The Afghanistan Women Empowerment program aimed to enhance women's empowerment in three provinces of Afghanistan by promoting their social and economic engagement within their households and communities.
Problems and Purpose
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Afghanistan is a country that can witness a wide range of Gender inequality and violence against women. To combat this issue, both national and international organizations, as well as NGOs, have implemented women empowerment initiatives aimed at bringing change. One such initiative was the Afghanistan Women's Empowerment Program, which focused on advancing gender equality by increasing women's social and economic participation in 36 districts across Takhar, Baghlan, and Bamyan provinces. This program involved various activities, including training women in market-driven vocational skills, business management, and entrepreneurship, establishing and training community-based savings groups, holding literacy classes for women, and establishing libraries. Additionally, gender-sensitive governance training was conducted for district governors' offices, and the Department of Women's Affairs employees were trained to promote women's empowerment, gender equality, and project management. These efforts aimed to empower Afghan women and reduce gender inequality.
Background History and Context
Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) is a Canadian charity that aims to end poverty through international development efforts. Since 1980, they have worked with the Government of Canada and various Canadian entities to improve the lives of millions in Africa and Asia by addressing poverty through a comprehensive approach. They operate in over a dozen countries, collaborating with highly skilled local staff and drawing on the expertise and resources of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to deliver effective programs and monitor progress.[i]
AKFC has strived for gender equality in all its regions, including Canada and abroad. This means that people of all genders have treated equally, and discrimination based on gender is non-existent. Everyone has the same opportunities to reach their full potential, contribute to their communities and benefit from resources and services. Furthermore, it aims to tackle the root causes of gender and social inequalities by empowering individuals from all backgrounds to gain confidence and skills to take control of their lives. Additionally, AKFC strives to establish institutions that foster an environment conducive to gender equality.[ii]
AKFC has been working tirelessly in Afghanistan with the cooperation of the Canadian government and other global partners. Their project aimed to empower women socially and economically by creating institutional capacity and a supportive environment. Through this initiative, women gained the knowledge, skills, and confidence to engage in public life and participate in the economy. The program empowered women at the individual, household, community, and societal levels.[iii]
AKFC has been conducting an ongoing project in Afghanistan between 2016-2020, focusing on empowering women and girls. 90% of the project's efforts had targeted Women and girls.
[ii] Aga Khan Foundation Canada. Gender Equality Policy. Ottawa, Canada: Official Website: https://www.akfc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/AKFC-GenderEqualityLayout-EN-Web.pdf
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The AKFC carried out the project with funding from the Canadian government, the World Partnership Walk, and World Partnership Golf.[i]
Budget: $12 million (Global et al.: $10.5 million; AKFC: $1.5 million)[ii]
[i] AKFC. Afghanistan Women Empowerment Program. Summary report: https://www.akfc.ca/our-work/afghanistan-womens-empowerment-program-awep/
[ii] AKFC. Afghanistan Women Empowerment Program. Official Website:https://www.akfc.ca/our-work/afghanistan-womens-empowerment-program-awep/
Participant Recruitment and Selection
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Methods and Tools Used
the AKFC established a supportive setting that enables women to make their own choices by collaborating with influential leaders in the community to promote women's empowerment and tackle obstacles that women and girls encounter. Also, it aided women in acquiring the necessary skills to actively engage in decision-making processes in their households and communities, partnering with local women's organizations and working with both men and women in individual households. Moreover, it helped women enhance their confidence and abilities to achieve financial independence by providing training in agri-business, vocational, and entrepreneurship skills and establishing community-based savings and loan programs.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The Afghanistan Women's Empowerment Program (AWEP) was undertaken by the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) to promote women's empowerment in 36 districts of the Takhar, Baghlan, and Bamyan provinces in Afghanistan. The program targeted rural women, the Afghan Government's Departments of Women Affairs (DoWA) and District Governor Offices (DGOs), religious leaders, local Community Development Councils (CDCs), civil society organizations, and media. CW4WAfghan collaborated with AKFC and its implementing partner, Aga Khan Foundation Afghanistan (AKFA), to provide literacy education to female beneficiaries in four Takhar districts over four years, 2016-2020. The project was successful, with 97.8% of female students in the Kalafkan district reporting that they had learned something new or helpful and 100% of learners in the Baharak district feeling more confident about managing their daily lives. Additionally, the project trained 30 teachers, and 1,800 women received life skills classes.[i]
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The program is benefitting 234,094 Afghans, including 213,058 women and adolescent girls, and 21,036 men and women in critical roles, including personnel of the Department of Women's Affairs and District Governor Offices, religious leaders, members of existing community institutions, members of civil society organizations, and the media. The program is working predominantly in rural areas.
- There has been a 72% increase in employed women.
- Over 8,200 women have been trained in income-generating activities such as agriculture, tailoring, and woodworking.
- Male community members have seen the benefits of women's increased participation in public life, resulting in a 200% increase.
- About 18,600 men have participated in community activities to support women's issues.
- Over 7,600 women have been trained in community-based savings groups to negotiate decisions in their households and communities.
- The number of women who influence decisions in their household on health, education, or finance has increased by 20 times.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The official Statistical analysis report can be found on the web-page.
 Aga Khan Foundation Canada Official Website: https://www.akfc.ca/work/our-programs/
 AKFC. Afghanistan Women Empowerment Program. Summary report: https://www.akfc.ca/our-work/afghanistan-womens-empowerment-program-awep/
 AKFC. Afghanistan Women Empowerment Program. Official Website:https://www.akfc.ca/our-work/afghanistan-womens-empowerment-program-awep/
 Aga Khan Foundation Canada. Gender Equality Policy. Ottawa, Canada: Official Website: https://www.akfc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/AKFC-GenderEqualityLayout-EN-Web.pdf
 CW4Wafghanistan Official website: https://cw4wafghan.ca/archived-projects/