October 10, 2016
On 19 December 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 66/170, declaring 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child. The main objective of this resolution was to draw attention to the serious issues facing this young segment of the society.
Following this initiative, work started in earnest on compiling a comprehensive and analytic report on laws regarding the human rights of young girls in five areas of education, safety, labour, early and forced marriage and health and hygiene. The research produced a report which was published in 2015. A review of the report’s findings makes it abundantly clear that all Iranians should make greater efforts to fully understand the legal challenges and their various ramifications that are impacting children and particularly young girls.
Part of this research project was centred around speaking to children.
To mark the fifth anniversary of the International Day of the Girl Child, Kayhan-London, in cooperation with Persia Educational Foundation, has published a number of these conversations which shed light on the daily lives of children.
“M” is a thirteen year old girl who lives in the western province of Kermanshah. She was the victim of a hit and run car accident and worries that her injuries may prevent her from passing her exams. “M” likes school because she gets a chance to play with her friends. She is unaware of the concept of sexual abuse and does not know how to react to it.
How many siblings do you have?
I have an eleven year old sister and a seven year old brother.
How old are your parents?
My father is 38 and my mother is 30.
Do you live with your family?
Yes. I live with my parents and my brother and sister.
Have you ever suffered from a prolonged or a serious illness? Have you had access to a specialist? Have you ever been hospitalized?
I have been sick but nothing serious. I had never been hospitalized until my car accident two days before Nowruz ,the Persian new year. One of my fingers was almost severed in the accident, and my right hand was broken. My finger was amputated at the hospital in Kermanshah and I was sent to Tehran for further treatment. The doctors at the hospital in Tehran reattached my finger and told me to give it time to see if the operation were successful. They reset the broken bones in my right hand with platinum pins and screws, but warned that it may never be the same. After all, the operation to re-attach my finger on the left hand failed, and it had to be amputated in Kermanshah.
Did they find the person who caused the accident? Did he pay the hospital bill?
No. He just drove away, and they haven’t been able to find him . I don’t know who paid the hospital bill, all I know is that my father is overwhelmed with the expenses.
How long were you in the hospital?
I spent a few days in a hospital in Kermanshah before being transferred to another one in Tehran where I stayed for two weeks. I stayed a total of twenty days in the two hospitals.
Have you been discharged from the hospital?
I was sent home, but have to go back regularly to change the dressing on my left hand. They also need to examine my right hand, to decide when to remove the platinum pins and screws.
Has insurance covered your expenses?
No. I don’t have insurance; I didn’t even know what insurance was.
Has your father been able to pay your medical bills in the past whenever you got sick?
I have had bad colds, stomach pain, and severe headaches, but was never taken to a doctor because my father said we couldn’t afford it.
Is there a place in Kermanshah that would help people with their medical expenses?
Not that I know of. We haven’t received any help from anyone.
Do you like to exercise?
Yes, very much so. I exercise at home – doing squats and such. I also keep active playing tag or jumping rope outside the house with neighborhood friends.
Have you ever been able to go to a gym to exercise?
No. I have never been to one.
Can you go to a park to play? Is there a park near your house?
There was a park near our previous house where my sister and I used to play, but there isn’t one around our new home.
Do you have any toys?
I have a doll, but one of its arms is broken. We have a ball and a few other toys that a neighbor gave us. I also used some cloth to make a doll for myself.
During the week, how often do you eat meat, grain, rice, dairy products, fruits and vegetables?
We eat meat once a week, but hardly any dairy products. We rarely eat any fruits, because my mother doesn’t buy them very often. We eat rice once or twice a week, also quite a lot of lentils, but mostly vegetables because they don’t cost a lot.
What is your typical meal during the week?
We eat potatoes, omelets, and rice, Estamboli Polo (tomato rice) is my favorite.
Does anyone in your family smoke cigarettes, use drugs or anything like that?
My father smokes cigarettes and uses “shireh” (syrup of opium). I don’t know if he uses any other drugs. He says that he has quit, but he doesn’t look healthy.
Do you know if your mother had been under any financial, physical or emotional stress when she was pregnant with you? Was she ever under a doctor’s care?
My mother told me once that she had felt very ill with a severe a stomach pain, but hadn’t gone to a doctor because my father couldn’t afford it.
Were you born at home or in a hospital?
My sister and I were born at home but my brother was born in a hospital. We weren’t allowed to see him until my mother brought him home.
How many people in your family have jobs?
My father finds jobs at the farmers market, but not regularly. Most of the time he is unemployed, saying that there is no work. Sometimes he has to beg on the street, and my sister and I also have to.
How much do you make?
Very little, my father doesn’t make much either. We receive a government subsidy, without which my father says we would have been dead.
How big is your house? Can you describe it for me?
We live in a 70 sq m. basement apartment. It is divided into two small rooms and a tiny kitchen. We don’t have a bath or a shower. We either use a public bath or heat up the water on the stove. Our ceiling leaks from time to time, but our landlord, who lives above us, has never done anything about it. I occasionally experience aches and pains in my body because of the dampness. I go outside on sunny days to warm up my body, but it is particularly hard during the extremely cold winter months in Kermanshah.
Do you know how much rent your family pay?
I don’t know. I sometimes see the landlord arguing with my father about overdue or unpaid rent.
Does anyone in your family suffer from either physical or psychological illness?
My father has high cholesterol. My mother struggles with chronic knee and back pain. She also suffers from periodic headaches, and sleep is the only thing that helps her. I don’t know if she has any other health problems, she is very weak and cannot work.
Have you been vaccinated?
Yes. There is a health center near our home that provides free medical services. My mother insisted that we go and get the needed vaccinations.
Have you ever been physically assaulted?
Our father hits us more than our mother. The beatings are particularly bad when he is tired or out of a job, so we try to avoid him. I was punished once by a teacher at school, but it wasn’t that painful.
Does anyone come to your help when you are being beaten?
My mother gets upset, but cannot say anything to my father. I don’t think my father will hit me again because of the injury to my hand.
Do you know anything about sexual abuse? Has anything like that happened to you?
“M” didn’t understand the question, so it was explained it to her. She said that a boy had touched her in the park, but that she had not said anything, adding that she did not know what she was supposed to do.
How do you think children healthcare should be improved?
They should offer free healthcare. I don’t know what to do about my hand.
Did you go back to school after the new year?
No, not yet. I cannot write with my right hand any more. I may have to drop out of school. I don’t know if I can take the final exams this year.
Do you want to stay in school?
I don’t like to study very much, but love to play at school. I have several good friends at school that I really miss.
Do you have anything else to say?
No, but I’m glad we talked. I really wanted to speak to someone about these things.