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Iraq Katrien Nollen

Risk Education Consultant
A day in the life of CTG staff
katrien-nollen
Approximately twenty percent of the colleagues in my organisation are women and I was glad to hear CTG launched an initiative called Female First, aiming to get thirty percent of project-related roles filled by women by 2030.

Fifteen years later I have worked in numerous countries affected by conflict, including Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar, DRC, Mali, Chad, Somalia, North-East Nigeria, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Jordan, but never in my life have I encountered anything to what I have seen here in Iraq. The devastation ISIS has left behind is beyond comprehension. Three-and-a-half million people have already returned to their homes, two-and-a-half million people will still return to their liberated cities and villages known or suspected to be contaminated with IEDs and explosive hazards. My role as a Risk Education Consultant is to try to reduce the risk of death and injuries from these explosive devices by raising awareness and promoting safe behaviour. With the use of mass media, social media and teams on the ground sensitising people in IDP camps, host communities and affected areas, we aim to reach as many people as possible.

Naturally the workload is heavy and this job definitely has tough, frustrating and heartbreaking moments, but this is also what motivates me and what drives all of my colleagues really. Iraq has seen more than a fair share of conflict and crises and hopefully it has seen its last. The Iraqis are a proud and wonderful people and the hospitality here is amazing.

Armed forces are predominantly male and logically most of my colleagues with an IED or EOD background have a military background and are also male. Approximately twenty percent of the colleagues in my organisation are women and I was glad to hear CTG launched an initiative called Female First, aiming to get thirty percent of project-related roles filled by women by 2030. Half of the population we work with – and for – are women. Nicholas D. Kristof says that “when women gain a voice in society, there’s evidence of less violence.” What I do know is empowerment of women can only benefit a society, never harm it. I had a colleague once in Pakistan who believed there was no reason his daughters needed an education. After eight months of working in an international organisation and interacting with female colleagues he changed his mind and eventually sent all of his children to school. I have visited all-female demining teams in Laos and the message they give, particularly to girls in these communities, is that so much more is possible for their future as well.

With the upcoming national and provincial elections in Iraq on 12 May 2018, a massive return of IDPs to the retaken areas is to be expected in the coming months. Our work will even be a bigger race against the clock to make sure everyone is receiving messages that can save their lives. We are placing billboards by the side of well-travelled roads, focusing on IDPs leaving the camps, and starting campaigns on social media. The clearance and reconstruction will take decades, I’m afraid, and one day the need for Risk Education will not be here anymore. Let us just hope there will be perpetual peace in the cradle of civilisation.

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