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Terror's Children

Screencap of "Terror’s Children (2003)"

Screencap of "Terror’s Children (2003)"

Question: Did you have any experience with schools for girls in the refugee camps and in Pakistan in general? And what is the United Nations doing in support of their education campaigns to be sure that girls get as sufficient an education as boys.

Obaid: In the entire refugee camp, there was only one school and it was not an Islamic religious school. It was a proper school that taught English and math, etc. But that school had shifts, where the boys would go in the morning and the girls would go in the evening. And there were a lot of girls that would go there. But because most Afghani families don't like their women to even step out of the house in an environment that is unfamiliar where strange males might be there, not a lot of young girls would go to these schools. In Pakistan, in general, you have a lot of schools for women. That is a different thing. Parents don't feel like sending their girls to school after a certain age because of social constraints. But there are schools that exist in large cities like Karachi, in rural areas there are obviously less so.

Moderator: What sort of efforts are being done by the UN?

Bhattacharjee: That is a very broad question. That comes under the broad rubric of general equality. But I can talk about what was happening in Kabul when we visited. When the UNICEF started the back-to-school program, most of those who returned to school were girls and we found that girls were much more proactive in a sense of wanting to study. There were special schools for girls that we visited. At the moment there is a great yearning and great desire for all those children, particularly girls, to carry on with their education. And a lot of effort is being made by UNICEF. There is a gender advisor in the UN mission there and they are working together to see that the rights of women and particularly the girls are protected and advanced.

Zia-Zarifi: One huge problem I should point out is that, over the last 6 months there have been a number of attacks on girl's schools inside Afghanistan. These are schools that have just been rebuilt. And one of the most troubling things we found, especially in southeastern Afghanistan is that a lot of refugees who had returned, who had lived in Pakistan or Iran and who were anxious to send their girls back to school as well as the local populace, were now pulling their girls back from the schools because of the security problems there. They just could not allow their girls to go. This is a very troubling development, to have girls once again excluded from education in Afghanistan.