“I’ll be happy when children go to school”: communities consulted in Afghanistan

Since 2019, the International Bureau for Children’s Rights has been working with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to strengthen the child protection system in Afghanistan.

As part of this project, members of the Montreal headquarters visited the country in January to better understand the issues related to children’s rights. This was an opportunity for children and people in charge of their education to provide insight into the matter and express how the development of new policies could meet their interests.

The Afghanistan Project

Afghanistan is a country in the Middle East that has been rocked by a series of armed conflicts for almost three decades. This situation of violence and chronic insecurity poses a great threat to children, despite the fact that the country signed the International Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994. The IBCR has therefore implemented a project to strengthen the capacity and technical support of the Child Protection Secretariat, as part of our interventions for children in emergency situations and for the fight against violence towards children.

Launched in August 2019 for a period of nine months, this project aims at the development by the Office of a National Policy for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, the improvement of child protection management protocols for social workers, technical support to the staff of the Child Protection Secretariat and improved information management.

Children’s aspirations and concerns at the centre of discussions

In January, IBCR conducted an important consultation workshop to better understand the needs related to children’s rights of the different local actors. The workshop brought together 522 people, including children, their parents, community and religious leaders, school heads, and representatives of the Afghan Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

“I will be happy when our country develops, when children go to school and can play in a safe environment”.

“I’m sad when there’s no school for girls, when girls are not allowed to go to school.”

– Child workshop participants

During this consultation activity, the question “What makes you happy? “was asked of the children, to which the majority responded “Going to school! ». In addition to education, children also expressed concern about forced marriages, daily violence in a context of socio-political instability and conflict, and the lack of respect for their fundamental rights. For their part, parents and school principals acknowledged the improvements in access to education in general, but deplored that poverty, lack of resources and infrastructure, as well as insecurity continue to hamper the implementation of children’s rights in a comprehensive manner.

The comments and aspirations formulated by the various parties will enable our organisation to draw up a proposal for a national policy on the protection of the rights of the child that takes into account the realities and challenges specific to Afghanistan. This wide-ranging document is expected to emerge in the coming weeks and will be proposed to the Afghan government.

Photo credit: Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs – Afghanistan