Child Protection

The picture in Afghanistan

 

The picture in Afghanistan

© UNICEF Afghanistan

UNICEF advocates for the prevention, response to and eradication of violence, abuse and exploitation of children, early and child marriage, hazardous and exploitative labour and gender-based violence to ensure children have the space, freedom and safety to enjoy childhood and to grow into healthy adults. 

Campaigns for child protection

UNICEF is developing comprehensive outreach efforts to engage communities, NGO partners and local and national government counterparts to advocate for the protection of children. Activities in the past two years have included development of a concept and action plan for a nationwide campaign on child protection using different tools such as community dialogue, engagement with religious leaders and audio visual mediums. With the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs and Al-Ahzar University, Cairo, UNICEF has developed and supported training and outreach materials based on “Children in Islam” that engage religious leaders and Islamic scholars throughout the country to study and discuss the many ways Islam provides for the protection of children. A campaign on ‘risks of irregular migrations to the lives of children and adolescents’ on behalf of concerned ministries was rolled out in 2013 and there is an on-going plan to work on a similar effort on early and child marriage.

Children and Armed Conflict

UNICEF co-chairs the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) on grave violations committed against children in the context of conflict in Afghanistan. UNICEF led the establishment of regional task forces on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), to facilitate a regional and provincial level monitoring of and response to grave violations, including through local level advocacy, raising awareness of risks faced by children affected by armed conflict, and in monitoring of children detained under national security charges. Further, UNICEF manages the MRM database and contributes to reporting obligations to the Security Council Working Group on CAAC. UNICEF also deploys specialist protection officers to monitor, verify and facilitate appropriate responses to the six grave violations on CAAC.UNICEF provides technical support to the Government of Afghanistan on the implementation of the action plan on under – age recruitment and to this end a road map to compliance is also developed.

Justice for Children

UNICEF partners with the Government, NGOs and other UN agencies to increase the protection for children in contact and in conflict with the law. This includes strengthening legal protection systems through the development  of a comprehensive child act, capacity building of duty bearers, raising awareness of local communities - including children themselves - on the rights of children, improving coordination and collaboration among various stakeholders, specific service delivery such as legal aid and diversion of cases away from formal systems. These efforts have received a boost by the Government’s recent focus on Civil Registration and Vital Statistics under regional initiatives.

Social Protection

From 2003 onwards, UNICEF has supported the Government of Afghanistan in seting-up the Child Protection Action Network (CPAN), a coalition of government, NGOs, community and religious leaders working to provide access to services for children in need of protection. CPAN is now functioning in 28 provinces and 54 districts and has increased in capacity, gaining the official endorsement of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled (MOLSAMD). As part of efforts to address the lack of skilled social workers and social work education in the country and in partnership with Hunter College School of Social Work, Boston College Graduate School of Social Work, Kabul University and the Government of Afghanistan, UNICEF has developed occupational standards and a curriculum for a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Social Work. Kabul University intends to start the new department under the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Science. Meanwhile UNICEF is also supporting the rolling out of a Certificate Course in Social Work for Child Protection for current practitioners from government and non-government agencies in select provinces.

UNICEF supports the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in fulfilling their constitutional mandate to protect, promote and monitor human rights in Afghanistan.  The Child Rights Unit at the AIHRC focuses its monitoring activities on at-risk children in order to better inform the Government and other relevant duty bearers about the situation of marginalised children. The partnership between UNICEF and the AIHRC also works to strengthen the commission’s role in the child protection system by providing appropriate reporting and referral services for child victims of rights violations.

Current situation and key issues:  In Afghanistan, children are required to adhere to strict, conservative social norms while still developing physical and psychological maturity. They are often required or are obliged to take on adult responsibilities.  There is a widespread failure to recognise children’s entitlement to special protection appropriate to their physical and psychological maturity. This failure occurs at family, community and state levels. Children are then more exposed to risks of violence, abuse and exploitation as a result of their protection rights not being realised. Decision making in a household is a key determinant for the level of protection a child will be afforded. Gross negligence, a lack of oversight, and low capacity among immediate caregivers and duty bearers can immediately increase the risk that a child will be exploited or abused. For many, sudden onsets of economic shock to a family unit may be the immediate cause of an early or child marriage or sending a child to work. Heightened levels of insecurity due to the on-going conflict and the increases in criminal activity also present an extreme risk of violence against children across the country.

Over the past Country Programme, UNICEF Child Protection has made achievements in catalysing discussion and initial consultative action around developing a comprehensive legislative framework for the protection and rights of children that is grounded firmly in local constructs and realities. Through extensive advocacy, technical training and support, the Child Protection Action Network was institutionalised within the Government structure and CPAN actors began providing case management services for children affected by violence, abuse and exploitation in 28 provinces. Social worker curriculum and professional education was established to build sustainable networks of social workers capable of serving child survivors, and support to provincial youth departments led to the establishment of youth federations to increase opportunities for participation and agency. UNICEF also provided technical support to researching, drafting, and advocating for full implementation of a 10 year inter-ministerial action plan to increase birth registration coverage for children in Afghanistan.  Working with religious leaders enabled UNICEF to pass on messages about child protection in remote areas where community members were then inspired to initiate agreements towards collective action to better protect children.

 

 
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