The Republic of Azerbaijan gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1992. It is located in western Asia and borders Russia and Georgia in the north, the Caspian Sea in the east, Iran in the south and Armenia in the west.

Azerbaijan has a population of around eight million, of which 2.8 million are children under the age of 18. Despite a relatively stable economic situation, the nation’s wealth, which is largely drawn from the oil industry, does not reach the majority of the population. Many families are impoverished and fight a daily battle to ensure the well-being of their children. Azerbaijan has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and although measures have been taken to implement it, the rights of children continue to be violated.

This work was done for UNICEF Azerbaijan. Promoting greater inclusion and opportunities for marginalized young people is a priority for UNICEF. Recently they have partnered with the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) and the National Paralympic Committee to implement public engagement campaigns that promote positive perceptions of girls, young people with disabilities, and other groups that are often socially excluded and marginalised.

Girls face discrimination in almost every area of life, including education. In several districts of the country, girls often leave school at an early age. In southern regions, many girls are forced into marriage well before they reach the officially permitted age for marriage.

It is of UNICEF’s concern all situations where children are frequently exposed to discrimination, as child labour (7% of children between the ages of 5-14 are involved in child labour), children with disabilities, children who are severely ill, children in institutions, street children, and children with HIV/AIDS. Most children in state-run institutions have been placed there by parents who cannot afford to keep them in the family home.