Sep 21, 2020

Update - September 2020

Reenku
Reenku

Many of our activities were suspended abruptly in March 2020 with COVID-19 lockdown and school closures. This has had a huge impact on Musahar girls and families. In-person instruction is impossible. 100% have lost earnings, 21% have received no hygiene or sanitation support, and 75% have received no food support due to government discrimination, so many girls have eaten the ducks they received for a duck farming enterprise. There have been several beneficiary suicides due to the starvation and increased domestic violence/exploitation girls are experiencing, including male anger at the loss of income, forced marriage to reduce household expenses, sex trafficking, and forced transactional sex. Street Child spent the first months of lockdown providing food relief and key prevention measures (handwashing stations, hygiene supplies and education), but learning is the fundamental basis for change in earning and wellbeing and we are pivoting to remote instruction as soon as possible. Without the psychosocial support to build confidence and skills to resist harm, and without the ability to earn income for prosperity and protect against future shocks, the risk that Musahar girls will experience harm and/or starve without access to the program is extremely high.

 

Case Study: Before the national lockdown forced all schools and educational centres to close, fifteen-year-old Reenku* attended classes as part of the Breaking the Bonds programme for Musahar girls in Nepal. Her parents work as daily wage labourer’s, but due to the lockdown in Nepal, her parents are finding it tough. Without their only source of income, Reenku and her family cannot afford to buy food and basic essentials.     

Unfortunately, this tale is all too familiar for many of the marginalised Musahar families in Nepal who are already facing the long-lasting impact of the pandemic. “Most of the people from my community are surviving on only rice and salt. We don’t have money to buy food,” says Reenku, fearful that her fragile community will never recover from the damages the pandemic has already caused. 

Prior to the lockdown, Reenku’s family had managed to store rice and lentils but with so many mouths to feed in the home their supply has quickly depleted and with restrictions on movement still in place, Reenku cannot even go out to collect firewood for cooking from the nearby forest. 

*Name has been altered to protect identity.

 

Thank you again for your support of this crucial work and Street Child! 

Food packages distribution
Food packages distribution
Food packages distribution
Food packages distribution
Face mask production
Face mask production
Face mask production
Face mask production
Sep 17, 2020

Project Update - September 2020

Dear Supporters,

Thank you for your continued support of women and children in conflict with the law in Afghanistan. We are delighted to share an update with you.

Women and children in Afghanistan continue to be arrested for crimes which would not be recognised under international standards. This means children are punished for petty crimes that would not lead to an arrest elsewhere. Nationwide, the number of children detained in juvenile detention centres has risen sharply over the past ten years, despite Afghanistan’s 2010 Juvenile Code stating explicitly that the detention of children should be used ‘only as a last resort’. Children and women arrested by the police face harassment, neglectful treatment in police stations and long and difficult periods of imprisonment. 

The overall objective of our work is to support vulnerable children and women in conflict with the law in 3 key areas:

  • Diversion - to avoid involvement with the justice system altogether.
  • Rehabilitation - to create improved conditions within detention centres to support the emotional and physical wellbeing of women and children and to prepare them for a safe and more productive return to society.
  • Reintegration - to overcome the stigma they face following arrest and imprisonment, and to overcome the circumstances which led to their initial arrest.

We are addressing these issues through the following activities:

  1. A day release open centre for children in Balkh Province. The centre offers children an education, vocational training and social work services.
  2. Counselling and psychological-social support for children and women in conflict with the law who are either waiting for their trial or post-trial.
  3. The placement of social work mentors in police stations in the Balkh and the Northern Region to advise and train existing social workers.
  4. Educating and informing police and prison workers on the legal and human rights and needs of children and women.
  5. Advocacy – working with other NGOs and the Afghan Government to lobby for alternatives to detention for women and children.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began the restrictions have prevented us from undertaking many of our planned activities. These delays make an already desperate situation even worse. Lockdowns have impacted access to the juvenile rehabilitation centres; educational activities have had to be halted; vital training for social workers and police has been postponed and vocational trainers have not had access to the women’s prison.

However, during these challenging times we have still been able to achieve positive outcomes and continue to support the women and children we work with: 

  • Social workers have been able to undertake family visits to support juvenile rehabilitation inmates who were released as a result of a presidential decree due to COVID-19
  • Defence lawyers have continued to provide critical legal advice to vulnerable people and represent the inmates during the lockdown. 
  • 3 advocacy meetings have been held with officials from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA), looking at what they can do to provide support and alternatives to incarceration for women and children. 
  • We have prepared, packaged and distributed information packages including essential information adapted for a low-literacy, low-resource environment and translated into local languages and dialects;
  • We have prepared, packaged and distributed essential supplies including soap and sanitiser, masks and health and hygiene materials – this is particularly important in correctional facilities where overcrowding and congestion limits social separation or isolation; improved health and hygiene practices are essential to reduce risk of infection and critical illness; and
  • We have provided psychosocial support and increased awareness of protection risks and recognition, response and reporting strategies.

Moving forward as fragile, crisis and conflict-affected countries face challenging choices on how to flatten the curve in their contexts, correctional facilities have emerged as an extreme risk in Afghanistan.   Incarcerated females are suffering from separation and isolation as families are prevented or prohibited from meeting them. They remain extremely vulnerable and the threat of COVID-19 as unsafe and unsanitary facilities mean there is a risk of rapid transmission should there be an outbreak. As such it is essential we are able to resume our work which is critical to support women and children, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, to continue to build on our achievements to date. 

Thank you again for your support of this crucial work and Street Child! 

May 20, 2020

Update on our support for Women and Children

Dear Supporters,

Thank you for your continued support of women and children in conflict with the law in Afghanistan. We are delighted to share an update from the first few months of 2020.

Women and children in Afghanistan continue to be arrested for crimes which would not be recognised under international standards. This means children are punished for petty crimes that would not lead to an arrest elsewhere. Nationwide, the number of children and women detained in juvenile detention centres has risen sharply over the past ten years, despite Afghanistan’s 2010 Juvenile Code stating explicitly that the detention of children should be used ‘only as a last resort’. Children and women arrested by the police face harassment, neglectful treatment in police stations and long and difficult periods of imprisonment. Innocent or not, they are wrenched from their families and school for long periods before trial. This situation further perpetuates financial and social inequality in Afghanistan, and without any intervention, they face a bleak future.

The overall objective of our work is to support vulnerable children and women in conflict with the law in 3 key areas:

  • Diversion - to avoid involvement with the justice system altogether.
  • Rehabilitation - to create improved conditions within detention centres to support the emotional and physical wellbeing of women and children and to prepare them for a safe and more productive return to society.
  • Reintegration - to overcome the stigma they face following arrest and imprisonment, and to overcome the circumstances which led to their initial arrest.

We are addressing these issues through the following activities:

  1. A day release open centre for children in Balkh Province. The centre offers children an education, vocational training and social work services.
  2. Counselling and psychological-social support for children and women in conflict with the law who are either waiting for their trial or post-trial.
  3. The placement of social work mentors in police stations in the Balkh and the Northern Region to advise and train existing social workers.
  4. Educating and informing police and prison workers on the legal and human rights and needs of children and women.
  5. Advocacy – working with other NGOs and the Afghan Government to lobby for alternatives to detention for women and children.

In Mid-March, due to COVID-19 outbreak in Afghanistan all activities were suspended but after close consultation, we swiftly continued the activities we could, with new protocols and regulations imposed due to the pandemic. Our education and vocational classes were equipped with the necessary hygiene kits to make our beneficiaries safe. However, in the last few weeks, due to a positive case of COVID-19 in the prison we work in, these classes are now being conducting remotely by sending and collecting assessment papers once and week and conducting sessions over the phone. Our counselling and psychological-social support sessions are being done remotely. Other activities were also unfortunately affected and from March onward our social workers and lawyers have had to stop workshops and group legal awareness sessions.

Despite these challenges, Street Child has achieved positives outcomes in this period. The highlights were:

  • 33 women were reintegrated with their family
  • 44 women released from prison
  • 3 group therapy sessions took place
  • 148 individual therapy session took place
  • 34 women and children graduated from our education class
  • 65 women were provided with legal advice

In addition, in this period 3 advocacy meetings were held with officials from Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA), looking at what they can do to provide support and alternatives to incarceration for women and children.

Case study:

Shakira* was only 14 when she fled her parents’ house to escape an arranged marriage to the 50-year-old man she was promised to. Her ‘secret’ 15-year-old boyfriend would not let this happen and they left in the middle of the night, knowing they could get caught by the police, or worse. They faced the very real prospect of being executed at the request of their own families for bringing shame upon them by running away together. Such punishments are still traditionally seen as a way of restoring family honour.

Shakira and her boyfriend did not get very far before being picked up by the police. Luckily for them, the police officer and the station immediately called a social worker, trained by Street Child, to act as an advocate and mediate between the children and the two families.

* Name changed for child protection purposes

Moving forward, we hope that we can continue our work and that the COVID-19 pandemic does not hinder our progress in the next few months. We will continue to leverage our advocacy efforts to promote alternatives to incarceration and quality legal support for children and women and promote their rights in the judicial system and communities in Afghanistan.

Thank you again for your support of this crucial work and Street Child is looking forward to sharing with you even more news and progress from our work in 2020! 

 
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