Afghanistan

Youth centres provide a wide range of services in Afghanistan

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Afghanistan/2008/Sahil
Afsana, age 21, a student at Balk University and member of the UNICEF-supported Youth Information Contact Centre in Mazar, Afghanistan.

By Roseline Murama

MAZAR, Afghanistan, 19 June 2008 – Afsana, age 21, is studying economics at Balk University in Mazar, Afghanistan’s fourth largest city. She is also a member of the school's UNICEF-supported Youth Information and Contact Centre (YICC), a project which has a special focus on protecting youths from abuse and exploitation.

“I joined the centre because I want to learn about various issues such as HIV/AIDS, early and forced marriage and unemployment,” Afsana explained.

The aim of the YICC project is to provide fast and easy access to a wide range of information and services for youths – especially girls – with the goal of engaging them in community development and peace-building.

Counselling and education

Part of a two-year National Youth Programme initiated by eight Ministries of the Government and seven United Nations agencies in Afghanistan, Mazar’s YICC project was established with support from UNICEF in November 2007, in partnership with the Deputy Minister of Youth. Since its inception, it has supported more than 230 girls and 200 boys by providing counselling and referral services on health, education, job placement and legal issues.

As part of a joint effort between the Government of Afghanistan and UN agencies, UNICEF has been supporting the establishment of YICCs in Jalalabad, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Bamyan, Herat and Kandahar.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Afghanistan/2008/Sahil
Girls at an HIV/AIDS awareness session in the UNICEF-supported Youth Information and Contact Centre in Mazar, Afghanistan.

The centres hold sessions on topics such as violence, gender discrimination, problems in school and job referral services. The project helps to educate young people about child rights, drug abuse and HIV/AIDS.

So far, it is estimated that approximately 1,600 boys and 1,400 girls have been referred to the YICC for counselling on legal and social issues.

More opportunities for girls

The programme is particularly significant since it encourages the participation of girls in an environment where women and girls are often marginalized. The YICC provides them with education, recreation and employment opportunities.

“Opportunities for girls are very limited. Providing such opportunities is much appreciated,” said Afsana. “If we could have more centres just for the ladies, it would be welcomed.”

In 2008, UNICEF will establish five new YICCs in the country. It is anticipated that more centres will be established around the country in the coming years in order to reach out to young people in Afghanistan.

“I think it is good to engage young people to promote action and participate in their community,” said Afsana. “It is a good way to spend free time.”


 

 

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