Country programme 2005 - 2009
Two thirds of the population is living in poverty. Poverty practically guarantees that the majority of children in the country are vulnerable and at risk.
More than 5,000 children are working in the streets and markets of Tajikistan's cities to help their families. Many children and young people are being forced into prostitution and other forms of exploitative labour. These children are being exposed to violence and disease.
The number of juveniles being brought before the law is rising. Of the crimes being committed by children, 95 per cent involve petty crimes, generally the theft of food because the children are too poor to be able to pay for food.
Family crises because of poverty have led to increased violence at home, and children are the most vulnerable victims.
Poverty has caused many husbands and fathers to migrate to other countries for work. While this has contributed to financial security in Tajikistan, it is also responsible for many social problems, including family breakdowns and the abandonment and institutionalization of children. The collapse of the social safety net and years of civil strife in Tajikistan have led to an increase in the number of children deprived of family care. The number of children placed in social institutions has risen 32 per cent in the past five years. In 2004, there were 92 boarding institutions, which were caring for more than 11,000 children. According to the National Commission on Child Rights, the biological parents of the vast majority of these children are still alive.
Poverty is the single most important reason why children are being placed in institutions. Institutions have been the only option available to families desperate enough to consider giving up their children. No alternative care programmes exist to protect a child's right to grow up in a family environment. Institutionalization has been recognized by the Government as a problem, but, with ever-increasing numbers of children being enrolled, the authorities are caught between the need to implement change at significant cost and the daunting task of trying to maintain the existing structure, which is costly, unsustainable and not beneficial.
Children with disabilities have little access to proper education and rehabilitative care. Many are accommodated in institutions where they lack appropriate opportunities for social integration. Nonetheless, there has been little commitment in government policy and within the social welfare system to provide adequate care for these children.
The highly centralized social welfare system and the dearth of community-based alternatives that respond to the needs of families grappling with social ills are eroding effective child protection efforts.
UNICEF has been able to establish a new, stable partnership with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior for the child protection programme. UNICEF has also enhanced its engagement with non-governmental organizations focused on children and with forums such as the child reference group and children's peer groups in schools, as well as with organizations working with young people at risk, especially on HIV/AIDS.
UNICEF has been concentrating on providing access to better services for children in need of special protection, such as children with disabilities, children in conflict with the law, children involved in child labour and street children. Concerns about child labour and children with disabilities are being examined, and conclusions are to be discussed with relevant ministries and other entities. A juvenile justice project is aimed at diverting minor offenders and street children from the adult justice system and working with both parents and children to change behaviours.
UNICEF is also focusing on the protection of children from abuse and neglect and assistance for children deprived of a family environment. For example, it has been supplying parents with resources and access to enhanced services, and it has helped implement a gate-keeping system to discourage institutionalization.
UNICEF is currently supporting the Government in the development of a national policy and programme on community-based non-institutional services for children deprived of family care. Within the framework of the proposed programme is the establishment of a model for the process of taking children out of institutions. The approach has already been pilot tested.
UNICEF has been advocating for changes in social policy and provided assistance in reforms in the social welfare and social protection system. It has participated in the launch of a national training initiative for social workers and a national resource centre for social work. The various initiatives also include a partnership with the European Commission's programme of Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States to supply technical expertise during the reform process.
Social projects are being carried out in key districts. This involves efforts to establish a protective environment for vulnerable children that is supported by community-level social structures. These structures need to undergo capacity-building that encompasses enhancements in the skills of caregivers and social workers. UNICEF is promoting national level policies that will support and reinforce the community-based mechanisms being put in place.
Public awareness of the need to protect children from abuse, neglect and exploitation rose by 20 per cent in Dushanbe through the creation of a UNICEF-supported "information zone" involving frequent radio messages and articles about cases of domestic violence. A one-hour live television report was dedicated to government initiatives to prevent violence.
In Dushanbe, 250 children have used the hotline established by the Association of Women of Science of Tajikistan, a local non-governmental organization, through a UNICEF-supported activity involving the provision to children of psychological and information consultations.
On the theory that more stable and less impoverished families are more effective in protecting their children from risk, the capacities of local social welfare and family support entities to provide assistance have been enhanced, with the help of UNICEF, through the establishment of child rights departments in three districts. These departments have been meeting regularly with local officials to seek their cooperation in relevant actions. The departments also monitor and report on compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Hundreds of children in three pilot institutions have been returned to their families as an outcome of months of training and hands-on experience in social work among local institutional staff, as well as the provision of microcredit to some families. This effort, facilitated through the support of community-based UNICEF-partner organizations, has had a positive effect in terms of the availability of funds for food and other care inputs for the children who are still in the institutions. Family visits by social workers are helping children become reintegrated with their families.
A resolution has been drafted and distributed among ministries to encourage them to undertake measures to protect children with disabilities. This was achieved through a series of meetings and discussions with the Government and through the supply of technical assistance.
Training has been provided to six local experts at parent education centres and 10 local specialists of the Medical Pedagogical Commission so that they can examine children with disabilities using new screening methods and also deliver training courses at institutions and among parents.
The capacities of institutions involved with juvenile justice has been strengthened through a study tour to the UK by a six-person delegation from various ministries and non-governmental organizations. The tour included visits to innovative and successful youth inclusion programmes and community schemes (rehabilitation schemes, bail-fostering schemes and remand-management schemes).
Five-day training sessions have been conducted among police officers by a police trainer from the Children's Legal Centre. The centre has developed a training programme on juvenile justice and children in difficult circumstances. The training is aimed at raising the awareness of police officers and improving their understanding of international minimum standards and norms relating to such children.