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With new Afghan parliament weeks away, UNICEF calls on nation to speak up for children and women

New awareness campaign urges every Afghan to prioritise children’s rights, and to place mothers and children at heart of national agenda.

Kabul, 25 August 2005 – As Afghanistan’s parliamentary election campaign enters its final weeks, UNICEF is taking the opportunity to urge all Afghans to focus on children and their rights, with the launch of a new awareness campaign.

Under the title “For every child – advance Afghanistan!”, the campaign draws attention to some of the challenges still facing children and their mothers, and identifies possible actions that the country’s future leaders could take to improve the condition of women and children. The parliamentary and provincial council elections scheduled for 18 September are seen as a milestone in Afghanistan’s reconstruction, and an important opportunity for crucial issues to be placed on the national agenda. The “Advance Afghanistan” campaign aims to ensure that child rights are not overlooked by the electorate, and will serve to remind those ultimately elected of Afghanistan’s commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A number of Afghan celebrities, including Marina Gulbahari – the young star of Golden Globe winner “Osama” – singer and musician Safdar Tavakoli, journalist Shafiq Payam, actress Anisa Wahab, singer Gul Zaman and tae kwondo gold medallist Badam Gul, have offered their support to the campaign, featuring in a series of radio spots that call upon every Afghan to put children first in the interests of a stronger, more prosperous nation.

Despite Afghanistan’s remarkable progress in areas such as education and health over the last four years, UNICEF estimates that up to 700 children under the age of five still die every day due to mostly preventable causes, while each day 70 women lose their lives as a result of complications in pregnancy and childbirth. More than 1.2 million primary school age girls are not attending classes, 20 per cent of primary school age children have to work to support their families, while some 40 per cent of Afghan women were married before the age of 18 – exposing themselves to health risks, and reducing their chances of an education.

The new campaign highlights the need for more investment in basic education and primary health care, the protection of children from violence and abuse, special measures to support vulnerable children, and increased opportunities for children to better express their own views and ideas. In the weeks before election day, a number of round table debates on these issues are planned between child rights activists, local community leaders and children themselves, to be broadcast on national radio in an effort to keep children at the forefront of voters’ minds.

UNICEF Representative to Afghanistan Mr. Bernt Aasen urged every Afghan to take the campaign’s messages to heart, saying “Afghanistan stands on the threshold of an exciting chapter in its history. The new parliament and provincial councils will give a voice to millions of Afghan women and men, and create an environment in which the people can play a role in the nation’s decision-making process. It is essential that the voices of children are also heard, and that the decisions made by those leading the country take into account the rights of every child, and every mother.”

“This campaign aims to raise the debate about what Afghan children and mothers need today, and the priorities for action,” he added. “I hope its message will be heard – and heeded – by all those with an interest in the successful future of Afghanistan. An investment in children today, is an investment in the Afghanistan of tomorrow. It is an investment none of us can afford to overlook.”

For further information, please contact: 

Edward Carwardine, Head of Public Information: +93 (0)7960 7400




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