Slemani Autism Centre
Kurdistan Save the Children

The Problem

Autism in Iraqi Kurdistan was not a recognized developmental disorder but rather a pre-determined disability among the average people which included parents of autistic children. Due to the lack of knowledge around the subject the parents did not realize that they could help their child’s autism to make the most of their late or underdeveloped cognitive and motor skills until the Autistic center was established. There was no mechanism in place to promote social inclusion prior to this initiative or promotion of equity within these vulnerable children.

Given the lack of education in the area it was known that culturally the women stay at home whilst the men transpire to working life and given the nature of a close knit community there is a tough barrier, this added to the lack of education surrounding disability and enhanced the barrier around access.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The initiative was first taken by several mothers of autistic children who raised the concern that more support should is needed for autistic children within the region.
Thus this independent alliance raised their concerns and demands to Kurdistan Save the Children (NGO) and the Ministry of Labour and Social affairs who took up their concerns and validated that an Autistic center would be highly beneficial and so helped renovate an old building which belonged to the KRG Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, equipping it with the necessary facilities and requirements.

Initially 6 staff members including the mothers who approached the NGO for action were sent to Lebanon to participate in a training course which taught them how to deal with autistic children and how to manage a similar centre.

Here children and adolescents of all autistic spectrum can now come to enjoy what is a friendly, safe and supportive environment with the skilled people needed to enable these children to enjoy life, learn and enhance their development through activities formed around their needs, allow them to explore interests and develop their confidence and independence and also to support parents through sharing information on the latest treatments available.

This public organization was the tool of bridging the community together. It enabled service delivery to a challenging community promoting disability and allowing social inclusion through workshops, seminars, tutorials and other services. The most intriguing aspect was that it soon expanded to a wider population than before and a similar branch opened in another region of Iraqi-Kurdistan.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
Kurdistan Save the Children (NGO) and the Ministry of Labour and Social affairs who took up their concerns and validated that an Autistic center would be highly beneficial and so helped renovate an old building which belonged to the KRG Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, equipping it with the necessary facilities and requirements.

Kurdistan Save the children proposed a detailed framework, project plan and continued with the implementation of the Slemani Autism Centre. Indeed, they provided a web of support to the team on the ground and through different stages dealt with the challenges within implementation by having a strong structure in place. The stakeholders consisted of Kurdistan save the Children (NGO) & the Ministry of Labour and Social affairs. Also, having a committee from the local population to incorporate the feedback and actively incorporate the inputs and feed-back regarding the public service delivery satisfaction.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
One strategy used was priming, indeed, priming the concept through involving the public into the concepts of disability and the difficulties and strains it causes families involved. Naturally, there was a lot of project planning and through different stakeholders gradually established the ideology of the importance of such a service. Careful financial budgeting was drawn up to ensure accountability and transparency by the board.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
Integrating the concept of disability in a region, where it is shunned upon, implemented through careful priming educating the community. The psychological contract was recognized and the need for organizational change, thus by using tools to target this area by implementing frameworks it allowed coordination.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Changing a communities ideology on disability
Overcome by priming, education and developing the centre by intergrating the community into the affairs of the centre incorporating citizen feedback and having strong mechanistic levers in place to gain public trust by ensuring accountability and transparency in affairs.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The human resources were composed of volunteers, whom help support the build-up of the initiative. The financial & technical support came from the NGO.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
It can be suggested that the initiative is sustainable and transferable, indeed it actually can serve as a perfect model for the rest of the country. As it has considered the cultural and environmental issues and primed solutions aimed this cause. Also, from a institutional and regulatory lens due to ensuring the system has measures and levers in place to ensure accountabilty and transparency it serves as a model to be transfered and is sustainable as through different indicators, such as surverys, etc it is constantly adapting to the needs of the citizens.

The strength in the system was the audit cycle whereby they record the feedback of the community and satisfaction and strive to match the expectations for the following months. This allows a wider integration of people whom all share the same cause thus allowing a psychological contract between the parties.

This data is then analyzed and changes are made based on the feedback which acts as a learning tool for the organization and as a quality benchmark for the public. The efficiency and effectiveness can be monitored and encourages a transparent system. Also, the feedback of the children are taken and acted upon under frameworks that have been implemented.

For Iraqi-Kurdistan this would be a new concept, this is a region which has always been affected by the wars and its neighbors and to be at this level of the platform to ensure accountability in public service must be rewarded.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The impact of this initiative is it has targeted a sensitive area, whom due to being torn by war is able to recover through these redevelopment programs. For instance, in an area whereby social inclusion of disabled children is mentioned is shunned upon and lauged about, and to develop a centre that aims to target this stigmatisation by educating the communities and involving different stakeholders is a challenge, and has proven to be successful. The lessons learned show that through such public services the communities can adapt and change, and reform. The right education leads to a positive trajectory and this is a clear example. I strongly think, especially with the history of this country, recognition is due.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Kurdistan Save the Children
Institution Type:   Non-Governmental Organization  
Contact Person:   Michelle Grajek
Title:   Ms  
Telephone/ Fax:  
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Postal Code:  
Country:   Iraq

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