Several years on from their initial implementation, questions are being raised about the reality of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) worldwide, but especially in countries facing humanitarian crises. This month, we're taking a closer look at Sustainable Development Goal 5, examining how our projects strive towards Gender Equality in Afghanistan, and the challenges we face.

Sustainable Development Goal 5, 'Achieve Gender Equality and Empower all Women and Girls', is at the centre of what we do. With the meaningful participation of women and girls inherent to all our projects, we've been reflecting on how our programme designers and staff on the ground ensure gender equality is at the heart of our work, and what this looks like in one of the most challenging parts of the world. 

What is SDG 5?

Women make up half of the world's population, but persisting gender inequality is causing widespread stagnation in social progress. SDG 5 is composed of 9 targets, which range from ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women, to ensuring access to gender-specific healthcare, as well as undertaking reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources. 

And what about Afghanistan?

Afghanistan remains one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. Ranking among the least favourable on the Gender Inequality Index, women and girls in Afghanistan continue to face widespread discrimination and hardship. Recent restrictions on women's movement, employment and ability to earn an education have exacerbated these difficulties, as well as the wider humanitarian crises. 

Afghanaid and SDG 5: Women's Empowerment in Challenging Environments

Despite the task at hand, here at Afghanaid we're striving to support women to realise a brighter future.

Within both our stand alone gender inclusion projects and our broader work, we're:

  • Working to improve women's agency and social standing in their households and communities;

  • Supporting women with training and development to strengthen their ability to earn an income;

  • Creating space for female leadership opportunities and involvement in decision making.

In Afghanistan, gender inequality has meant that women and girls are often excluded from education - the female literacy rate remains worryingly low at 30%, which is 25% lower than the male literacy rate. Disparities such as this compound poverty as women are therefore less able to find employment and contribute to household income, or help when times get tough for their families. Female-headed households are most likely to face hunger amidst the ongoing humanitarian crisis, with almost 100% of female-headed households struggling to meet their daily food needs in 2022.

To combat the barriers preventing women from earning an income, we support vulnerable women through literacy courses and vocational training such as dairy processing, sewing, or poultry-rearing. At the same time, we support women to form self-help groups, through which enterprise development and financial management training is delivered. This provides women with a unique space to socialise, share, and learn.


When women contribute to the household income, it raises their status in the home, as they gain respect from the male members of their community and family. This heightened respect paves the way for greater female involvement in family and community decision making, as their opinions become more valued. Household responsibility becomes shared, which is vital for increasing the likelihood of their daughters attending school, as well as creating the space for female leaders in the community. 

One religious leader enthused about the positive influence he has seen female self-help groups have in his community: 

"[Afghanaid] conducted training workshops in villages and trained women and girls in order to improve their livelihoods. It has been quite effective. The livelihoods of households have improved… Women have become confident thinking that as a citizen: I can, I am also a person, I also have a personality, I am also important, I also feel responsible about my family, my house, my homeland and my country.

We also provide some members of each self-help group with training in group management, human rights awareness, leadership, and women's inclusion, enabling them to lead discussions on social issues, women's rights, and community governance among their peers. Using a peer-to-peer delivery structure helps develop the confidence and ability of these women to become leaders, positioning them as future members of community governance institutions, whilst also delivering training in a custom-appropriate manner. Our peer-to-peer schemes are also central to initiating a sense of local ownership, which is crucial to ensuring sustainable change. Female project participants also become vital members of community development committees upon finishing their training, enabling them to take an active role in shaping the future of their villages. 

“Afghanaid is not only helping to increase the knowledge of the women in my community - with their help, everyone, men and women, boys and girls, are realising what women can really do, and what they should have the opportunity to do, so now each of us can achieve our full potential.”- Maria, a leader of one of our newly established self-help groups.

What challenges do we face in achieving SDG 5 in Afghanistan by 2030?

Despite the challenges faced by our female staff members and the wider Afghan population, our teams are dedicated to achieving a brighter future for all. To instigate widespread sustainable change, changes in perceptions of a woman's value and attitudes to women's rights must occur at the community level. Nonetheless, the ambition of the SDGs, and their aim at larger structural inequality mandates that every component of society work collaboratively to achieve each of the targets. Which is why we work both at the grassroots level, as well as through partnerships at all levels.

Despite the extreme challenges at hand, we will continue adapting and working alongside like-minded development organisations, community leaders and ordinary people to respond to these challenges and keep doing our part to make SDG 5 a reality in Afghanistan by 2030.

How can you help achieve SDG 5 in Afghanistan?

You can play a key role in reaching more women across the country, and help build a gender equal Afghanistan: