Wadi’s newest project in cooperation with NWE organisation and ADWI (supported by BMZ) engages youth in environmental activism and protection. This newest chapter of the ‘Green City Halabja’ campaign expands on the grassroots movement that has worked since 2018 to make strong and long lasting environmental change in the social fabric in Halabja.
Halabja becoming the first city in Iraqi Kurdistan that is plastic bag free, was the first step in changing people’s attitudes to plastic, waste, recycling, and eventually ‘greening’ the city by planting hundreds of trees and establishing community groups to care for those new green spaces. Environmental alarm is finally happening in the Middle East, and Iraq as a major oil producer was not a place where ‘green’ policies and ideas were popular. But, the undeniable drastic effects that climate change is having on the area are too much to be ignored. Even in places where oil is cheap, the reality is that it is extremely polluting and eventually those resources will run out. People are slowly realizing the negative effect that plastic waste, non-recycled trash, trash burning, are having on their lives. Young people especially are keenly aware through the power of social media and the worldwide ‘Friday’s for Future’ protests that have been ongoing in 2019 and early 2020 (until Covid -19 became a global pandemic).
Wadi’s new project ‘Keep Kurdistan Green’ engages directly with school students and teachers in Halabja, Garmyan, Ranya and Erbil through a combination of seminars and small projects that are student led. The different student groups will also be encouraged to network with one another, share ideas and work together. The student groups will also put on small theater plays for their schools, organise trash clean up, and encourage entire communities to participate in more eco-friendly practices. This project continues Wadi’s vision of supporting people to work together creatively to solve their own problems, come together as citizens and take ownership of communal spaces, by providing both short term boosts and long term technical support on how to reach those goals.
Some background on ‘Keep Kurdistan’ Campaign:
The focus of the ”Keep Kurdistan Green campaign which started in the summer of 2018 in the city of Halabja was the improvement of the green spaces and public parks, planting of trees and flowers, the recycling of trash and the end of plastic bag use. Activists in Halabja worked to make their city the first “plastic bag free” city in Iraq, single use plastic bags were replaced completely by reusable tote bags made of cotton. Cotton bags were sewed and labelled with the logo of the campaign, then activists visited the marketplace and local shops of Halabja to distribute the bags among the people there. The goal was to encourage the residents of the city to use reusable bags instead of single use plastic ones for their daily purchasing.
The action joined an initiative which started in February 2019 to end plastic use in Halabja. What made it special, however, was the connection between two different topics: protection of the environment and an improved possibility of income for low-income women from Halabja or women refugees; as the main protagonists of this project were not only local activist, but also women refugees and IDPs – seeking protection in Halabja. After their arrival refugees, especially women, normally have trouble finding regular income, this project works to change that, by sewing, designing and selling the tote bags.This project is having a positive effect on the community; people in Halabja are seeing the benefits that come from working to protect the environment by planting trees and having green spaces. Replacing plastic bags with cotton ones has also been very positive for the city and for the women refugees who are starting to generate a steady income for themselves. Halabja would like to be a role model for other cities in the field of environment protection.