Providing Safe Access to Girls’ Education in Ba'aj, Iraq
The district of Al-Ba’aj is one of the areas in Iraq that was occupied by ISIS in 2014. Unfortunately, during the liberation operations, there was widespread destruction of infrastructure and increased procurement of firearms. The conflict resulted in many negative consequences for the region, including mass displacement, the collapse of the security system, and an increased incidents of revenge killings, kidnappings, and sexual harassment.
During NP’s community engagement activities in Ba’aj, staff members noticed that over half of the parents the staff spoke with did not allow their daughters finish middle or high school. One reason was that families feared the girls would be sexually harassed by young men on the way to school.
Increasing the Safety of Girls and Facilitating their Access to Education
NP began providing protective presence and conducting patrols around schools and on the roads that students use daily on their walk to school—an effective strategy to deter perpetrators of violence. Protection Officers have patrolled school grounds as students arrived for class and during dismissal. On several occasions, NP also provided protective accompaniments to groups of students on their way home.
"When I get out of school and see your team on patrol near the school, I feel safe. And when I face any harassment or any kind of challenges while on my way, I'll contact you right away."– Student from Al Badia School for Girls in Ba’aj (July 19, 2022)
This patrols allow NP staff to engage not only with the students, but also with their family members and school staff, building trust and gaining deeper insight into the protection issues affecting children in Ba’aj.
The NP team also used this opportunity to talk to the girls about the importance of finishing their education. Team members have even held discussion with parents, in which they advocate for them to send their daughters to school. Additionally, NP spoke with young men around the schools and discussed the harmful effects of harassment.
“NP plays an effective role in protecting female students through their protective presence that is leading to a sense of safety for the girls in their coming and going back from school!”–Director of Al-Ba’aj High School for Girls during a parents-teachers meeting (October, 2022)
Protection Officers also held conversations to raise awareness on gender-based violence with a focus on sexual harassment prevention, as well as teacher trainings on child protection. These sessions increase the community’s awareness, as well as their ability to protect themselves and others in the future.
Steps Towards Sustaining Safety
By preventing harassment, NP’s protective presence has made schools in Ba’aj safer for girls and enabled access to education so they can overcome social barriers.
"Were it not for the presence of NP near the school, most of the female students would not have been able to complete their studies.”- Teacher at Al Badia School for Girls in Ba’aj, referring to NP’s patrols (August 11, 2022)
With your support, NP will continue to patrol schools in Ba'aj. To ensure that the reduction in harassment is sustained, NP will continue training and engaging key groups in the area—particularly young women and men. This support will allow civilians to enhance their knowledge about various ways to prevent violence and keeping each other safe.
NP will continue working alongside the Ba'aj community as they transition to keeping themselves safe—this might look like helping them form civilian-led Community Protection Teams.
“Previously, we received many complaints about sexual harassment near schools, but since NP started conducting patrols around schools, which have been constant, we have not received any complaints regarding that matter.”- Deputy Police Chief in Ba’aj (February 22, 2022)
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This case study will allow you to learn more about NP's efforts to enable safe access to education in Ba’aj, Iraq.