Dangers of child recruitment brought to life in UN-backed theatre series

4 Jul 2016

Dangers of child recruitment brought to life in UN-backed theatre series

KANDAHAR - A series of UNAMA-backed theatre performances have reached thousands of children and adults in southern Kandahar province with dramatic depictions of the dangers of child recruitment into armed groups.

The 10 open-air theatre shows -- performed at schools and public areas in Kandahar city and adjoining districts since March -- were attended by school students between 10 and 15 years old, along with teachers, parents and other members of the public. The events included open-forum discussions about children’s rights and child recruitment. 

Performed by the Kandahar Theatre and Film Group, the sketches portrayed the fatal consequences of children being lured away by recruiters into armed groups.

With large areas of Kandahar under Taliban control or influence, and other areas contested, the performances were designed to raise awareness that parties to a conflict should not recruit or use children in any way in the conduct of hostilities, including as fighters or by supporting fighters such as through running errands or other activities.

Khalid, an 8th grade student, took home a practical lesson: “If we see people trying to deceive kids and take them to war, we should inform our elders and the police.”

Khalid said that the show taught children to keep their eyes and ears open, and to avoid getting involved in harmful activities.  

Sadiqullah Ashna, a senior teacher at Sayed Abad high school in Kandahar city, said that the theatre performance stirred up emotions. “It made me and some other teachers cry because it portrayed the real life of Afghan children today,” he said, stressing that programmes of this kind are essential and should continue in the future.

Poor economic conditions, illiteracy, lack of awareness and negligence on the parts of families are among the key factors that contribute to children’s vulnerability to child recruitment.

According to international law, a child associated with an armed force or armed group refers to any person below 18 years of age who is, or who has been, recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity. This includes, but is not limited to, children, boys and girls used as fighters, cooks, suicide bombers, human shields, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes.

Child protection is integrated into UNAMA’s human rights work and is also strongly reinforced in its mandate through Security Council Resolution 2274 (2016), which highlights the Council’s concern about the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict. Also stressed is the importance of monitoring and advocacy related to the “six grave child rights violations” under the Council’s Resolution 1612 on Children and Armed Conflict.

The Kandahar Theatre and Film Group offers performances on a variety of public-service topics in Kandahar, along with the neighboring provinces of Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan. Comprised of both staff and volunteers, the group operates a cultural centre that runs classes in drama and music.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides good offices; promotes coherent development support by the international community; supports the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.