Celebrating children's rights in Afghanistan

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Hinna signing a piece of paper at a UNICEF event.

Before going deep into my magical words, hi there! I am Hinna Asefi Wardak, I’m 16-years-old. I’m a student and one of those dreamers. I am a journalist. I host a TV show called ‘HINNASHOW’, and even more exciting, I am the first ever UNICEF Afghanistan Youth Ambassador! Long name right!? I really consider myself amongst the most fortunate being given the opportunity to write what is on my mind, my ideas, my experiences and what child rights mean me. Honestly speaking, when I started writing this piece, I didn’t know how to go about it and how to put my thoughts together, but you can see that a rush of words and sentences came to me and I’m happy to share it with you all.

I’m writing to raise my voice, to help represent the most vulnerable and to be a change in someone's life. I write for children and I write about their future and how today we all have a role to play in making the world a better place for them. This will only be possible if we work with children, to teach them love, to teach them how to care, to teach them how to be beautiful people.

I write for children and I write about their future and how today we all have a role to play in making the world a better place for them.

I am fortunate enough to be part of the UNICEF family, where children are always at the heart, where the hope for bright futures for all children is alive, especially for those whose voices are often ignored. In the lead up to the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on 20 November 2019, I was lucky enough to travel for the first time to Kandahar with UNICEF colleagues.

Together with a government run school for girls, we celebrated the CRC anniversary, including an event with the awesome girls’ poetry program. The girls at that school have so much passion and energy, which really impressed me. Alison Parker, Chief of Communications in Afghanistan, and I visited the girl’s science and environment classes, and their awesome, energetic and unstoppable efforts to show the world a better and brighter image of Afghanistan, totally touched my heart.

The girls at the school asked me questions about UNICEF, our plans for girls’ education and participation, fulfilling the rights of girls everywhere and more. They were excited about the celebration, but something was missing – the girls who are not even allowed to step out of their houses and connect with the outside world. While we celebrated the anniversary, 3.6 million children in Afghanistan were out of school, with most of them being girls. We celebrated, while children in Afghanistan were far from enjoying their full rights, but we made a promise to continue learning, to keep working hard, and to rise from the ashes for a better Afghanistan!

We celebrated, while children in Afghanistan were far from enjoying their full rights, but we made a promise to continue learning, to keep working hard, and to rise from the ashes for a better Afghanistan!

Some key principles of the CRC, such as the right to nondiscrimination, the right to life, survival and development, the right to a name and nationality and the right for children to be heard are not being upheld. It important for parents to be educated to better understand the rights of their children, the equality between girls and boys, the importance of education personally and for the country, the right to a name for their children, respecting children’s views and letting them participate and engage with society.

Now the question of why I am an advocate is getting easy to answer. I want to see my country in the ‘top best countries’ lists, where all the children are in school and learning, their rights are respected, they enjoy their childhood and are always supported by their elders. For children to be the ones that really change the future. It is my personal dream to change someone else's life, to serve my country, to promote equality between girls and boys, and to make Afghanistan a better place to live. I want to bring such a change that other generations will read about me in their history books, keeping my dreams alive even after I’m long gone.

Adults, you are the mirrors for us children. If you love us, we will learn love. If you care about us, we will learn to care. Be the person in front of your children which you want to see them grow up to be in the future. Be the change you want to see in the world or treat others how you wish to be treated!

We all have that one lucky number, that one lucky date, one lucky month, and for me is the 20 November! Yeah, I really am looking forward with lots of hope for what 20 November 2019 brings. One thing I really wish to see this year on 20 November, is for every child to be happy and to enjoy their day. A day of promise to continue working for children in hope of one day seeing all children in school, far from bullying, violence, child marriage, child abuse and all the challenges children face daily in Afghanistan. I am look forward to working more and more for those children who have their rights violated, and for a country where children enjoy a tension and violence free childhood. Consequently, the hope of a better future for children and my partnership to work for children will always remain.

Wow! I really made it to the end! As I close let me thank everyone who gave a helping hand in my writing. First of all, my family (love you Dad and all!), my colleagues, those who were sure of my talent that I can write better, Monica Awad, Alison Parker and the UNICEF team, my friends who are always there to give me ideas on what to write and how to write, and you all for patiently reading till the end.

Love you all.

Hinna Asefi Wardak

Sixteen year-old Hinna is a tenth-grade student in Kabul, Afghanistan. She has worked as a part-time presenter for Shamshad TV for the past eight years, hosting her own programme called ‘Hinna’. Each week she interviews a key political figure on issues affecting the wellbeing of children. She is UNICEF Afghanistan’s first Youth Ambassador.

Check out Hinna's TV Show on YouTube.

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