Helping protect children’s rights in Southeastern Afghanistan
GARDEZ - To help safeguard children’s rights amid conflict and the COVID pandemic, radio stations in the southeast have been broadcasting a series of programmes backed by UNAMA that involve communities in raising awareness around the issue.
The programmes bring together a broad range of local voices from partners, including government officials, influential, civil society, tribal leaders and religious scholars.
The guest speakers address the rights of children in light of international and national laws and policies – such as the policy on the protection of children in armed conflict, the criminalization of bacha bazi (sexual violence against boys), the national action plan to end child marriage the national child labour prevention strategy and action plan, among others – and answered questions posed by the host and listeners.
Muhiuddin Mangal, Supervisor in Paktya Education Department, highlighted that, the negative impact of the conflict and how, “in the current political and economic situation of Afghanistan, fulfilling these rights faces many obstacles and challenges.”
“In Islamic and National Constitutional Laws, the parents responsibilities toward their children are clear, among them, the best name for a child in society, the right to education, healthcare and many others,” he said.
Ustad Mohammad Gul Alam, Paktika Justice Department Director, agreed that the ongoing conflict has a very negative impact on children’s rights and praised the radio shows. “Raising awareness and educating children about their rights has two important added values, Children will learn and enjoy their rights and when becoming parents themselves, they will exercise their children rights in future”.
He called on families and family heads, “to respect children rights without any gender discrimination, as it is critical for a healthy and self-sufficient society”.
In another radio programme, aired by Shamla radio in Ghazni province, Naqibullah Khankhel, a university lecturer, recalled how, “children are the future of the country, so more attention is required to be paid to their education, for which the family can play the most important role, therefore, family awareness is a critical requirement.”
Speakers and listeners agreed that there had been positive changes in the restoration of children's rights over the past two decades but a lot still needs to be done. They said the radio programmes help build the capacity of the families, communities, local organizations and government institutions working for children protection to be effective advocates for policy reform, provision of services and sheltering the children in southeastern region.
On 28 June, the UN Security Council held a debate on Children and Armed Conflict. Refering to his Annual Report on the matter, UN Secretary-General Guterres, highlighted that in 2020 close to 24,000 grave violations were committed against 19,300 children in the 21 situations covered by the UN mandate around the world. Regarding Afghanistan, one of the countries/situations included in this mandate, the United Nations verified 3,061 grave violations against 2,863 children, reads the annual SG report. These violations include the killing (760) and maiming (1,859) of 2,619 children and the recruitment and use of 196 boys by all warring groups.
“The disregard for children’s rights at times of conflict and upheaval is shocking and heartbreaking,” the Secretetary-General told the Council.
At the last Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Afghanistan situation of human rights in 2019, member states at the human rights council recognized progress but also made recommendations to the Government to continue and intensify efforts to “protect the rights of the child, including girls, notably in the area of access to education and protection against all types of violence”.
Out of the 258 recommendations made by members states at the UPR, 23 were about children’s rights.
Following UN Security resolution 2543 (2020), UNAMA was mandated to assist Afghanistan in strengthening capacity in the protection and promotion of human rights including the protection of children affected by armed conflict and prevention of child recruitment. Human rights are cross-cutting in the work of the whole UN family in Afghanistan.
The UN in Afghanistan is a civilian body, comprised of the Special Political Mission – UNAMA – and 20 different development and humanitarian agencies.