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Afghan religious leaders benefit from child rights awareness

Nearly 8,000 mullahs in western region to receive sensitisation on range of children’s issues

KABUL, 12 September 2004 – 7,800 religious leaders from the western provinces of Afghanistan will start to receive awareness-raising and sensitization training on children’s rights, as a new round of workshops gets under way on 13 September in a joint initiative between the Afghan Ministry of Religious Affairs and UNICEF.

This week’s training programme is part of a nationwide campaign that aims to reach up to 25,500 mullahs in 2004, and a further 50,000 next year. The programme covers a number of children’s issues including the rights to education, health care and nutrition, early marriage, reintegration of former child soldiers, the dangers of domestic violence and abuse, and awareness of HIV/AIDS. Each workshop lasts two days and is aimed at mullahs from individual districts, overseen by religious leaders who have undertaken prior “training for trainers” programmes.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and UNICEF consider Afghanistan’s religious community to be vital advocates and ambassadors for children’s rights, holding positions of significant moral, social and spiritual influence with families. Since 2002, mullahs have played an important role in promoting issues such as girls’ education and immunization, and in 2003 the first national gathering of Afghan religious leaders issued a strong declaration of commitment to furthering the rights of children.

The training workshops in western Afghanistan will continue until the end of October. At the same time, “training of trainers” will begin in the north of the country, with provincial level training rolling out later in the month, targeting over 17,000 religious leaders in northern and north-eastern areas by the end of October.

The religious leaders’ sensitization programme is supported financially through contributions from Finland and UNAIDS.

For further information please contact:

Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Media - +93 (0)7960 7400, ecarwardine@unicef.org




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