The Drop-in Centre is a safe, child friendly space in the Suliemany market for working and vulnerable children. Since 2002 it has provided child protection, educational and psychosocial services, as well as peacebuilding activities. Over the years many children’s lives have been positively impacted and children have been enabled to make positive choices in areas that effect their future, such as education and behavioural choices.
After years of protracted conflicts, deprivation, displacement, trauma and economic sanctions, the basic rights of children in the Kurdish Region of Iraq continue to be violated.
Many children have missed years of education or have never been to school. Due to poverty or lack of a father/breadwinner in the household, many children are working or are forced to work, to help provide for their families.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, child protection case management continues to be an essential service that needs to continue, but with flexibility to adapt to the current situation. With schools and childcare facilities closed - living spaces have become crowded as families are confined. Poverty is increasing, with children at heightened risks of abuse, neglect, and exploitation.
STEP has been working in the Kurdish region of Iraq since 2001, providing child protection, educational and psychosocial services. The Drop-in Centre has been running since 2002 and over 11,000 different children have benefitted from the child protection and educational services provided through the centre.
The children expressed the importance for them to have a place where they can be safe and "escape" from their difficult, exploitative, abusive, or complex family or work situations. A place where they can learn, play, STEP has a child rights-based approach to child protection, this include listening to children as child participation is an important part of their protection.
Many lives have been changed through the work of the staff at the DIC. So many young people have gone on to be productive members of the community. Some persevered to finish education, others went on to complete either formal or informal apprenticeships schemes, ending up with jobs that can support them and their families.
There are a remarkable number of success stories, a testament to the resourcefulness and resilience of past beneficiaries of the DIC. A telling fact is that our project manager is rarely able to walk through the local bazaar without meeting and greeting former participants.
Children's words to describe the centre:
“A place of hope”
“Like a second home”
“The flower of my life”
“The centre is all my life”
“The staff in the DIC are like my family and I love the centre”
“A centre with respect and ethics”
She sells plastic bags and chewing gum in the bazaar. She says the DIC staff taught her how to take care and protect herself in the bazaar.
“I like what STEP is doing to take care of children and provide a safe space for the girls, as there is no other places in the bazaar taking care of the children except the drop-in centre.”
To provide a safe place for vulnerable and working children to access support that champions their right to protection and education and provides creative resilience building and peacebuilding activities.
The activities aim to provide the children with:
STEP is working in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to develop a foster care system in the Kurdish Region of Iraq.
STEP has provided Child Protection Services through the Child Friendly Space inside the Arbat Refugee camp since 2013.