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A hundred heroes!

I have a master’s degree in social work and I’ve never forgotten the values of the profession, even though I don’t do any case work anymore. So, when my colleague Hellen said, ‘Come to the first ever celebration of World Social Work Day in Afghanistan last week, I didn’t want to miss the chance. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Social Work Day, and I wanted to find out more.

Apparently, the first ever International Social Work Day was observed in 2007. Why? Across the world, social workers help people to make changes in their lives, to claim back their sense of self-esteem, security, and rights. They are often the real but unsung heroes in society. But the profession has received little recognition in Afghanistan. This event was begining to change that.

The small one-act plays, underway when I arrived, were riveting. Each one was about how and why children’s rights are routinely denied. They touched on all sorts of issues without actually naming them – corporal punishment, girls mobility, a woman’s ‘rightful’ place in a home and many more. I could see, even though proceedings were conducted in Dari, that the stories were making the audience very uncomfortable. Then, like magic, someone stood up and said, “These stories are all wrong. Would you like to change them?”

Up went a cheer, and the plays were all run through again. This time, with a difference. The audience could stand up and ‘pause’ the story or ‘rewind’, contest the storyline and then intervene to change it. The result was fabulous! New and better stories were created on the spot. I thought: what a wonderful way to discuss issues, create engagement and also practice changing harmful behaviours that impact children’s lives! The technique, I remembered from my days at college, is known as participatory drama.

Save the Children is training over a hundred social workers in hard-to-reach areas such as Nagarhar and Kandahar, in Afghanistan. Next year, we will expand the project to reach even more. To me, its mind-blowing to think how many kids we can help, through a simple intervention like this, in the long run. Way to go, Save the Children. And, way to go, social workers in Afghanistan. You have no idea how much respect I have for you!

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