Child Protection & Youth Empowerment in Iraq
In recent years we have faced challenges developing social activities in Iraq.
Firstly, the Al Salaam youth network was weakened in the wake of the 2019 October Uprising, wherein young Iraqis protested rampant corruption, unemployment, and a highly sectarian political system in the largest incident of civil unrest since the 2003 invasion.
During the uprisings, two of the central youth leaders were shot and severely injured in Bagdad’s Liberation Square; while they thankfully recovered, Al Salaam decided to put a halt on organising activities to avoid any political entanglements.
Subsequently, once the uprising dwindled and the two injured organisers were ready to resume, Iraq was – like the rest of the world – hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, limiting football and social activities, and restricting our ability to raise new funds. Nonetheless, despite these obstacles, 86 of the 111 grassroots football clubs created through the OFFS program have withstood. Supported by local authorities and private businesses, several of the clubs have in fact managed to improve their facilities with gyms, locker rooms and some even with meeting and conference rooms.
Cross Cultures in Iraq - 2022-2025
We are thrilled to announce we are continuing our program in Iraq for two more years thanks to funding from CISU. In the coming years, we will develop our program in our focus areas: Mobilising local resources, establishing regional and national networks, child protection, youth empowerment and local capacity building.
Mobilize local resources and establish regional and national networks of youth volunteers and through our Youth Leadership Education, build their capacity to independently organize OFFS and other community-based Sport-for-Change activities.
- Create safe, child friendly spaces with positive adult interactions, wherein children can cultivate meaningful relations, and learn life skills through non-competitive sport and education.
- Engage different stakeholders that interact with children in daily life to instill the values of child protection beyond football, into the wider community.
Provide an opportunity for young people to actively partake in social networks and develop essential life- and professional skills through the Youth Leadership Education Levels 1-3.
Cross-cutting - Local Capacity Building
- Enhance the organizational capacity of local partners, especially IYN and Peace for Children, in order to increase their ability to act as effective CSOs and expand their access to resources and funding.
Our history in Iraq
Cross Cultures has been present in Iraq since 2005, when we in collaboration with Al-Salaam Football School, introduced the Open Fun Football School program (OFFS) to gain access to and mobilize local communities with the purpose of promoting positive relations, peace and reconciliation between people from antagonistic groups as well as enhancing child protection, active citizenship and gender equality. With funding from MFA Denmark, MFA Sweden, the Danish student organization Operation Dagsværk and the FC Barcelona Foundation, Al-Salaam and Cross Cultures have organized 84 OFFS for 16,083 boys and girls, 225 fun football festivals for 2811 children, and social day-to-day football activities for a total of 68,031 children between 2005-2018. All activities have been conducted bottom-up by approx. 4576 volunteers representing 153 grassroots football clubs. Furthermore, Al-Salaam and Cross Cultures have trained 1864 volunteers in our specific fun football concept at regional seminars of 3-5 days duration