Although the issue of gender rights has made significant legislative progress in Afghanistan over the last decade, the country continues to be one of the most difficult places in the world to be a woman. More than 87% of Afghan women and girls still suffer from at least one form of abuse, ranging from physical or psychological violence, to forced marriage.

Violence, and indeed the fear of violence, is a major barrier to education and participation in decision-making processes and keeps women shackled in poverty. Women who do manage to participate are often seen to be defying cultural norms, which renders them far more at risk of abuse from other members of their communities. We have been working to change this.

A strategy for success

As a long-standing and trusted presence in Afghanistan, Afghanaid is uniquely positioned to address the issue of human rights abuses against women. We incorporate gender rights into all of the work we do, but we have also approached this complicated and sensitive subject head on, by working with local partner organisations to train up human rights defenders and support good governance.

For the past three years, together with our partners the Afghan Education Production Organisation (AEPO) and Afghanistan Civil Society Forum organisation (ACFSO), we have worked with members of the local communities in 28 villages in Kabul and Balkh provinces to build greater understanding and disseminate knowledge surrounding gender rights. Through this project, we aimed to instigate genuine change in order to create communities in which all women live free from violence.

Afghanaid in action

Through this project, we have successfully established a strong advocacy network at both the local and national level. Our partner, AEPO, has produced 500 different print, radio and interactive theatre pieces in order to raise awareness and change discriminatory attitudes through the media. We have educated thousands of men and women on topics including human rights, women’s rights, gender and children’s rights. 

Women are now leading community awareness trainings to make men, boys and girls sensitive to the issues surrounding gender rights. Through training in advocacy and conflict resolution, we have prepared human rights defenders to raise awareness, monitor their communities and advocate for vulnerable women when issues arise. We have also awarded 15 of these committed human rights defenders with a grant for projects promoting women’s rights. These communities are now starting to form new societal norms which this generation can pass on to the next.

After receiving training, 28 year old Sahra from Kabul feels safer and happier:

I now know my rights and how we women can advocate for ourselves in bad situations. Projects like this can change people’s mentality. I can see our future is brighter.

The end of the project is only the beginning

We recognise that structural change takes time, which is why this project has focused on equipping communities with the skills to ensure that the activities can grow and evolve as the community itself evolves. As this project comes to a close in September, Afghanaid and its partners have successfully created over 50 functional organisations and groups, including 7 female paralegal groups, through which any future women’s rights issues in the local area can be addressed. Through this project we have also established youth groups and supported activities within schools to create an environment in which children are able to have their voices heard.

The end of this project is only the beginning for these communities, but the impact is already visible. Women are now taking a more active role in advocating for their rights, there has been a 15% increase in women participating in the decision-making process, access to education has increased and there has been a decrease in the number of early marriages. In many cases, local people have noted that the project provided the push they needed to think about and deal with practices that have never been questioned or challenged before.

Find out more about our ongoing work with women and gender rights.