Everyone knows that Afghanistan is one of the world’s worst places to be female. Low literacy rates. High maternal death rates. Large numbers of women across the country live in fear of violence every day.

But what about boys?

Fewer people realize that Afghanistan is one place in the world where boys are more likely to be trafficked than girls. They are more at risk of forced labour, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced drug smuggling. They’re more likely to be trafficked across borders and recruited as child soldiers. And then there is a long-standing tradition of ‘bacha baazi’. Wealthy men purchase young boys for social and sexual entertainment.

Human trafficking is an extreme form of abuse everywhere that it occurs, but Afghanistan provides a particularly unforgiving social and cultural setting. It is particularly bad for former child soldiers and bacha baazi boys. Both groups are shunned from the greater population, with virtually no one wanting them upon release, even their own families. And all existing services currently exclude boys over 15 years old. This creates an extremely vulnerable group of teenage victims.

To Hagar, this situation sounds all too familiar. It’s the reason we started a Boys’ Recovery Program in Cambodia four years ago. Now, in the very different context of Afghanistan, we are convicted to begin again.

Hagar Afghanistan is preparing a two-year plan to begin addressing these boys’ needs. We’ll keep you informed as plans develop.