been mapping and collaborating with Organisations of Persons with Disabilities; working towards making IOM community centres accessible; and developing guidance for staff to implement disability inclusive programming.
"It is significant to see the Bridge training hosted for the first time in Iraq, developed and led by persons with disabilities," said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission Giorgi Gigauri. "They are best placed to speak about their barriers, and their perspectives must be considered first when developing inclusive programming. We thank our partners for their hard work organizing this workshop, and we thank the Government Australia for the ongoing support of IOM's disability inclusion efforts."
Bridge Module 1 is funded by the Government of Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) under the project "Supporting Durable Solutions, Social Cohesion and Reintegration in Iraq", with additional contributions from CBM Global and IDA.