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Vocational Training at SWO Homes for Runaways

The focus should be on support to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide empowerment to women and girls through holding workshops on vocational training
As per official figures, 38% of girls at the centers are under the age of 15, and 79% are less than 19 years old.As per official figures, 38% of girls at the centers are under the age of 15, and 79% are less than 19 years old.

Around 450-500 runaway girls are taken care of annually at centers akin to a “family home” run by the State Welfare Organization (SWO), among whom 60-70% usually return to their homes or that of their relatives after receiving psychological, medical and social interventions.

The remaining 30-40% stay behind at the SWO homes and are empowered to be able to live independently.

The primary goal of the centers is to reunite the girls with their families as far as possible. “When this is not possible, we try to empower them through vocational training,” said Valiollah Nasr, head of SWO’s Office for Victims of Social Disorders.

Although statistics show a steady trend in runaway girls across the country, according to recent SWO figures, the number in Tehran city increased from 53 in 2014 to 200 in 2015, salamatnews.com reported.

The main causes of this social anomaly are family violence or dysfunctional families, drug addiction among parents and other domestic issues.

According to official figures, 38% of girls at the centers are under the age of 15, and 79% are less than 19 years old.

There are currently 31 such centers across the country. “When a troubled girl has nowhere to turn to, the door of a center is always open,” Nasr said.

The centers were established in 2013 for the first time in the country and each has the capacity to admit 10-12 girls. According to the regulations, the girls can stay for up to one year and this can be changed or extended depending on the time required for psychological, medical and social interventions or vocational training provided by personnel at the centers.

The day after their admission, the girls should be sent to court and the judge will decide how long they can live in the SWO centers.

Nasr said the organization has no plans to increase the number of centers for runaways. “Instead we should focus on support to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to provide empowerment to women and girls through holding workshops on vocational training.”

There are also shelters for vulnerable women across the country in 240 cities in 18 provinces, he said. “However, girls under the age of 20 are placed in separate centers as they have different needs.”

  Underlying Causes

Earlier, the Minister of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare Ali Rabiee had said that a study of 50 runaway girls in 2011 indicated that the main reason why they leave home is not strict parents but addiction or aggressive behavior of parents, which impacts their attitude to life.

According to a recent study, 84% of families with a member addicted to crystal meth have experienced some kind of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and 43% have experienced extremely severe physical violence. Also, annually around 1.1% of extreme physical abuses result in death of a family member. About 58% of the victims are women and 36% are children.

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