8th May 2014: Child labour is endemic in Afghanistan, despite vaguely written laws that prohibit children younger than 14 from working full time. The regulations, adopted in 2007 and last revised in 2012, allow those 14 and older to serve as apprentices and those 15 to 18 to perform “light work.” They prohibit children younger than 18 from work considered hazardous or dangerous to their health. But the laws are widely ignored because of resistance from employers and from families who need the income. Children as young as 6 works in brick making, carpet weaving, construction, mining and farming. Others resort to begging, collecting garbage or selling trinkets on the street. Aid groups that have poured billions of dollars into Afghanistan since 2001 are unsure how many children work. The best estimate is nearly 2 million between the ages of 6 and 17, or at least 25% of Afghan children. The numbers are rising as growth in mining and construction, fuelled by international assistance dollars, has lured more underage workers. In a US Labour Department report last year, the word “unavailable” is listed in a chart on the numbers of Afghan working children. The report describes sexual abuse of children who herd livestock. And it tells of children maimed or killed in construction jobs and forced to work in extreme cold or heat, carry heavy loads, smuggle narcotics or serve as soldiers. Children of all ages in Afghanistan are in the streets begging for work in hopes of bringing their family a better life. Other than shoe-shining, a common occupation for children is brick building in brick factories. Due to the long hours in the factory and the children’s desperation to earn more money, 90% of those working in the factories don’t attend a school.
There do not appear to be any mechanisms to reach children involved in the worst forms of child labour in the informal sector. Moreover Kids are used as a fodder for war and insurgency as well in Afghan ongoing war. Child soldiers as young as 8 are compelled to become instruments of war, to kill and be killed and are forced to give violent expression to the hatred of adults. The children’s vulnerability makes them attractive to militias. They are easy to manipulate, more impressionable and susceptible to indoctrination. They’ll do the unspeakable without question or protest, partly because their morals and value systems are not yet fully formed and are seen as more loyal and less threatening to adult leadership. Children are forced into service, abducted from their beds, kidnapped from their homes, and some enlist to escape abject poverty. The conscripts undergo varying degrees of indoctrination, often verging on the brutal. Some receive primary school instruction or long periods of forced political introduction where beatings are part of the curriculum. The children become fierce warriors by being subjected to terror and physical abuse. They are socialized into violence, forcing them to witness or partake in the torture and execution of their own relatives.
Afghan authorities have also spent the past decade turning a blind eye to certain ‘inconvenient’ issues such as accountability for serious child rights violations this neglect has to end with the next administration to come. On women’s and child rights, the limited progress of the past 12 years has been mainly due to the tireless work of Afghan women activists themselves only and unfortunately by Afghan government. It’s not like that we have not progressed on child rights in past 12 years. An estimated 6.5 million kids are now going to school – a third of those are girls. But in many areas it’s still hard to get an education. Whilst the lives of millions of people have improved, there’s still a lot of work to do. Afghanistan is the second poorest country in the world. One in four children dies before they reach the age of five. Most of them from preventable diseases and malnutrition. After years of war and severe poverty, combined with poor security, the country is considered to be among the most dangerous places for children to be born. For almost 30 years Afghan children have been affected by conflict and are the worst sufferers of the war. Growing up in Afghanistan means growing up surrounded by violence, poverty and exclusion. Entire generations have never seen peace. Thousands of children have been separated from their parents, abandoned in national orphanages or forced into labour.
If you want to judge a country, the best measure in my view is how it treats its children who are the future of that country. The nation’s child-mortality rate is the world’s second-worst. Of those who survive, 59% grow up irreversibly stunted, physically and mentally, for lack of adequate nutrition during the first years of life. And as long as that continues, as long as Afghans wound and stunt their offspring, the nation’s sad lot will never improve. So it’s high time for the country to take care of its future that is there kids otherwise we will have a lost generation which will always strive for a purposeful life. For that number of measures can be taken like- training parents, community members and government staff in basic child protection issues, having more stringent child rights protection laws and there proper implementation.
Author is a Doctor and currently practices in Sydney, Australia. She belongs from Kabul Afghanistan can be contacted at: [email protected]