By A. Sami Malik
QUETTA, Pakistan, 14 November 2011 - For Nazdana, 15, the thought of playing with her friends outside used to fill her with anxiety. Whenever she would venture from the safety of her house in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, she’d find herself subjected to the harassment of young men. Petrified, she and her friends would quickly run back into their houses, too afraid to stand up to the boys and ask them to stop their inappropriate and abusive behaviour.
|VIDEO: UNICEF reports on UNICEF-supported centres providing protection to Pakistan's most vulnerable children. Watch in RealPlayer|
“My parents used to advise me to stay indoors but I didn’t listen to them,” she explained. “Boys would often harass us.”
With poverty a defining factor in some of the large communities in and around Quetta, children belonging to these communities are often forced to work and contribute to the family’s earnings. They often face physical abuse, violence and exploitation - young girls are the most vulnerable in this situation.
UNICEF provides support
To provide children from marginalised communities with a protective environment, as well as education and vocational skills, UNICEF and its partner, the Institute for Development Studies and Practices (IDSP), established three child protection centres in Quetta in 2007. Since then, nearly 3,000 children have benefited from these centres.
|© UNICEF Pakistan/2011/Jameel|
|Nazdana, 15, feels that her life has changed for the better since she joined the Child Protection Centre in Quetta. She comes to the centre every day and is proud to have learnt so many new things.|
“Their parents go out to work every day and there is no one to take care of them at home,” said UNICEF Quetta Child Protection Officer, Aneeta. “The UNICEF-supported child protection centres are a safe haven for these children, offering education, psycho-social support, lessons in personal hygiene, and vocational training, and also build the confidence of young girls and boys to resist and report incidences of abuse and exploitation.”
When Nazdana’s parents learned about the UNICEF-supported centre in Quetta, they enrolled her there. Ever since joining the centre, Nazdana feels that her life and personality have changed for the better.
“We have learned a lot of things in the centre such as cutting, sewing and making decoration pieces,” said Nazdana. “I have become interested in education and Baji (the centre facilitator) has helped getting me admission to a regular school.”
Protecting the most vulnerable
The child protection centre is equally beneficial for boys. Facilitators at the centre have open discussions with them, giving the boys complete freedom to express themselves. This helps build their self-confidence, as they learn to interact with their peers in a peaceful manner.
|© UNICEF Pakistan/2011/Jameel|
|UNICEF Pakistan Representative, Dan Rohrmann, visits some of the girls enrolled in a Child Protection Centres in Quetta.|
UNICEF Pakistan Representative, Dan Rohrmann, who visited one of the child protection centres in Quetta, feels that providing a protective environment for children is a child right and imperative to help meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
“This centre here in Quetta is really important because it provides a huge opportunity for girls and boys not only to be protected but also to learn,” he said. “It provides life skills education that really helps them negotiate many things in society.”