Theatre helps children learn about their rights and the dangers of recruitment

31 Mar 2016

Theatre helps children learn about their rights and the dangers of recruitment

KANDAHAR - An open-air theatre performance tackling the serious issue of children recruitment took place in Kandahar this week to help inform children of their rights.

The UNAMA-supported event -- the second in a series of 10 events planned for Kandahar province – was attended by around 50 children aged between 10 and 15, who were also engaged in an open forum discussion about their rights.

The show, put on by the Kandahar Theatre and Film Group and an all-male cast including youth actors, portrayed in a dramatic way how a child is lured away by a recruiter for an armed group and the fatal consequences. It will be turned into a radio drama by Hewad Radio and TV for broadcast to a wider audience in southern Afghanistan.

The performance helped raise children’s awareness that parties to a conflict should not recruit or use children in any way in the conduct of hostilities, including as fighters or supporting fighters by running errands or doing other activities.

In a post-show discussion, some boys said that it was easy to be attracted by flashy handouts. They could not always decipher the intentions of strangers or what was right and wrong, and as such it was important to listen to their parents.

One student said: “Children are not meant to carry weapons: they should get an education. Both Islam and the country’s laws have given a lot of rights to children -- to education and to have a good life in peace.”

A teacher, Fazalahadi Shahidzai, said economic conditions are the reason that children are being targeted by armed groups: “Children from poor families are more vulnerable to forced recruitment. These types of acts are condemned by Islam and there is no justification for using children in armed conflict.”

Quadratullah Jelalzai, another teacher, said: “Parents have a lot of responsibilities. They should check on their children and check their attendance at school. A parent should also observe who are the child’s friends.”

During an open forum at the same event, UNAMA officials talked with the children about basic human rights, including their right to education and the value of education in improving their lives, contributing to peace and security, and enhancing respect for the human rights of others.

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 gives performances on a variety of public service topics in Kandahar province, along with the neighbouring provinces of Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan. Comprised of both staff and volunteers, the group operates a cultural centre which runs classes in drama and music.