Children Imprisoned with their Mothers
During a women’s rights conference organized by WAW in 2003 in Afghanistan, WAW staff and board visited women’s prisons in Kabul and Kandahar. They were shocked to find that children were imprisoned with their mothers, living in filth, with very little food, and no access to education or the outdoors. WAW chose to do something about this.
Today, WAW’s four CSCs serve over 380 girls and boys aged 5 to 18 every year. It is the first and only program of its kind in Afghanistan, allowing the most vulnerable children to escape the squalid conditions and stigmatism of growing up in prison with their incarcerated mothers, and to benefit from a safe and nurturing environment, education, and medical and psychosocial services.
Children in WAW’s CSCs are taken in at the request of their mothers or guardians. In addition, the CSC is also home to abandoned and orphaned children for whom WAW has sole legal guardianship.
WAW’s CSCs provide children with:
- a safe home and loving, nurturing care;
- nutritious meals;
- medical and psychological care;
- accelerated learning;
- sports and recreation;
- cultural activities and celebrations to simulate a family environment;
- regular visits to their mothers in prison;
- education and advocacy sessions for prison officials and incarcerated mothers; and
- parenting classes for mothers to prepare them for visits and reintegration.
IN THE CSC
Children attend classes in Mathematics, Computers, Sociology, Science, Islamic Studies, Dari, and English. Children who are not prepared for school entrance exams attend accelerated learning courses. Those in school attend supplementary classes where they pose questions and receive homework assistance. Every WAW CSC includes a library that fosters a love for reading.
Though most children have never been to school prior to arriving at WAW’s CSCs, many quickly rise to the top of their class.
The vast majority of the children at WAW’s CSCs also require special attention and care as a result of past trauma. To address this, the CSC psychologists conduct individual and group counseling sessions. Additionally, children undergo medical checkups, regularly visit their mothers in prison, and participate in cultural and recreational activities. WAW also advocates on behalf of children remaining with their mothers in prison to improve their living conditions and supports successful reintegration of families.
WAW CSC staff also regularly conducts education sessions in Afghanistan’s prisons for prison officials and incarcerated mothers to educate them about the CSC’s services and to advocate for children’s rights. Parenting classes are also conducted by WAW staff in order to prepare mothers for children’s visits and their eventual reintegration.
WAW has found that more and more mothers are readily referring their children to stay at a WAW CSC due to the reputation WAW has built in providing safe and life-changing services to children under our care.
WAW operates 4 CSCs serving children from all of Afghanistan's prisons.
In 2014, six-year old Wazhma lost her father who was killed by the Taliban because he served in the Afghan army. The little girl’s uncle refused to believe that the Taliban were responsible for his brother’s death and instead accused Wazhma’s mother of murder, who was consequently sent to prison, with Wazhma also incarcerated with her – as is the practice in Afghanistan.
Wazhma lived in prison with her mother for two years before she was finally transferred to one of WAW’s Children’s Support Centers. She is now attending public school and hopes to become a teacher when she grows up. Her mother is relieved that Wazhma is out of prison and has the chance to enjoy a normal and happy childhood.