Reporting by ChildFund Afghanistan
On International Women’s Day, it’s important to remember that violence against women is an everyday reality in Afghanistan, according to Ana-Maria Locsin, national director for ChildFund Afghanistan. But it’s a reality ChildFund is seeking to change.
Since 2001, ChildFund has served the northeastern Afghan province of Badakshan, working to prevent gender-based violence and empower women to claim and exercise their rights. “ChildFund listens to women and girls about the issues and problems they face in their homes and communities,” Locsin says.
Because awareness is often the first step toward prevention, ChildFund, with funding from UN Women, provides training to community members on gender-based violence and related issues faced by women and girls. We’ve reached out to 20 communities in Shuhada, Baharak and Argo and held awareness activities with nearly 3,000 community members, most of them women, on domestic violence, women’s participation in society and child protection.
ChildFund is also raising awareness among men. Helping men understand issues around gender-based violence is an important strategy in promoting the rights of women, Locsin notes.
To better protect the rights of children, ChildFund has established 195 Child Well-Being Committees and 120 Family Support Groups in Afghanistan. These groups serve as the first line of support to children and women who are victims of violence or are at risk of abuse.
ChildFund is also building relationships with government officials, child-protection action networks, health providers and the police to help protect and promote the rights of women and children. “This is a key strategy,” Locsin says. “We need government agencies to be aware of gender-sensitive issues and be able to prevent and respond to abuses. By strengthening inter-agency collaboration and referral mechanisms, ChildFund is improving services and support for the victims of gender-based violence.”
At the same time, ChildFund is also empowering women and girls by providing vocational training in skills such as tailoring and carpet weaving, and providing support for entrepreneurs who want to start small businesses.
“My family and I were refugees in Pakistan for 16 years,” says Muzhda, a mother of five. “When we returned to Afghanistan, we lived in a relative’s house because our house was destroyed during the conflict. To survive, my husband worked as a day laborer. I then completed a ChildFund course in carpet weaving and, with the assistance of ChildFund, started my own carpet-weaving business. We were able to build a new house, and we are now able to provide for my family’s needs and children’s education, thanks to the income from my business.”
ChildFund is also providing literacy and numeracy classes to Afghan women and girls. We provide financial support for teachers and provide books, pens and notebooks to students. Through this program, many young women have learned to read and write. Formerly unemployed women are now engaged in successful business enterprises.
“Many of us want to take part in the courses.We have a thirst for learning,” says Nasreen, 24. “I have now learned how to read and write. I have learned math, too. I feel more confident that I can help my children and family.”
by Virginia Sowers, ChildFund Community Manager
Children are running out of safe places to play in Afghanistan, and we’re asking ChildFund’s Facebook fans to take action.
This week we’ve launched a Facebook-exclusive Fund a Project to build a new playground in a rural Afghanistan village.
Imagine the smiles on the children’s faces when a barren field becomes a fun gathering place, complete with a slide, swing, see-saw and jungle gym. The new community playground will serve approximately 400 children from 150 families.
Whether Facebook fans have $10, $20 or $100 to contribute to the $3,571 project goal, these individual gifts become part of a unified effort to make a tangible difference in the lives of children whose lives have been upended by war.
Given the great conversations about child sponsorship happening on ChildFund’s Facebook wall every day, we’re excited to offer you an opportunity to engage more fully in ChildFund’s work globally.
In addition to the Afghanistan project, our new Facebook welcome page provides fans with an overview of the organization through FAQs and the ChildFund blog, and it opens the door to our YouTube channel and Twitter community.
Won’t you join us on Facebook and help build some fun?
The International Day of Peace, observed each year on Sept. 21, is a global call for ceasefire and non-violence.
Although war wreaks havoc on the lives of all in its path, children often suffer the most. Many lose parents and caregivers. Others lose their sense of security as critical routines such as school and playtime are disrupted.
Recently ChildFund talked with children and youth in our programs in Afghanistan about their daily lives, their fears and their dreams. Here’s what they had to say:
by Julien Anseau, Regional Communications Manager, ChildFund Asia
Tomorrow, Sept. 18, Afghanistan holds elections for its lower house of parliament. More than 2,500 candidates are vying for 249 elected seats. Security concerns are high, and many Afghans live in areas deemed too dangerous to set up polling places.
No ready solution appears in sight for a county long mired in conflict. “War turns everyone’s lives upside down, but none more so than children,” says Anna Maria Locsin, ChildFund’s national director of Afghanistan.
“We want children to have a safe, stable, normal childhood and to grow up in communities where they can become leaders of positive, enduring change that will help bring peace and security to the country,” she notes.
ChildFund has worked in Afghanistan since 2001, reaching more than 150 communities in the northeastern provinces of Badakshan, Baghlan, Kunduz and Takhar.
Consider these sobering statistics:
ChildFund is working in Afghanistan to help fight these problems so that children will have a brighter future. “Our programs prioritize the community-led provision of health, education, and livelihood opportunities while strengthening the protective environment for children,” says Locsin.
Ultimately, it is the children who will determine Afghanistan’s future.
ChildFund Asia provides this post.
ChildFund Afghanistan is seeking to expand Afghan children’s participation in programs and activities that increase their confidence and understanding of children’s rights.
ChildFund Afghanistan wants to learn from children about their daily experiences of poverty and exclusion by giving them a voice through child-focused program participation.
ChildFund will provide children with a safe environment to examine exclusion due to identity, gender and ethnicity and their understanding and experiences of poverty. Children will be able to express their views about fragile peace and tension between child rights and cultural norms.
Children can talk about violence they may experience. Or they may share about hurdles to education. They also will be able to talk about their daily living conditions, such as whether they are getting enough to eat.
Children will take the lead in developing communications materials, conducting advocacy campaigns and creating development plans for their communities, which they will actively manage and monitor.
The Encouraging Afghan’s Children’s Participation project will give children the opportunity to exercise their substantive rights as citizens. By interacting with peers, family members, community leaders and other stakeholders, children will be exposed to a process of inclusion and recognition — a process seldom upheld under current circumstances in Afghanistan.
ChildFund Afghanistan will also involve families and community leaders in this project with the goal of increasing awareness of child rights and openness to children’s participation.
In turn, children will participate in children’s forums and local child-protection governance bodies so that they are playing an active role in action planning, implementation and policy advocacy in support of children’s participation, child rights and development.
by Jim Hake
Guest blogger Jim Hake is the founder of Spirit of America and author of the recently published book, “101 Ways to Help the Cause in Afghanistan,” which features ChildFund’s work in child care education in Afghanistan.
My organization, Spirit of America, has been active in helping the Afghan people and supporting American troops since 2003. We fulfill requests from Americans serving abroad for goods that will help local people. Our work is supported by individual American contributors.
Over the years, Spirit of America has provided everything from sandals and school supplies to sewing machines, irrigation equipment and farming tools. Our work improves relations and saves lives. Through this, I’ve seen that the involvement and support of so-called “everyday people” can make an extraordinary difference in Afghanistan.
I wrote “Help the Cause” because I know many Americans want to help in Afghanistan, but either don’t know what to do or don’t think they can make a real difference.
“101 Ways to Help the Cause in Afghanistan” describes meaningful ways everyone can get involved, regardless of political views. The book shows readers how they can help the Afghan people and increase the safety, well-being and success of our troops. It profiles the work of more than 65 nonprofit organizations, including ChildFund International, whose work is making a positive impact.
“Help the Cause” is about initiative, optimism and service. I would love for every American to find an organization or project that inspires them and get involved. Imagine what we could accomplish if every person, family, or classroom decided to help the cause in Afghanistan.
by Cynthia Price
Director of Communications
Mortenson, author of “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time,” addressed a sold out crowd.
Although his topic was serious, his delivery was engaging and resonating. He spoke about how peace is based in hope and how people need to be empowered “so they can lead their destinies.”
Those words are so similar to ChildFund’s mission: “We believe that the well-being of all children leads to the well-being of the world. We empower children to thrive throughout all stages of life and become leaders of enduring change.”
Later in the evening, audience members provided questions, which Anne moderated. She and Mortenson sat on plush chairs comfortably facing each other. Before Anne began asking questions, they shared a cup of tea. As the saying goes, the first time you share a cup of tea, you are a stranger; the second cup you are a friend, and the third cup you are family.
Because of their shared commitment to helping the world’s children, their interaction was natural and free flowing. Clearly, they were not strangers.
When Anne, who has spent more than 25 years living in developing countries, speaks about poverty she describes it as more than a word.
Mortenson did the same thing during his talk. “We have to touch it, to smell it, to be with poverty,” he said.
Since 1993, Mortenson has committed his life to building schools in developing nations, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. His first school took a while to build, Mortenson admitted, because he was micromanaging the work. But then he turned it over to the community and six weeks later it was built. “You have to let go and empower the community.”
That’s another familiar theme. When ChildFund begins work in a community, we first ask the community what needs to be changed. We then collaborate with community members to bring about that change and then, most important, hand control of the project back over to community members.
In recent years, Mortenson and his team have begun building playgrounds along with the schools. “The children are brought up in war, hatred. They never had a chance to play,” Mortenson said. “When the children started to play even the parents got happy.”
That’s one of the reasons ChildFund is working to fund playgrounds in Afghanistan. As part of its Fund a Project, supporters can donate to fund playgrounds in 20 communities in Afghanistan.
It’s always inspiring to spend an evening with others who are committed to making the world a better place for children.
by Cynthia Price
Director of Communications
I’ve been working for ChildFund for a little over a year, and I’m impressed by those donors who can help a community by building a school, supplying a water pump or providing materials for a health hut.
These are significant contributions that usually require several thousand dollars to make them happen. How fortunate we are to have these individual donors.
For those of us who want to make a meaningful contribution but may not have the resources to do so individually, ChildFund has developed a collective tool, Fund a Project.
It’s a great way for a few or many of us to come together to support a program and bring it to life. I’m drawn to the playground equipment for parks in Afghanistan. I can’t even imagine what life is like for those children, but how incredible will it be for children to have a place to play and forget about conflict?
A little more than $50,000 is needed for the playground equipment. I’ve made a $10 donation to get the project started. With the help of others making similar donations, it won’t be long until the children in these Afghanistan communities are having fun on a playground.
If you’re also looking to make an impact, consider helping provide water pumps for rural families in Timor Leste or supplies for community gardens in the United States. The water pumps cost $2,800 while the community gardens are $7,000.
The two most expensive endeavors of Fund a Project are malaria-prevention programs in Zambia at $41,000, and a global youth employment and livelihood initiative for $100,000. They are both worthy goals for collective efforts.
I like the idea of funding a program that positively impacts children. And I like knowing that I’m doing it with many others, even though I will probably never meet them or know who they are. But that’s OK because we all want the same thing — a better world for these children.
by Virginia Sowers
Upholding the respect and value of the individual is a guiding principle for ChildFund International as we go about our work in 31 countries.
Respect for human rights and human dignity “is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” the General Assembly affirmed in its 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As the United Nations and other organizations and individuals around the world mark the Dec. 10 anniversary of Human Rights Day, I wanted to share an update from ChildFund Afghanistan. We are making progress with regard to child protection, elimination of gender-based violence and education, especially for girls.
ChildFund has worked in Afghanistan since 2001, initiating an emergency response just days after the ceasefire that followed the first U.S.-led military action.
During the past eight years, ChildFund Afghanistan has established services in 151 communities in the four provinces of Takhar, Kunduz, Badkhshan and Baghlan, reaching 277,000 children and family members.
Elimination of Gender-Based Violence
ChildFund Afghanistan’s program to eliminate gender-based violence was developed at the request of communities and government officials. The program works with both men and women in 60 communities within the Kunduz, Baghlan and Takhar provinces.
By promoting awareness and response to early and forced marriage, domestic violence and sexual violence, circumstances for these individuals and their communities will improve.
The program includes public awareness campaigns and also benefits 900 individuals by providing vocational training and income-support activities for women. A police force and judicial system that addresses the violence also is improving conditions. And there is now a health system with improved capacity to help those who have been abused.
ChildFund plans to expand the program through outreach to schools, including teacher training and additional work with students on gender awareness.
Lots of Books!
ChildFund Afghanistan has constructed or rehabilitated 34 government schools and a teacher-training institute, as well as established and supplied 70 community libraries. We have provided nonformal educational services to more than 66,800 youth, including 32,000 girls. An additional 3,000 youth have participated in vocational training programs.
For the programs to succeed, the community and government officials need to value them. That’s why ChildFund Afghanistan works closely with the community and government officials to ensure community acceptance and use of the facilities and to underscore the importance of both girls and boys attending and profiting from educational opportunities.
Through efforts large and small, ChildFund Afghanistan is making a difference in human rights.
“When I finish school, I hope to be a doctor and serve my country and my community,” says 13-year-old Shamila.
“I have always wanted to be a doctor,” says 12-year-old Kubra. “I see the doctor is very respected and saves the lives of people in my community.”
These are the dreams of two children in the war-torn nation of Afghanistan, a country ChildFund has worked in since 2001. As Afghanistan’s citizens have been at the center of conflicts this decade, children there are facing many health issues. The average life expectancy is only 44 years. Infant, children under 5 and maternal mortality rates are among the world’s highest. Twenty-five percent of children die before they turn 5.
Afghanistan also has a disproportionately high percentage of people under the age of 20 – the average age of Afghan residents is 17.7, compared to 36.7 in the U.S.
Nevertheless, we are working hard to improve the lives of children such as Shamila and Kubra. ChildFund has trained parents, community leaders and government staff to recognize and manage child-protection issues. In addition, we are supporting community-based literacy classes for children, training teachers and providing children with recreational areas in which to play. ChildFund is also developing health services and training health workers to diagnose and treat illnesses.
“While many news reports focus on military developments and corruption, we must not forget about the children there,” says ChildFund International President and CEO Anne Lynam Goddard. “Childhood is a one-time opportunity. Now is time for Afghan children to get back on their feet and move in a positive direction. It is the children who will determine Afghanistan’s future – a future in which we all share a stake.”
“If I get to be a doctor, I will make my family very proud as people in my community will look up to me and respect me,” says Kubra.
For more on our work in Afghanistan, click here.
More on Afghanistan
Population: 28.3 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 530,000 children and families
Did You Know?: Afghanistan has never participated in the Winter Olympic Games.
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