(By Kumar M Tiku)
Kabul, 31 January 2012: –Resonant with meaning, street art said it all. Through gentle strokes of brush and an imagination leavened by their daily interactions with the police force that best symbolizes the writ of the state, children spoke loud and clear. "The Child's Eye View" was a special art show unveiled on the occasion of the launch of the Police Perception Survey 2011, here today. The show profiled the work of 50 street children aged 8 to 15. Their paintings represent the veritable agenda for the police that young, tormented souls on the street would like to have for their country.
Using the medium of water colors, Naziba, a child of 14 and living off the streets of Kabul, has painted a larger-than-life policeman with citizens occupying all the space of his expansive chest. Her wish, expressed in a caption: the police and public should be partners and improve mutual behavior. Nabila, 15, shows women prisoners participating in a learning session in the prison with a woman police officer. Another child artiste, Aziza, shows the police arresting a militant. She wants the police should capture terrorists who destabilize the country.
The UNDP-managed Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA) together with Aschiana, an NGO for street children, organized the painting workshop, "Police-e-Mardumi : The Child's Eye View" to gauge children's perceptions of their police. Quite a few paintings showed women in uniform. Increasing recruitment of women into the Afghan National Police is a key recommendation of the latest Survey. A majority of the respondents says they would be more likely to report crimes to a woman officer, who are more likely to treat people fairly.
The survey calls for more intensified efforts towards community outreach and confidence building that will encourage citizens to share information on malcontents and crime more regularly with the police.
Taken together with the Perception Survey findings, the paintings deliver powerful visual insights into aspects that citizens are most keen to see improve in their fragile day-to-day security environment in Afghanistan.
Extortion and police corruption is a theme that street children have put their mind to for the art show. Manizha, 14, shows the police extorting money from street children. She feels the police should not take bribe and get a bad image in society. It is an area that the Survey deals with at length. Even as there are signs of gradual improvement since last year, with 53 percent Afghans perceiving the police force to be corrupt -- a seven percent decline since 2010 – it still represents a large number of people who see the police as corrupt. Government employees in general, however, are viewed corrupt by nearly 80 per cent of the respondents.
Other themes explored by children on the canvass involve police playing a better role in traffic control on the busy streets of Kabul; education and respect for both male and female prisoners; getting rid of bad police so that the good ones are not put to disrepute; the need for police to be tough when searching vehicles. Diana, 14, paints a woman judge presiding over a court trial of a female prisoner escorted to the court by the police. "Police and courts should never do injustice to anyone", says the small legend at the bottom of the painting. A reminder of the yearnings among the young for rule of law and justice to prevail in their country.
About the Afghanistan Police Perception Survey 2011:
Over 7 000 adult Afghans participated in the latest Police Perception Survey that was carried out across all 34 provinces by the Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research (ACSOR), an independent international research organization headquartered in Kabul. The survey is part of an initiative led by the Ministry of Interior, Government of Afghanistan and the UNDP-managed Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA). The Fund is backed by Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, EU, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, UK and USA.