Preventing substance abuse and addiction is hard enough in the United States, but being a preventionist in a country ravaged by years of turmoil can be a monumental challenge.
In Iraq, the Together to Protect Human & the Environment Association, which was established in 2005, has worked on solving a number of local problems. They began collaborating with the young people, then with other private and public sector representatives.
CADCA began working with the Association in 2013 to build a coalition and today the Ankawa Community Coalition to Combat Addiction has continued to address community problems while there is perpetual unrest in Iraq. This hasn’t slowed them down, however, said its leader Saadia F. Hassoon.
“The lack of services, corruption, unemployment and (also) the government didn’t care about community problems, so engaging (the coalition) in making change and raise their demands is the democratic way for change…,” Hassoon stated.
The coalition’s data assessment revealed that youth smoked and used hookah, had easy access to alcohol and pharmacies, and were not following rules on selling prescription drugs. Obtaining the data was another hurdle because it is not culturally acceptable to discuss the topic.
Several coalition members collaborated with officials in the Erbil government as well as in their village of Ankawa. The coalition held a successful, peaceful demonstration last October, with more than 1,400 people participating.
“One of the important successes that the coalition achieved (by demonstrating) was to educate and mobilize the Ankawa community and especially young people to focus on their community’s urgent problem, organize themselves and prioritize their demands to raise it to the Erbil governor,” she describes. The coalition recommended that a new committee be formed to address its concerns about people smoking, drinking and using drugs. Being a CADCA partner helped the coalition better define its goals and implement strategies that have helped organize and mobilize them better, she said.
“I would like to thank CADCA for their great efforts in training and leading our coalition to achieve success and offering us such an opportunity to make change in our community,” Hassoon said.
By implementing CADCA strategies, the coalition has been able to affect change by closing businesses that were serving minors and operating improperly. “The governor and the committee that was created from the Ministry of Interior, Tourism Committee and Security did a great job in organizing and closing unauthorized bars and shops and regulating the opening times for others,” Hassoon said.
Trained as an engineer, Hassoon now uses her skills to help her coalition colleagues engineer a new Iraq, one where parents can openly express their dissatisfaction about the way things work or don’t work.
“After those surveys, we started to educate the people, the families, the teachers, NGOs, youth activists as well as local authorities about these facts and are trying to get supporters for our work. We are mobilizing the people to take their role to save their kids from those hazards,” she concluded.