A helping hand in a time of need

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: Article 26 – the right to receive help from the government if in need

UNICEF Afghanistan
Child protection
UNICEF/Afghanistan/2019

19 November 2019

Balkh, Afghanistan – Mujtaba’s father was killed six years ago in northern Afghanistan. Mujtaba was still a child – but immediately, he began acting twice his age. 

“I lost my father when I was ten years old,” Mujtaba said. “I had no choice but to search for a job.”

Mujtaba lives with his family in Balkh Province, Afghanistan. Anti-government groups control his village, placing children like Mujtaba at a continued risk of violence. Insecurity has aggravated already-high levels of poverty and stripped girls and boys of their childhood throughout the province.

“I wish I had not dropped out of school,” said Mujtaba, now 16 years of age. “I still cannot read or write.”

For four years, Mujtaba worked up to 10 hours a day to help his family survive. As a labourer, most of that work took place under terrible conditions for little pay; every day, he would bring home 200 Afghanis – the equivalent of three dollars. Even with his older brother working alongside him, it was never enough to sustain his family’s needs.

I had no choice. But now, I want my younger brothers and sister to continue their education and fulfil their dreams

-Mujtaba

One day, Mujtaba heard about a job opportunity with the police department. Hoping it would provide a more sustainable income for his family, Mujtaba applied for the role, forging his identity card to appear older than he was. He completed the application thinking it would go unnoticed – but officials at the police department realised that Mujtaba was too young to apply.

Child protection
UNICEF/Afghanistan/2019
With the help of a CPAN, Mujtaba was able to earn an income safely by opening a small shop in his community to help provide for his family.

Immediately, the department called the Child Protection Action Network (CPAN), a coalition of government organisations, non-government organisations, and community and religious leaders supported by UNICEF that works to help children in need. A CPAN coordinator reached out to Mujtaba to understand why he was trying to join the police force. Once she discovered his circumstances, she began exploring ways to help his family rebuild their lives.

Mujtaba was provided with an allowance for groceries, along with a rental subsidy to open a small shop in his village. Today, Mujtaba earns money for his family in a safe and profitable way, selling snacks, sweets and groceries to those in his community. He is also getting help to enrol in a vocational training program.

According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), every child has the right to be supported by the government in times of need. In Afghanistan, CPAN is doing precisely that: in 2018 alone, the coalition helped the Government of Afghanistan identify 500 children who were trying to join the police force.

When he is old enough, Mujtaba will use his new skills to apply for the police force once again.

“I want to become a policeman to ensure justice and fair treatment for others,” Mujtaba said.