War-torn Afghanistan is considered to be one of the most challenging places in the world for women.
Women and girls in Afghanistan continue to face persistent discrimination, violence, harassment, and severe restrictions on their ability to work and study outside of the home. While change has gradually started to chip away at Afghanistan’s patriarchal traditions, the country’s progress has been considerably slower than that of other developing countries.
Some steps have been made towards advancing women’s rights in Afghanistan, but these gains are often contradictory. Though Afghanistan sends high numbers of women to parliament, a recent study by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security rated Afghanistan second to last out of 153 countries for women’s inclusion, justice, and security in society. To further this point, the international human rights NGO Global Rights estimates that “almost nine out of 10 Afghan women face physical, sexual or psychological violence, or are forced into marriage.” Sixty-two percent of Afghan women polled in this study reported experiencing violence and discrimination in multiple forms.
With support from Global Affairs Canada, Relief International is implementing a five-year Women’s Enterprise, Advocacy and Training (WEAT) program to improve Afghan women’s economic and civil participation.
Gender discrimination and violence prevents Afghan women from accessing the same opportunities as men. In collaboration with local civil society organizations, we’re working to create inclusive environments for women. This starts by identifying and referring survivors of gender-based violence to key services, while educating community leaders, men, and boys on the importance of supporting women’s rights. We also train religious mullahs on how to incorporate messages on the prevention of child marriage into their Friday night prayers. Often, these men are trained as Women’s Champions who help facilitate discussions about women’s rights in their local communities. The program’s economic component then teaches women the skills to earn an income of their own, helping to support their households and meaningfully contribute to their communities.
Our teams work alongside female entrepreneurs to achieve economic independence by mentoring them on how to launch and improve their businesses, with a particular focus on businesses that create employment opportunities for other women. Participants in the WEAT program gain expertise in value chain development approaches, market access, and business management. We also provided technical support such as sewing machines and milking equipment to help women succeed in Afghanistan’s dominant agricultural and animal herding industries.
The WEAT program, which began in April 2017, is set to run through 2021. In the coming years, the program will help support 1,260 female entrepreneurs and provide training to 20 civil society organizations. Advocacy and media campaigns on advancing women’s rights in Afghan society will reach 10,726 school teachers and children. The program will also train 1,010 police and legal professionals on Afghanistan’s Elimination of Violence Against Women Law, with the goal of reaching a consensus about what constitutes gender-based violence and how to hold perpetrators accountable.
Ultimately, the WEAT program will help to empower a new generation of Afghan women and girls to exercise their social, economic, and political rights.
AFGHANISTAN –Ghazni, Kapisa, and Nargarhar provinces
- Economic Opportunity