House of Hope helps Afghan women prisoners to reintegrate into society

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5 January 2012 - Upon their release from prison, female inmates in Afghanistan often have nowhere to go. Frequently mothers of young children, former prisoners may face rejection by their communities and families, and lack a safe place to receive help with their reintegration into society. As of January 2011, Afghanistan's prisons held nearly 600 women and over 280 minors.

In Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif, UNODC, in partnership with the Afghan government and the NGO Women for Afghan Women (WAW), helps run two post-release transition houses for women leaving prison. Each House of Hope can accommodate between 20 to 25 women and children.

The post-release transitional houses offer women instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic; life skills classes (such as money management, parenting, women's rights in Islam and Afghan Law); vocational training; and job placement assistance. Ex-inmates also have access to drug addiction treatment; individual and group counselling; basic health care; family counseling; and mediation. The centres also facilitate family-reunion, if needed, with a minimum six-month follow-up period; and reintegration into the community.

Additionally, the programme supports prison-leavers in finding jobs in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and other provinces. WAW also offers training in professional jewellery-making, using the designs of the New York-based jewellery designer Global Goods Partners. The women receive a percentage of the profits made.

Women for Afghan Women is a human rights organization based in Kabul and New York. It advocates for the rights of Afghan women and through its programmes helps secure, protect and advance Afghan women's human rights. WAW provides services to women in crisis in eight provinces of Afghanistan.

Following two decades of armed conflict, Afghanistan's prison system remains in desperate need of repair and development. A fully-functioning corrections system is an essential component of effective justice in post-conflict countries, as the government works to re-establish the rule of law. UNODC is working with the Afghan Government to reform the penitentiary system, aiming for a humane approach within prisons and detention centres, and focusing specifically on the most vulnerable group of prisoners - women.