Monthly Archives: April 2010

Child Protection…

According to a 2009 Child Protection Report:

Child Labour (working children 7-14):  24%

Child Marriage (girls married under 18):  43%

Street children in Kabul:  37,000

Children living in institutions:  8,000

Children associated with armed groups & armed forces demobilized from 2003 to 2005: 7,444

The Children’s Act in Afghanistan may not yet be firmly in place, but it’s being developed by some key players here in Afghanistan. With any development, it takes time, but step by step we’ll see changes in Afghanistan that will protect children for generations to come. This is a cutting edge time to be in Afghanistan, to see new procedures being established, better practices and higher standards of care.

But this is a journey, and though it can be very exciting and encouraging, there are times where you feel like you are hitting a brick wall and the discouragement sets in. But as a local and international community, we press on… because we know change will come.

It’s through some very difficult cases like the reintegration of deported unaccompanied Afghan children, or a baby at risk of death and needing to be adopted, that good practices and procedures can be established. Sometimes mistakes are made along the way, but everyone is learning and sometimes by making the mistakes, a more water tight procedure can be put in place. I’ve been so impressed by the  local and international organisations, and local Govt. bodies dedicated to the protection and well being of Afghanistan’s children, things will change… it may be slow… but it will come.

Recently, a difficult case of deported unaccompanied children brought with it much attention. Over the years, hundreds of unaccompanied Afghan children deported back to Afghanistan from both neighbouring countries and much further away, have been reintegrated to relatives in a country that was for many no doubt a whole new world. This more recent case challenged an unchallenged system, and changes were made, where the children’s protection was the primary focus, both present and future. Through this case new procedures have been set that with support of Government and civil society means children will be safely reintegrated to families that have first been assessed, and where good follow up is in place, ensuring children are well looked after, in school and with good future prospects – this is fantastic progress.

Adoption and fostering is a whole new domain for Afghanistan, but as in the deportation case, new frontiers are being crossed and the possibilities and hope for the neediest of children are opening up…

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Spring in Kabul…

A few weeks ago our day guard who loves to do gardening also, approached me and asked if he could buy 10 more rose bushes for the garden. Of course I agreed… Kabul would not be the same without roses, and this week our first rose bloomed…

I only arrived in September so I missed the Spring last year, but I have to say, I think it will be my favourite season here in Afghanistan. Our vine is growing and our guard, come gardener, has been proudly pointing out the beginning signs of grapes, “Look, grape juice”…

The sun is shining, kids are playing cricket in the street (even some security guards – I won’t mention where) and there’s nothing like driving through the city, watching the every-day life while listening to Afghan music through the radio, or from one of the cassettes the boys are selling in the street, exchangeable through the car window at discount rate.

I’ve had some guests from Cambodia this week and it’s been so nice to get out and about to see some sites. The other day we were at Quargha Lake, where many of the Afghan families go during the summer, just a half hour ride out of Kabul. Then yesterday we went to see the ruins of the Royal Palace of Darulaman, built in the 1920s, in grand European style, but destroyed by war. I imagine it was absolutely beautiful in its day… I felt quite sad, a reminder of the damage war inflicts on a country. I would have loved to have seen Kabul in the 60s…

I’m struck by the beauty of Afghanistan, but also know that for so many Afghans, life is brutally hard. So it’s no surprise that I would feel frustrated when I hear of the extravagant spending and what seems like ‘money thrown at Afghanistan’ but not hitting the right places… I’m conflicted… There is so much good work happening here, but at the same time there seems to be so much unnecessary spending of money that if spent wisely could benefit a great many Afghans.

This week I met several female business entrepreneurs who told me that the biggest challenge to Afghan women becoming business women was that they couldn’t by law own property, which meant they couldn’t access loans. “Finance is the biggest need”… there you go, that’s one great option to explore for someone who wants to make a good investment in this country…
Well, back to work, I have an assignment due… I’ll write again soon…