Despite a new law which bans it, corporal punishment is rife in schools throughout Afghanistan

Mohammad Osman Hemat, Executive Director of Help the Afghan Children on the role of peace education in reducing corporal punishment in schools.

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Although the government of Afghanistan has passed a law banning corporal punishment in schools, many teachers, especially in remote areas, continue to use it against students. This is cyclical as most of those teachers themselves experienced corporal punishment when they were at school. Indeed, this has been a common practice all over the country even in unofficial learning centers. Corporal punishment is strongly accepted in Afghanistan as well as beating and other forms of aggression seen as normal practice for controlling children and enforcing them to study and be more polite. However, research has shown that corporal punishment has negative impacts on learning ability and discourages regular attendance in school. In addition, the drop out and absentee rate can lead young children engaging in risky behavior and becoming vulnerable to criminal acts. In addition bullying, fighting and aggressive behavior amongst the young students is common in Afghanistan schools.

With Help the Afghan Children (HTAC) we have been implementing peace education since 2003 in diverse parts of the country to reduce conflicts between students and to encourage boys and girls to model positive behavior and solve their issues in a peaceful manner. HTAC also works with teachers to avoid corporal punishment and replace it with modern methods of discipline in schools they teach in. At HTAC we believe that peace education is a preventative strategy that can help new generations in a fragile state like Afghanistan to work toward solving their issues in a peaceful way. Our sustainable peace education program is designed to help children reject violence and embrace the principles of peaceful everyday living and train teachers for positive discipline. Our program is dramatically changing the attitudes and behaviors of Afghan youth, especially boys, who now reject violence, practice non-violent conflict resolution, learn patience, tolerance and respect for others while gaining self-confidence as well as teachers model positive behavior.

It is essential that civil society works together to have a voice in Afghanistan to advocate for including peace education in the national school curriculum for reducing corporal punishment and peer violence in schools.

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When Hari started to help his wife with the household chores

When I participated in the sessions of Sammanit Jeevan (meaning dignified living) I began to understand the discrimination between men and women. This training has helped me to internalize how I discriminate unknowingly against my wife. After I got an opportunity to participate in this training, I realized the importance of sharing the household chores. I started washing utensils and cooking food as well. I did not feel hesitant to assist my wife in household chores.” This is what Hari*, a 35-year-old young married man, said after attending Sammanit Jeevan intervention.

Abhina Adhikari Pic

In Nepal, women spend most of their time taking care of their families. This leaves them with little or no time to take care of themselves. This obligatory engagement means women have to do unpaid care work, thereby denying their economic and other rights and pushes them deep into the vicious cycle of poverty. Men are very hesitant to support their wives in household chores. Recognition and redistribution of domestic care work is essential to increase the representation of women in economic activities and for true women empowerment to be realised.

The Sammanit Jeevan intervention on changing gender norms has brought small but impactful changes among a few men in a community in Baglung. It is gratifying to know that our small effort has made even just a few women’s lives easier.

Hari had not assisted his wife with domestic chores in all 15 years of their married life. He felt very hesitant and shy to do household chores and never thought about helping out with them, as he thought that these were the responsibilities of women alone. Today things are different and Hari has started helping his wife. This is an amazing shift of traditional roles from what are seen as a ‘women’s responsibility’ in Nepali society. When asked his wife Rita* said she was pleasantly surprised with her husband’s new behavior and could not believe that he is now helping her with the household chores.

The small change in Hari’s behavior has brought great happiness to his family, especially his wife. Both Hari and his wife were so thankful to have benefited from the session of the Sammanit Jeevan intervention run by VSO Nepal and BYC Baglung, a UKAID funded global initiative, What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Children.

This blog has been written by Abhina Adhikari of VSO Nepal.

* Not their real names