Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Children Forced into Heavy Labour in Afghan Province

Thousands are employed in menial and dangerous work.
By IWPR Afghanistan

More than 8,000 children are missing out on school and being forced into hard physical labour in Farah province, according to speakers at a recent IWPR debate.

Some 110 people took part in the September 29 event, which brought together a panel of local officials and civil society activists.

Mohammad Akbar Anwari, head of children’s affairs at the department of labour and social affairs, said that thousands of youngsters were employed in farming, hired to work in mechanic’s workshops or tasked with collecting waste paper and plastics.

“These 8,000 children not only do heavy and difficult work but are also deprived of their education,” he added.

Mohammad Hasham Wafadar, head of the human rights department at Farah police headquarters, agreed that the problem was severe. He added that drug traffickers also often exploited youngsters. Farah’s location near Iran made it a prime route for taking heroin westward.

“The police know that many children are treated badly in Farah province, forced to work hard and used in smuggling, but have been unable to do anything about it,” Wafadar said.

Civil activist Parween Tofan said that the authorities were simply failing to live up to their duties.

 “Many children are engaged in hard physical labour in Farah,” she said. “I think the human rights organisations and the department of labour and social affairs have not shown propoer commitment to their responsibilities. They ought to find solutions to improve children’s lives.”

Debate participant Mohammad Yaqub Maftoon asked the panel about possible solutions to the child labour problem could be.

Jan Mohammad Grardiwal, in charge of Farah’s orphanages, said that his offices were doing their best to provide some young people with an alternative to working in such awful conditions.

 “We provide free education and meals three times a day for children who have lost their parents and are aged between five and 12 years old,” he said.

Anwari said that the government in Kabul needed to provide more support.

“Four years ago we asked the ministry of labour and social affairs to pay more attention to the condition of children’s lives in Farah province,” he continued. “Unfortunately, we are yet to get a positive response from them.”

This report is based on an ongoing series of debates conducted as part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.