Afghan Government Shows Progress in Curbing Gender-Based Violence in Education and Health Sectors

Mon, Jun 07 2021 1:32 PM

Kabul June 7 -The Ministry of Finance of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the World Bank have led a rigorous inter-agency effort to fight gender-based violence, including sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment (SEA/SH),in the education and health sector sin Afghanistan. The effort has benefited from the strong leadership of H.E. President Ghani and has been supported by the international donor community and resident UN agencies, including UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO, which amplifies its progress.

Since November 2019, following  allegations of various child sexual abuse in several schools in Logar province, reported by national and international media outlets, the Bank’s effort to address SEA/SH risk mitigation and response in its projects has guided and empowered the Ministries of Public Health, Education ,Higher Education ,and the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority to develop detailed and comprehensive plans of action for SEA/SH risk mitigation and response, revise their relevant policies and procedures, raise awareness, and increase the delivery of quality services to survivors of gender-based violence including SEA/SH. These efforts have supported the government institutions in providing essential trainings to their employees to ensure safety for schoolchildren, teachers, employees, and beneficiaries of these institutions.

Throughout this process, these ministries/agencies are establishing effective grievance redress mechanisms to receive and process complaints about SEA/SH with due attention to confidentiality and following a survivor-centric approach. All the ministries and agencies currently involved in this initiative are making remarkable progress in addressing SEA/SH in their institutions.

“The culture of impunity has ravaged the lives of young kids in our country and this has to stop” said Abdul Habib Zadran, Deputy Minister of Finance. “We have worked closely with our partners ,in particular the World Bank ,for the last 18 months and established a framework that creates and implements policies to safeguard the lives of children and vulnerable groups in places where they receive education and health care services. I am optimistic that the government agencies will scale up these efforts over time to foster a much safer environment for all.”

Most of sexual harassment and gender-based violence victims traditionally remained silent in Afghanistan and those reported are not addressed systematically as a trustworthy reporting system did not yet exist in any of these government agencies. Now ,through this initiative’s support, the ministries of Public Health, Education and Higher Education have either established or begun rolling out systems that encourage victims to report incidents of abuse and violence through a confidential channel.

Participating entities have also established a system that provides mental health support and safety to the victims of abuse and their families. The Ministry of Public Health has trained around 10,000 of its health care workers in gender-based violence treatment protocol that guarantees utmost confidentiality.

“While we cannot deny continued threats to the safety of children, women and men, and vulnerable groups throughout the country, I am truly encouraged by how much progress our joint efforts have achieved within these ministries in a short period of time and despite the COVID-19 challenges,” said Homa-Zahra Fotouhi, World Bank Operations Manager for Afghanistan. “The ministries and agencies have developed and enforced policies and procedures as well as implemented outreach programs that have already started to change the situation on the ground.”

With a foundational framework to monitor and curb SEA/SH in place, the ministries of Public Health, Education, Higher Education and the Technical Vocational Education and Training Authority are raising awareness among their employees and delivering hundreds of training sessions to the communities they serve on how to handle and report incidents of SEA/SH.. The Ministry of Finance, the World Bank and other partners will continue to work together to expand these efforts across other institutions within the government of Afghanistan and ensure that gender-based violence is systematically addressed in all sectors.