Rwanga Foundation swings the balance in a crisis-burdened Iraq

Rwanga Foundation swings the balance in a crisis-burdened Iraq

Shafaq News/ "It does not matter how many miles and kilometers the journey's duration is, you will always succeed if you decide and stick correctly from the first step”, with these words, Idris Nechirvan Barzani opened the Erbil-based Rwanga foundation in 2013.

Until now, 225 projects have been completed and more than 2.5 million people have benefited from Rwanga’s initiatives, more than 4,400 young people across Iraq were trained, and more than 5,500 young people have been able to find a decent job for the period 2016-2019.

Idris Nechirvan Barzani is the founder and president of the Rwanga Foundation, whose slogan is “Decide-Commit-Succeed”.

Shafaq News agency interviewed AbdulSalam Medeni, General Manager of The Rwanga Foundation, to find out the overall nature of the work and tasks:

AbdulSalam Medeni: Rwanga means "vision" in Kurdish. It is a non-governmental institution, established in 2013 and believes that our reality at the individual and societal level is only the product of our ideas and patterns of our relationships and decisions; if we want to change the reality, we must change our ideas, patterns of relationships, and decisions.. The entrance to this change is education in its comprehensive sense, which is broader than the structures of academic institutions.

Young people are the pioneers of change across time in all societies, for they are the future.

Through this education and work with young people, we can build a better tomorrow for all.

We carry out some activities in the field of the environment from an educational entrance, and through voluntary youth activities, because the poor handling of the environment is one of the biggest challenges facing the world recently.

Because we live in a conflict zone, there is a great need to help marginalized and vulnerable groups.. To whom we sometimes take initiatives to support and to provide a suitable educational, psychological, and social environment, and as the Chinese proverb says, “We feed the fish for a while so that we can teach how to catch fish and self-reliance”.  

Shafaq News agency: The Rwanga Foundation presents itself as an organization to provide employment to young people primarily, and recently launched the "Opportunities" project, tell us more about it.

AbdulSalam Medeni: “Opportunities” is a project that operates in more than one country in the Middle East and North Africa.. It is supported and designed by The Salitech Foundation and Microsoft. In Iraq, the project has been adopted by USAID since 2013. Since 2015, the Rwanga Foundation has been running this project.

“Rwanga Opportunities” is an electronic platform that bridges employers from international and local NGOs and job seekers, and offers various face-to-face and online training in various areas including CV writing, work ethic, optimal interview art, and technical courses such as computer, accounting, …etc. We have developed some activities, including a business fair and an annual forum that brings together employers from international and local NGOs with those seeking work in a more interactive atmosphere; with greater opportunities for direct dialogue between the two parties, as well as some other events such as seminars on youth status, the job market, challenges, and opportunities, as well as providing direct training and CV writing service during the visit to the exhibition itself.

In four years, we provided 4,451 training courses and employed 5,245 young men and women.

Shafaq News agency:  Will the foundation have a special contribution through its projects in Iraq, especially since the country is currently going through difficult health and economic conditions?

AbdulSalam Medeni: I read a saying I liked, “If you can't pierce the mountain, turn around it”. The goals are generally fixed, but the means may change. We will hold an exhibition for the period 3-5 November 2020 at the level of Iraq, the latter is going through multiple crises –but we do not stop, this year and because of the precautionary measures to counter the COVİD-19 pandemic, we decided to hold the exhibition online.

More than 100 local companies and NGOs from across Iraq -as well as international organizations, will participate in the exhibition. In addition to creating jobs, more than 300 internships will be provided on-site for young people to gain experience, strengthen CVs, and learn more about fieldwork in companies and organizations. However, we understand that the need is greater than what has been said, but we do not create jobs.. We are bridging the two parties and our initiative tries to participate as much as possible to solve part of the problem in a positive spirit. The economic situation is not at its best and companies are also suffering. We have a project with UNDP to support the recruitment and training of young people in companies, as well as support companies to accommodate these young people, we started in February 2019 and continue to March 2021. Through the project, financial support was provided to 56 companies and 685 young people were recruited –in addition to other initiatives.. yet the situation needs bigger and longer-term initiatives.

International and local organizations are trying their best, but the situation needs government intervention –as well as partisan- to calm the atmosphere and focus on the development of the Iraqi economy to create more jobs based on efficiency.

Shafaq News agency: On the issue of job creation, there is an equally important aspect in general; the development of the self-capacity of young people. You have pointed to this part more than once, how did Rwanga contribute to that more precisely?

AbdulSalam Medeni: With training and skills development. There are three reasons why this has been made a priority, the first: With the end of the 20th century and the computer entry, the world has entered a completely different stage in a variety of ways, including the labour market and the types of jobs. This has resulted in a dramatic change in the curriculum of education, training, and rehabilitation at academic and non-academic levels to graduate another type of staff. One of the most important of these changes is the focus on the employee with various skills (Multi-skilled Employee).. And the human/company term surfaced in the sense that a human alone is considered a company -for the diversity of his skills. So we focus a lot on training and development for young people.

The Second: We live in a rentier country (based mainly on oil), and Iraq’s pre-2003 economy was socialist -with the state owning production and means of production. Young people worked in the state after graduation -even without having any experience. The system of government changed after that and this was reflected in the philosophy of the economy that became more liberal, but the culture of state administration and the culture of society did not keep pace with the transformation; we need a longer period and plans and programs of another kind to develop the labour market and create a generation that is economically competitive and skilled at the local and international levels.

And the third: Our curriculum in Iraq is a theoretical curriculum in most of its courses, and teaching methods are focused on the teacher (teacher-centered class), while the correct way is to focus on the student (student-centered class) –especially in this time of skills. The teacher adopts the method of lecture mainly to present his practical material, and does not tend to provoke the brain with questions and create curiosity among students as well as develop skills of creative and critical thinking, and rely on more practical mechanisms and methods that connect the student to reality and make him touch and coexist with knowledge and not just hear about it!

Skills development is one of the most important things we focus on in our initiatives.

Shafaq News agency: In this case, how can you achieve what you have referred to on the Iraqi situation, specifically the youth group?

AbdulSalam Medeni: They say that the person is the son of his environment, which is true, but we try through various meetings, seminars, lectures, and other initiatives through our social media platforms to convey the idea that there is a level of awareness -especially for a person who complains about his reality- that makes the person go beyond the idea of being a victim and become responsible for his life and work -to change it according to the vision he paints for himself and strives to achieve. Our lives are our responsibility. Sometimes the key to the solution is in our hands and all we need to do is to dismantle the closed doors in our faces. Sometimes the key is in the hands of others, in this case, we have to move and obtain it.

Blaming others for what we are in is not a solution. While studying, a young person must learn and invest the opportunity to develop his personality, leadership, language skills, computer skills, and other skills that are considered for life, like solving problems, teamwork, various thinking skills, and a lot of reading. All of this is to be prepared when the time comes, for the time is always beside those who are prepared.

I know the situation is not at its best and I understand young people’s pain.. There is a lot of social injustice, nepotism, attribution, and corruption, yet I say that if the person is ready with his mind, personality, spirit, and skills, a lot of success doors will open to him. We want a young person who takes responsibility in society and seeks meaning in his life. Nietzsche said, “who knows why he lives can afford to live in any situation”, and Victor Frankl repeated this in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, "Whoever lives for a meaning can afford almost everything!”.

Shafaq News agency: Do you see any tendency from the current government to take care of young people, especially in the field of employment?

AbdulSalam Medeni: It is not a secret to say the situation in Iraq is complex on multiple levels, especially for a government whose main task is to prepare for early elections.

The challenge is even greater in light of the COVİD-19 pandemic and the continued decline in oil prices; we are a country that relies on oil as a national revenue. However, there are positive steps that increase optimism. We realize that Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is trying to be on the ground and close to the street, especially the youth, trying to intervene quickly in the emergency crises and looking for solutions to the accumulated strategic problems -which is not an easy task, especially since the time available to him is next to nothing.

On more than one occasion he emphasized the interest in youth and employment, and we met with the Minister of Youth and Sports, Adnan Dirjal, who expressed his readiness to coordinate and cooperate to support initiatives that concern young people. One of that meeting’s results was that this year's business fair will be in coordination with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, who will attend a panel on youth training. We believe this collaboration and participation is an important step to contain diverse efforts to deliver the best.

Shafaq News agency: What about The Rwanga Foundation's initiatives to support successful experiences among young people?

AbdulSalam Medeni: Our initiatives range from the young person’s discovery of himself and his potential to give correct decisions, to be responsible for his life, and to find a suitable job opportunity through the development of his skills, and to provide a range of means and requirements that help him in his study and developing himself, whether in terms of direct assistance or providing platforms that celebrate his potential and innovations, or initiatives that develop his leadership skills.

Effective communication, dealing with the team, how to turn the idea into a business, and others.. For example, we have (Rwanga Electronic School)..An application that includes ministerial questions for all subjects for stages 9 and 12 to see the questions and get familiar with them -for the student to test himself before going to the real exam. We also recorded model videos of a series of 12th (scientific) stage’s subjects and provided them to ease the burden of the issue of a private tutor on students from low-income families. Also during the COVİD-19 pandemic and online lessons, we recorded -in coordination with the Ministry of Education of Kurdistan and with the support of Pepsi Life, videos in Syriac and Turkmen for all curricula and published them through the website of the Ministry of Education.

(Rwanga Awards).. An annual periodic competition to celebrate young people with skills in ten sectors including scientific invention, entrepreneurship, photography, short film, smart electronic applications,...etc. There is a committee from outside the institution of specialists who evaluate the presentations and identify the winners at an annual ceremony at the end of the year where celebrities and stakeholders are invited to distribute the awards.

(Young Volunteer Initiative).. A periodic initiative in the form of a competition to stimulate volunteering. We support the winners to provide voluntary community services and the costs are a grant provided by us in partnership with the sector.

(Mathematics Competition).. An annual initiative to improve the level of curriculum and teaching methods of mathematics. We are conducting an annual competition for those superior in mathematics in the 4th (scientific) stage. Questions are placed from the previous stages and the IQ tests.

(Book of the Year).. A competition regarding writing about specific concepts, we design and print the winners’ books through a committee of specialist writers.

There are other initiatives on our website and social media platforms for those who want to see more.

Shafaq Live
Shafaq Live
Radio radio icon