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With its history of civil and international war, Afghanistan struggles to maintain its democracy and continue its reconstruction efforts. The country is a mosaic of cultures, tribes and ethnicities. Three decades of conflict and an array of natural disasters has made life in Afghanistan challenging. Water shortage and infertile land hamper agricultural success. Nearly a third of Afghans do not have sufficient food. Demand for education in Afghanistan is high, while educational performance remains poor. This is especially true for nomadic groups and women in Afghanistan.

ChildFund has served Afghan children since 2001.

ChildFund Afghanistan’s Mothers as First Teacher (MAFT) program teaches mothers and primary caregivers about parent-child relationships, play and stimulation, bonding and attachment, brain development and early detection of developmental delays, through home visits, discussion teas and mobile phone texts. The RESTART project prepares young children in Afghanistan to transition into primary school and offers literacy skills to mothers.

Child-friendly spaces provide happy, safe environments where children in Afghanistan can play, learn about health and hygiene, and begin to rebuild their war-torn lives. Also, community members receive training in child protection, emergency response and landmine risk education. Nomadic children are receiving the chance to complete a full cycle of lower primary school without being forced to abandon the traditional lifestyle of their communities, since ChildFund-supported teachers travel with them. With the support of the Ministry of Education, a nomadic education model, policy and guidelines have been developed that include a program for parents to gain literacy skills via mobile phone.

Afghanistan remains one of the leading countries of origin for refugees and has earned a reputation as a source for irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Because of the lack of basic services and jobs in Afghanistan, young Afghans are vulnerable to mental and physical health issues, financial uncertainty and the risk of engaging in dangerous behavior. ChildFund’s Youth Empowerment Project provides young men and women in Afghanistan with relevant information about livelihoods and develops their livelihood skills, strengthens youth clubs and youth associations, and supports small and micro-business start-ups.

In Afghanistan, 15 percent of girls are married by the age of 15, and 40 percent are married by the age of 18. Child marriage is common in Afghanistan because of the tradition of bride price, when a groom’s family pays the bride’s family for the right to marry a girl. Daughters are often exchanged in marriage to repay large debts or compensate for a crime committed against a member of the family. These unions are almost always forced marriages because the girl has no say in the matter and may not even know her husband beforehand. Poverty is a significant factor in child marriage as the parents of the daughter often have no financial resources to support her and can benefit from the dowry (or bride price).

Forced marriage has serious consequences for girls, families and communities. Once married, girls rarely receive more education because they must perform domestic duties and often soon become mothers. Without an education, they have very limited economic opportunities, reinforcing the cycle of poverty. According to a study by the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation in 2008, literacy rates correlate strongly with child marriage in Afghanistan. More than 70 percent of parents who forced their daughters to marry were illiterate, as well as 70 percent of married girls and half of their husbands. Another consequence of forced marriage is early pregnancy, which can cause many complications, including maternal death.

ChildFund works in some of the poorest regions of Afghanistan to provide women and girls with the support they need. To make a difference in the lives of girls and young women in Afghanistan, become a monthly giving partner.

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