Kandahar theatre performances promote rights of children in armed conflict

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KANDAHAR - The critical importance of protecting the rights and well-being of children in armed conflict was brought to life during two UN-backed theatre performances by the Kandahar Theatre and Film Group in the Afghanistan’s southern region last week.

Facilitated by the Kandahar regional office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and performed in front of several hundred primary and secondary students, teachers and school authorities, each dramatic production highlighted the responsibilities of all members of society, from families to community leaders, in protecting children from recruitment and use in armed conflict.

“These performances reflect the prevailing challenges children face in our communities,” said Ezathullah Shamshad, a teacher at the Ghazi Ayoub High School in Kandahar’s Maiwand district. He added that the Maiwand performance sent a positive message to parents and teachers on how to protect children from recruitment by armed groups and forces.

In 2011, the Afghan government and the UN signed a Joint Action Plan for the Prevention of Underage Recruitment. In 2014, the government’s Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict endorsed a 15-point Road Map toward compliance with the Action Plan, drafted jointly by the Afghan Government and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, UNICEF and UNAMA.

Measures outlined in the Road Map include the criminalisation of the recruitment and use of children. According to international law, a child associated with an armed force or armed group refers to any person younger than 18 years old who is, or who has been, recruited or used by an armed force or armed group in any capacity. This includes, but is not limited to, boys and girls used as fighters, cooks, suicide bombers, human shields, messengers, spies or for sexual purposes.

In an after-show discussion in the Maiwand event, several members of the audience made the point that children need protection and should be pursuing education, not taking part in conflict.

By facilitating similar outreach activities across the country, including radio and television debates, UNAMA continues to carry out its mandated work to support the protection, rights and well-being of children, which are central to Afghanistan’s recovery, reconstruction and long-term development.

The theatrical productions in Kandahar province were part of a series of events focusing on issues around children and armed conflict. The Kandahar Theatre and Film Group performs throughout Kandahar, and also in the neighbouring provinces of Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan, to raise awareness about key social issues affecting communities in Afghanistan’s southern region.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as 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.