New '119' helpline for gender-based violence victims in Kurdistan
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The United Nations and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) launched a new hotline on Wednesday for victims of gender-based violence (GBV) in the Kurdistan Region to call for support services and to alert law enforcement of their situation.
The project is a joint effort of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency, and the General Directorate for Combatting Violence Against Women (GDCVAW), part of the KRG’s Interior Ministry.
“The Helpline initiative will enable GDCVAW-trained operators to provide counseling, advice, and support to GBV survivors and vulnerable individuals in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq,” said Interior Minister Kareem Sinjari in a UN statement sent to Kurdistan 24.
It is the first the first helpline of its kind in the Kurdistan Region and will be active 24 hours a day to receive calls from gender-based violence survivors. It offers “confidential support and guidance to survivors of GBV,” read the statement.
“Callers will be connected with trained social workers as well as legal and psycho-social support counselors, both female and male.”
The UNFPA has also organized “two training [sessions] for GDCVAW social workers and phone operators on the helpline procedures and guidelines for answering, probing, supporting, and following up on calls,” and to receive community-based services and resources.
Though the KRG has made constructive advances to address violence against women, such as passing its 2011 Family Violence Law, local and international women’s rights organizations often highlight grave shortcomings in services available to female victims, something subtly noted in the statement by the UNFPA’s Representative to Iraq, Ramanathan Balakrishnan.
“While remedial services require strengthening to ensure the best possible care for GBV survivors, the helpline is definitely a positive step forward in that direction. We are confident that the helpline 119 is a solid tool that will help the Government in its efforts to combat gender-based violence and support survivors.”
The UNFP said that it expects the project, which is also supported by the European Union’s Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP), to “reach more than 3,600 survivors in the first year of its operations.”
Editing by Nadia Riva