Y-PEER meeting with the UN Youth Envoy in Iraq

Y-PEER meeting with the UN Youth Envoy in Iraq

August of 2017 was quite the remarkable month for Y-PEER IRAQ. With the beginning of the month, news about a visit from the newly-appointed UN Youth Envoy coinciding with the International Youth Day were circling prompting the Iraqi network to brainstorm and plan extensively for four weeks packed with action to celebrate the youth in Iraq and around the world.

Thus began the preparation for The Iraq We Want Campaign, a four-week long series of activities carried out by Y-Peer members around the country dedicated to painting an image of the kind of Iraq the active youth of the country would like to one day see and live in. In the week preceding the Special Envoys visit, the campaign was launched with a Peer Education Training workshop in the city of Babylon, and meetings amongst members and with personnel from the UNFPA office in Baghdad were held to ensure the intricacies of the event are taken care of.

On the 11th of August, Miss Wickramanayake arrived in Baghdad and in the late afternoon of that same day she met with 30 active Iraqi youth from different initiatives including the Iraqi Youth Parliament, UNAMI, and Y-Peer Iraq. 11 young men and women from across Iraq came to meet with the envoy in Baghdad where they shared their achievements, concerns, challenges, and recommendations for the Special Envoy to carry to the UN and to government officials she would be in contact with. One of the Y-Peerians attending the meeting, Alhassan national coordinator on information management was assigned a facilitator of the meeting, and a multitude of ideas were shared. Ali, national coordinator on advocacy and partners, began sharing his views on an obstacle the active youth of today face in Iraq embodied by the lack of expertise, professional training, and managerial skills a big percentage of young Iraqi leaders suffer from in their projects and initiatives and went to discuss the need to provide more hands-on training and support tailored for working in a challenging unstable environment such as the community of Iraq.

Anmar, co-founder of Y-Peer Iraq, highlighted the need for a platform of direct communication with the UN in the form of a youth advisory panel to which the envoy showed keen interest and confessed her similar desire to creating such a space for young people to actively voice their ideas to the UN. Zhewar and Vina, the latter serving as one of the current national coordinators of the network, gave the envoy a more in-depth description of the status quo of young activists amidst the crisis of displacement in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. A variety of more challenges and recommendations saw the light in the meeting to which the special envoy expressed great interest and promised to do all she can to get the word across and carry the voices of Iraqi youth to the international community and the UN. The following day in a big celebration taking place in the National Iraqi Theatre, the envoy delivered her first speech and address to the youth of the world, and the spectacular event was attended by over 500 young people from across Iraq, 50 of which were Y-Peer members dressed uniformly and proudly in orange-flavored Y-Peer T-shirts.

In the last day of her visit, the special envoy decided to attend a day packed with activities at a local youth center in Al-Binuk district of Baghdad, where she actively contributed to a peer education session conspicuously titled The Values of Our Community where she talked about how much she valued forgiveness and how important it was in her work advocating for peace in her home country, Sri Lanka. Miss Wickramanayake left the session pleased with the work the young orange peers have put and went on to catch a glimpse of a friendly mixed-gender football match, which as a daring act in a conservative society where women arent given the chance to actively engage in sports activities.

The envoy was so thrilled with her visit that she posted about Y-Peer several times on her social media accounts. The envoy left the country for another mission and the Iraq We Want Campaign continued to cover the remainder of August with hands-on activities across the country including two peer education training workshops in Baghdad and another one in Missan of Southern Iraq, among others.

Prepared by: Y-PEER IRAQ Team

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