Including Women in Livelihoods Programming in Iraq: Influencing communities and other agencies in a fragile context | Oxfam

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The number of displaced people in Iraq now exceeds 3.3 million (10 percent of the population). Women and girls have been particularly affected, and their ability to engage in livelihoods activities disrupted. Through a series of studies and projects, Oxfam in Iraq is working towards understanding community and conflict dynamics in order to engage vulnerable conflict-affected women in economic life. A key element of this is influencing local communities and in turn, other agencies, to advocate for gender-sensitive livelihoods programming in such a fragile context.
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  OXFAM CASE STUDY OCTOBER 2016 www.oxfam.org   An Oxfam programme participant working in Diyala province, Iraq. Photo: Oriol Andres Gallart/Oxfam INCLUDING WOMEN IN LIVELIHOODS PROGRAMMING IN IRAQ Influencing communities and other agencies in a fragile context The number of displaced people in Iraq now exceeds 3.3 million (10 percent of the population). Women and girls have been particularly affected, and their ability to engage in livelihoods activities disrupted. Through a series of studies and projects, Oxfam in Iraq is working towards understanding community and conflict dynamics in order to engage vulnerable conflict-affected women in economic life. A key element of this is influencing local communities and in turn, other agencies, to advocate for gender-sensitive livelihoods programming in such a fragile context.  2 1 INTRODUCTION In Iraq since January 2014, more than 3.3 million people have been displaced, and over 10 million in total affected by one of the most rapidly evolving crises in the world. As in most conflict-affected territories around the world, women in Iraq are paying the heaviest price for the conflict, as they are worst affected by the lack of information, services and opportunities in areas of displacement and settlement. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 1  income/access to work is a priority need for vulnerable conflict-affected households in the Disputed Internal Boundaries – yet women here and across Iraq face many barriers to engaging in livelihoods activities. In April 2015, Oxfam and the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) piloted the Cohort Livelihoods and Risk Analysis (CLARA) in Northern Diyala. This showed that most displaced women generally suffer from restrictions of movement, which results from an attempt by the community to ‘protect’ them. This means livelihood opportunities are very limited, and are mostly available in a setting that is deemed appropriate (i.e. in or around women’s homes). In November and December 2015, Oxfam conducted a Gender Analysis in Northern Diyala and Kirkuk governorate. This revealed that 20 percent of women in Diyala and 40 percent of women in Kirkuk said they had no opportunities at all to access income; yet recent Oxfam assessments 2  showed that 100 percent of the conflict-affected households interviewed rely on market purchase – and hence access to income – for their food. The analysis confirmed perceptions of women’s reduced mobility and provided insights into the difficulties faced by women entrepreneurs, in particular in securing physical, financial or social access to markets. Local NGOs have been at the forefront of the response, building local capacity to address the humanitarian crisis. However, they lack tailored and appropriate support to sustainably build their systems and ways of working. For over a decade in Iraq, programmes were developed to provide support to local civil society. Nevertheless, the current local humanitarian actors still struggle to efficiently link women’s empowerment to livelihoods and to promote women’s roles and resilience in their communities. Oxfam is working to ensure that women’s economic empowerment is an entry-point to address these issues, in order to build resilient and safe households and communities as well as knowledgeable NGOs in Iraq. Oxfam believes that by strengthening the capacity and empowerment of local NGOs – and engaging men, women, boys and girls through creating spaces for alternative voices to be heard – women can play an increasingly influential role in their communities and their own futures.   3 2 ABOUT OXFAM’S PROGRAMME Barriers to including women in livelihoods programmes In the context of the ongoing crisis in Iraq, both the IDP and host communities attempt to protect women, and particularly adolescent girls, by restricting their mobility – in some cases even more than before the crisis. This has limited women’s ability to participate in livelihoods activities, and they are now mainly confined to their homes. In April 2015, the WRC partnered with Oxfam in the Iraq/Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to pilot the CLARA guidance and tool. Developed by the WRC, CLARA assesses needs, risks and opportunities, and highlights mitigation strategies for safer, more responsive humanitarian assistance. Farming and shepherding have not fared well in the crisis, and most IDP men’s best livelihood options require them to travel farther away to find work, although they would prefer to stay in the host village to protect their wives and daughters. Likewise, men in the host community reported leaving their villages for work less often in order to protect their wives and daughters. The CLARA found that while displacement exacerbates vulnerabilities, and can sometimes disproportionately affect women and girls, it can also lead to changes in gender norms and the disruption of social and cultural practices – providing opportunities for promoting gender equality. Oxfam recommended through the CLARA report that, as men are the primary breadwinners in Iraq/KRI, support for their livelihoods is imperative for the recovery of both IDP and host families, as well as for gaining allies for women’s livelihoods work. Male farmers and shepherds are best supported by cash or in-kind provision of seeds, tools, farm equipment and livestock. Support to re-establish supply-chain networks and mobile income-generating activities for IDPs are promising interventions for male traders. However, teams felt that mainstreaming gender and gender risk analysis throughout the programme’s duration would enable other agencies and practitioners to seize transformative opportunities and to build inclusive, safe, effective and responsive livelihood programmes. Because women tend to be confined to their homes for cultural reasons or due to insecurity, their livelihoods should be activities generally accepted as ‘women’s work’ – for example, backyard farming; rearing cattle and chickens that do not require grazing; dairy production; and home-based businesses, particularly where in-kind provision is possible. Direct participation in cash-for-work outside the home may increase women’s vulnerability; whereas enabling women to work together in partnerships and cooperatives, and assisting them with their business plans – carried out with the full engagement of men and adolescent boys – may reduce their vulnerability to gender-based violence.  4 Gender analysis highlights link between lack of income and increased gender-based violence Following on from the CLARA, Oxfam engaged in a comprehensive gender analysis in both Diyala and Kirkuk governorates. A particularly worrying trend emerged: localised tensions between newly displaced people, returnees and host communities were overlapping with multiple, intertwined expressions of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) (domestic violence, rape, early/forced marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting), which were exacerbated by the depletion of assets, lack of livelihood opportunities, lack of privacy and general uncertainty. The link between lack of income and community/family violence was clearly identified and observed: high rates of income insecurity force households to resort to corrosive coping strategies and lead to stress and tension, which results in increased levels of SGBV. Another highly concerning finding from the gender analysis was of women being resigned to and ‘accepting their fate’ in being abused, while increasingly resorting to violence against their children. In Kirkuk governorate, 92 percent of women reported not participating in local decision making; however, the ongoing nature of the crisis meant there were few opportunities to challenge exclusion of women from economic activity and decision making at community level. 3 WHAT DID WE ACHIEVE? With funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Oxfam in Iraq has been implementing recommendations from both the CLARA and gender analysis through cash-for-work activities in four villages in Northern Diyala’s Disputed Internal Boundaries. In all of these areas, NGOs had previously only ever engaged men in cash-for-work programming, as communities felt that it was not appropriate for women to be labouring alongside men in physical work outdoors. As outlined in the CLARA, this perception has been exacerbated by the ongoing conflict, which has meant humanitarian interventions have been limited in terms of engaging women in meaningful livelihoods and income-generation opportunities. Oxfam had previously implemented a cash-for-work project in Diyala in which all beneficiaries were men, as communities had refused to allow female beneficiaries to take part; women had instead nominated a male friend or relative to undertake physical labour on their behalf. However, post-distribution monitoring data revealed that most women felt they should give the nominated individual a share of the cash they received, and were therefore ultimately receiving less money than male beneficiaries. Keen to change this, Oxfam was determined to find a way to design future cash-for-work interventions in communities that included women and allowed them access to the same amount of cash as men. Upon first engaging with the four villages of Away Gawra, Um Al Hunta, Said Madry and Husseini, Oxfam staff were told very clearly by the local leaders ( Mukhtars ) and community members that only men could engage in cash-for-work activities as women were ‘unable’ to work. Oxfam therefore took a different
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