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Iran, Islamic Republic of

In Iran, peer training helps vulnerable children in conflict with the law

© UNICEF Iran/ 2012
Girls in Tehran’s Juvenile Correction and Rehabilitation Centre (JCRC) attend a workshop supported by UNICEF. It is one in a series of trainings for children in conflict with the law, raising awareness about violence against children.

By Bahareh Yeganehfar

TEHRAN, Iran, 9 April 2012 – “I’m 14 and I’m here for your vacancy for a secretary,” said a shy girl in a low voice.

“I’m sure you’re so fit for this job,” said the employer, touching the girl’s lap. Feeling uncomfortable the young girl excused herself, looking at her watch, but the employer grabbed her hand and asked her to stay. Then the girl then pulled away and hit the employer with her hand bag.

The class roared with laughter and everyone clapped for the two budding actresses as they return to their seats.

The play was part of a workshop on violence against children, conducted for girls at Tehran’s Juvenile Correction and Rehabilitation Centre (JCRC), organized jointly by UNICEF, the Iranian Judiciary and the Ministry of Interior, Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs (BAFIA).

It was one in a series of trainings held for children in conflict with the law who are living at the facility. The workshops are raising awareness about violence against children, prompting the children to examine the consequences of violence for themselves and others.

Sharing their experiences

Participants learned about the effects of violence on their lives by sharing personal experiences and discussing how to confronting violence and abuse through active intervention.

Zahara*, 18, has been in the JCRC longer than the others. She acted as a facilitator, having attended an earlier training workshop.

“Now what type of violence was experienced in this show?” Zahara shouted, trying to reach the noisy group at the end of the class.

“Violence at the workplace,” the girls shouted back.

One voice though broke through the noise. “Should she be working at all? She was just 14, still a child.”

Soon there was chaos in the classroom; every child had a response.

“Yes, but what if your family cannot support you? Then you have to work, don’t you?” said one girl.

“I used to accompany my mom to a house where she worked as a cleaner since I was 10. The lady always paid me separately,” said another.

“When your father beats you every day, and you just want to be away from him, why not work and get some money?” responded one girl, gazing at the floor.

Learning about children’s rights

These workshops are a follow-up to the 2006 UN Secretary General’s study on violence against children, and are based on the child-friendly version of the report, called ‘Our Right to be Protected from Violence’, which explains the rights guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The workshops also included a range of participatory and child-friendly activities such as brainstorming, games, and focus-group discussions.

“It makes a lot of difference when the trainer is a peer rather than an adult expert from outside,” said Zahara, the teen facilitator. ”When the girls see that someone like them – who has experienced living in the center – is training them on violence, they feel more comfortable talking about their experiences.”

Preparing for life after JCRC

Through the workshops, the children are being equipped with the skills and knowledge to better protect themselves from abuse, and they are encouraged to raise awareness about children’s rights among their peers, lessons that will serve them long after they have been released and reintegrated into the community.

A total of 100 children and staff, including 60 boys, 20 girls and 20 staff members at JCRC have benefited from the trainings. Some changes in the behavior of a number of participants were noted, including a reduction in violent behavior among children.

As lunch time neared, and Zahara began to introduce another session, a teenage girl jumped into the class, announcing that her release verdict had arrived.

All 20 girls leaped from their seats to hug her, greeting her announcement with cheers and tears. The joy of release was important enough for the committed teacher to break class early and join her peers in congratulating the released teenager.

*Name changed to protect identity



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