UNICEF campaigns against child labour in Afghanistan
KABUL - Nafissa, a 13-year-old Afghani girl, should ideally be spending her day playing with her friends, toys and dolls like most kids her age.
Instead, she works at Torkham border, her back, now, bent from carrying the burden of heavy loads of scrap metal smuggled from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
She often dreams of becoming a teacher, and wishes to see “a peaceful Afghanistan where each and every child gets proper education.”
But she’s not the only one in her village who can’t enjoy the joys of being – and behaving – like a little girl. Her friend Masooma, who also works with her, says the border police make life difficult for her: “They are very mean to us. They beat us every time they catch us smuggling goods over the border.”
Child labour is an issue of growing concern in Afghanistan.
One in four Afghan children aged 7 to 14 is engaged in some form of work, according to estimates from the Government of Afghanistan and UNICEF.
In Afghanistan, like many other countries, most child labour is rooted in poverty, social-economic inequalities based on gender and disability.
Girls face particular disadvantages and hardship, due to discrimination and traditional practices and attitudes towards girls.
Many girls take on unpaid household work for their families, usually more so than boys.
This work may include childcare, cooking, cleaning and fetching water and fuel.
The overall situation of the country – insecurity and political tension – combined with rising food prices make living conditions of vulnerable families and children even more difficult.
UNICEF is supporting the National Strategy for Children at Risk (NSFCAR), endorsed in May 2006, to support the most vulnerable families to protect and care for their children.
With a strong contribution and the involvement of communities, UNICEF is facilitating the reintegration of out-of-school children.
About 160,809 kids, most of whom are girls, are now attending UNICEF-assisted community based schools in remote villages in 26 provinces.
UNICEF is giving particular attention to the children working between the Afghanistan and Pakistan border.
Among the agency’s achievements, 400 working children attended classes in three learning centres in Torkham and more than another 1,000 working children got social support and participated in learning and recreational activities in 2008.
In 2009, UNICEF, together with governmental and non-governmental partners, is strengthening basic services and protection support for working children and their families in their places of origin, so that families don’t need to send their children to work in the border area.
The United Nations’ International Labour Organization has designated today the World Day against Child Labour.
Observed annually, it is a day to raise awareness about the cycle of poverty resulting in children working and, therefore, missing out on educational opportunities.
This year’s World Day against Child Labour highlights the exploitation of girls in child labour.
By Farida Ayari, UNICEF