The 25th November marks the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which runs every year from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to Human Rights Day on 10th December. At Afghanaid, we incorporate gender rights into all of the work we do but we also deliver stand-alone projects which target this complicated and sensitive subject head-on and, this year, we have achieved significant progress in this area.

Girls and boys, men and women in our district now understand what human rights are. Before they had no idea. We have gone from nothing to a lot of knowledge.

- A member of a community in Balkh province, where Afghanaid has been working.

The situation in Afghanistan

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. In Afghanistan, 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.

Afghanaid in action

As a long-standing and trusted presence in Afghanistan, Afghanaid is uniquely positioned to address the issue of human rights abuses against women. Over the last three years, together with our partners the Afghan Education Production Organisation (AEPO) and Afghanistan Civil Society Forum organisation (ACFSO), we have been working with local communities to train up human rights defenders and support good governance.

After this project came to an end, we received a glowing final report conducted by an external evaluator. The report commended our achievements over the three year period and the lasting contribution this project has made towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The evaluator noted that, not only have these human rights defenders assisted women and girls with domestic problems, the positive impact has rippled into other areas and the initial interventions have led to further development for individuals, families and whole communities. Women and girls in these communities are now able to claim their rights, refuse forced marriages and demand education.

First we help girls access school. Then we support them to graduate, and many have gone on to university. Others are now community development council members.

- A member of a paralegal team set up by Afghanaid in the Paghman district.

From rights to results

The project has resulted in increased access to primary and secondary school education for girls and increased access to tertiary education for young women. There has been an increase in the successful resolution of domestic disputes, with a marked decrease in violence against women and decreased forced 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. The external evaluator commended the project for achieving significant positive impact for individuals, whole families and their wider communities.

Find out more about our work with women.