Schoolteachers and local activists take the lead in preventing child casualties in Mazar
United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, March 11, 2017
MAZAR – Schoolteachers and local activists from Mazar have held a workshop to find ways to prevent the recruitment of children by armed groups, and encourage awareness of the dangers of landmines.
Thousands of children in Afghanistan are victims of armed conflict, with 923 deaths recorded just in 2016, 108 of those in the northern region, and 2,589 children injured across the country – the highest number since data collection began in 2009.
The workshop was organized by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Civil Society activists from the area joined 16 schoolteachers to work on developing new ways to educate children on how to identify landmines and other explosives, and how to inform relevant adults about their existence.
The workshop also involved sessions outlining international legal instruments including the Safe Schools Declaration which Afghanistan signed in 2015.
While signing this declaration requires a commitment from the Government to ensure protection of schools and universities from parties to conflict, there have been widely documented instances of anti-government groups using schools for cover and to plan operations.
Maryam Usain, a schoolteacher from Mazar who participated in the workshop, said that schools should be considered sacred places.
“Schools are neither battlegrounds, nor foxholes,” she said. “They are the beating heart of the village.”
Recruitment of children by armed groups violates international humanitarian law, yet it persists in many parts of the country.
Sara Bahaee, a civil society activist, said that recruiting children is a heinous crime.
“As mothers and schoolteachers, we call upon the conflict parties to stop using children in their wars.”
UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan in a political mission that provides ‘good offices’ among other key services. ‘Good offices’ are diplomatic steps that the UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.
UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.