Netherlands and ILO delegation visit to Duhok sheds light on PROSPECTS Partnership’s impact on host and forcibly displaced populations

The visit highlighted key aspects of ILO’s programme under the PROSPECTS Partnership to support youth in their transition to decent work, with the support of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Article | 20 October 2023
Duhok, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (ILO News) Representatives from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the ILO met with workers, entrepreneurs and trainees in Duhok involved in ILO PROSPECTS interventions that support vocational training and skills development, decent job creation and business development in Iraq.

The meetings were part of a broader visit by Myra de Vries, First Secretary Stabilization Affairs of the Embassy to Duhok, to examine first-hand the impact of the programme, which is being jointly implemented with UNICEF, UNHCR, the World Bank and IFC.

Skills development

One of the key highlights of the visit was a graduation ceremony for 143 women and men from host and forcibly displaced communities, who have successfully completed market-relevant vocational training programmes with ILO PROSPECTS support. The ceremony included the first cohort of graduates - as many as 70 per cent of whom are women - covering five occupations in handmade carpet weaving, mushroom cultivation, photography, fruit drying and packaging and customer service. A total of 345 individuals will graduate from the training programmes.

The ceremony was attended by the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Kwestan Mohamad and other representatives of the Government. Under the education and learning pillar of PROSPECTS, the ILO has been working closely with MOLSA- KRI, specifically the Vocational Training Centre in Duhok, in providing these market-relevant vocational training programmes that equip youth with the needed technical and professional competencies as well as the core skills for life and work.

Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Kwestan Mohamad and other representatives arriving at the Vocational Training Centre in Duhok.
Minister Kwestan congratulated the graduates, saying: "I would like to thank the ceremony organisers, instructors, and trainees for this important work where young women and men get to participate in vocational training courses to broaden their capabilities. This will be of great help to them in securing job opportunities.”

“I would like to thank the ILO for its support of these courses, and I wish the participants all the best,” added the Minister.

Twenty-four-year-old Yousef Badal, who completed the training in photography, said: “Before joining this programme, I did not know anything about photography and videography, but now, I have developed those skills. I always had a dream of setting up a photography business. This dream is even bigger now. I want to expand my ideas even further.”

Representatives also met with workers and employers who are cooperating with ILO PROSPECTS in Work-Based Learning (WBL) programmes. WBL is learning that occurs when people do real work that leads to the production of real goods and services - an approach which integrates learning in a real work environment, such as an enterprise, with vocational training centres. The ILO is promoting work-based learning programmes for the host communities, Syrian refugees, and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) so they can acquire market-relevant skills that will help them transition to decent work. A total of 400 individuals are engaged in these programmes in Duhok and Ninewa, covering 18 occupations in 60 enterprises.

Plant nursery, one of the enterprises where ILO is implementing Work-Based Learning (WBL) programmes.
“I have learnt many things here, such as how to plant seeds, how to water the seeds and what to do once they become plants. If I set up a business related to planting, I will be able to contribute to my community. Plants are an important part of life,” said 19-year-old Aya Ali from Domiz Camp, who is doing her WBL programme training at a plant nursery.

“Our work under the PROSPECTS Partnership promotes a learning to earning approach, as we work on different fronts to ensure youth are provided with opportunities to develop life skills, followed by vocational training, engagement in ILO’s labour-intensive approach or entrepreneurship activities that support their transition to the labour market,” said ILO Country Coordinator for Iraq, Maha Kattaa.

“This integrated approach has proven its success through the examples that have been shown during the visit and we hope to see a scale up of this approach on the national level where more youth can access opportunities that improve their skills and employability,” Kattaa added.

PROSPECTS, which is funded by the Government of the Netherlands, operates in eight countries across the East and the Horn of Africa and the Middle East to support education, employment and protection in the context of forced displacement. 

Myra de Vries, First Secretary Stabilization Affairs of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Iraq, at the graduation ceremony.
“With the PROPSECTS Partnership we are aiming to enhance the self-reliance of forcibly displaced people and their host communities. We want to make sure that FDPs have access to the same basic services as the rest of the population. That they can access education and skilling that actually match the demand in their communities, and therefore are able to find a job, set up a business and earn a living," said de Vries. "The visited programmes, such as the TVET graduation ceremony, Work-Based Learning programme and financial inclusion initiatives are all essential to do this.”

Financial inclusion and entrepreneurship

In efforts to addresses some of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs in establishing or expanding their businesses, the ILO under PROSPECTS is implementing a financial inclusion initiative. This includes a partnership with the Central Bank of Iraq and partner banks to facilitate access to affordable financial services for young Internally Displaced Persons and host community members. In addition, young entrepreneurs are trained in ILO’s Financial Education programme and its Start and Improve Your Business training programme, to help them gain the knowledge and skills needed to set up and expand a business.

Representatives were able to hear directly from those youth - some of whom have been referred to ILO through UNICEF’s life skills youth programme - how this initiative is supporting their journey to start or grow their businesses.

Meeting with young entrepreneurs engaged in ILO's financial inclusion initiative.
“I used to have a small home-based business drawing on glass, which I then extended to other crafts. Through this programme, I was able to set up a small centre, selling handicrafts and ready-made items. The training on SIYB helped me develop a business plan, better understand how to choose my clients and my location, marketing, among many other things. Through the programme, I was also able to overcome many barriers in accessing a loan,” said Dina, one of the young entrepreneurs being supported by the financial inclusion initiative.

The delegation also met with members of the “Adwer” cooperative who are currently being trained on the Financial Education programme in Duhok. The training is equipping individuals with knowledge on ways to manage their finances - both personal and business - while also introducing them to financial services provided by partner banks. The aim of the current training and initiative is to support entrepreneurs of green businesses so they can improve and up-scale their enterprises, through purchasing modern machinery, such as modern drop irrigation and solar panels.

Members of the “Adwer” cooperative who have completed their training on ILO's Financial Education programme.
“We learnt how to manage our finances, through budgeting and other means. I need to buy new machinery, so I would benefit from the loan. If I can expand my business, I will be able to employ others and they can benefit from this work too,” said Sabah Jawad Khubshi, a potato farmer from Duhok.

Employment-intensive investment programme

A key aspect of PROSPECTS is to maximize synergies between the partners of the programme.

Another example which was highlighted during the visit was at the Shekhan Youth Centre, where efforts between the ILO’s employment-intensive investment programme (EIIP) interventions and UNICEF’s life skills youth programme are supporting youth to make a transition to employment.

Tour of the Shekhan Youth Centre.
Young women and men who have completed UNICEF-supported programmes have been referred to ILO EIIP’s interventions, where they were trained on EIIP approaches and engaged in monitoring on-going construction interventions to implement a new playground at the Shekhan Youth Centre.

“First I participated in the life skills training and later I took a training on ways to monitor the workers who are constructing the playground. This was a new experience for me. We hope to access more employment opportunities through this programme,” said 23-year-old Aya Kamaal, who is a participant of the initiative at the Shekhan Youth Centre.