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Bilde: Our Work: Gender and human rights 
Foto: Halvard Hjermundrud

Our Work: Gender and human rights

Doing development without principles is to work without moral structure - there is nothing that binds, shapes or guides. NAC bases all of its work on principles of human rights, and gender equity and equality. A key aspect of this is championing the rights of Afghan women and girls to participate equally in all aspects of Afghan society.

Aktuelt/ tirsdag 11. juli 2017

This runs like a thread through everything NAC is and does, with women being central to the running and management of the organization, the messages we send and the activities we do in Afghanistan and Norway.

Bilde: Our Work: Gender and human rights
Foto: Halvard Hjermundrud

Women’s empowerment

NAC supports women’s empowerment and active participation in Afghan society in a number of ways:

Our Self Help Groups for women in Badakhshan and Ghazni build women’s skills and confidence in developing and managing small businesses, to earn money and working to positively change community attitudes towards women. 

The women-led Playgroup initiative, implemented by Self Help Group members, is another example on how women take community development concerns into their own hands with only limited financial support from NAC. Playgroups nurture young girls’ and boys’ social, emotional, physical and cognitive development, supporting them to better succeed when they start primary education, which in turn will help them to complete schooling.

Working with Community Development Councils (CDCs) to engage more women and support them in: developing skills and experience in public speaking; facilitation and negotiation; doing advocacy on gender equity and equality and gender sensitive planning; budgeting and service delivery, especially related to pre-primary, primary and secondary education. As one female CDC member from Ghazni said, ‘I have joined in every CDC meeting together with men and I don’t have problems in giving my ideas. I am proud that I can solve our people’s problems, especially problems for women’.

The training of female disaster responders was part of the Community-based Disaster Risk Management Team (CBDRMT) initiative. This was the first time women actively participated in responding to disasters in their home communities. In the past women have depended on the male community members to be ‘rescued’ in case of a disaster. After training women became a genuine resource for the community. For example: There was a car accident in a village where one of our female trainees lived. She was called to the site of the accident and she managed to organize getting passengers out of the vehicle, then she conducted first aid, called for help and arranged for all the wounded to be transported to the nearest hospital. This helped community members understand what women are capable of, and helped build their confidence in women’s abilities – leading to greater empowerment of the female trainees and other women in the village!

NAC supports female health workers through our work with midwives and midwifery and health nursing education programs. The training and education of female health workers leads to improved access for women to quality health services in community health facilities and district clinics. Our graduates also work in a non-formal capacity in their communities, such as in helping neighbors get necessary medicines,  and their advice is sought on a wide range of health issues. These women will also be natural choices as members of Community Development Councils (CDCs) and Cluster Community Development Councils (CCDCs) as well as related Sub-Committees on Health under the new Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project (CCAP) – This gives women access to real influence in sub-national governance structures.

Midwives and nurses are also powerful advocates for peaceful co-existence and women’s rights within their communities and beyond. To support these valuable professionals, NAC and the Nansen Center For Peace and Dialogue have provided training for midwives and midwifery and nursing students in dialogue and non-violent conflict resolution, alongside training in women’s rights from an Islamic perspective. 

NAC has linked with the US-funded ‘Promote Program’ in which 12 female professionals (with Diplomas or a Bachelor’s Degree) are provided job-opportunities in NAC and with NAC partner organizations. This collaboration will be expanded in Badakhshan and to new provinces, such as Kapisa and Khost, where female health professionals who struggle to find employment will be mobilized to support understaffed clinics and health facilities under the BPHS (Basic Package of Health Services) and EPHS (Essential Package of Health Services).

NAC also supports women to be actively involved in critical health and infrastructure decision-making bodies within communities. A key example of this is our support for women to be active members of Social Water Management Committees (including as chairs, co-chairs, and cashiers). This is in line with Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) guidelines. As these Committees are community-based, it is easier to ensure that women are actively participating. There are few water management issues within communities that cannot be solved amicably by these committees.

NAC staff engaged in critical gender research

Alongside NAC’s core work, our staff are also supported and encouraged in doing research for their higher education degrees, focused on gender and women’s rights .

Our senior national education specialist has been conducting an action research project on gender and women’s empowerment with NAC supported Self Help Groups, as part of her inclusive education Master’s degree.

One of the key members of our monitoring and evaluation team is looking at gender discrimination in the workplace for her Bachelor’s degree research and thesis. She explains, ‘As I’ve seen in Faizabad, Badakhshan, where I come from, many women have higher education and better skills than men, but they receive less salaries than men and face discrimination and sexual harassment, especially in government departments. Because of this, I wanted to do this research to better understand how to improve the situation for women. I have made arrangements to share my research findings with the Badakhshan Department of Women’s Affairs.’

Our communication officer has been researching into the negative impacts of early and forced marriage for his Master’s degree thesis.

Human rights through education and  training

Rights-based approaches to education are a key aspect of NAC’s work in education, both in formal and informal settings. NAC has given training and support to teacher educators, student teachers, school administrators, teachers and school Shura (committee) members in: inclusive and rights based approaches to education. Our trainings cover women’s and children’s rights, counseling, and dialogue and non-violent conflict resolution, amongst other topics.

In a related initiative, NAC is training traditional leaders and elders on key knowledge and skills to promote human rights and peaceful, inclusive communities. Too often, traditional leaders and elders have been left out of community development initiatives, but NAC recognizes the importance of these influential community members and their potential as advocates for bringing positive changes to their communities.

Activity & Learning Centers

NAC has established Activity & Learning Centers in Badakhshan, Faryab, Ghazni and Kabul, in collaboration with the Departments of Women Affairs, Community Development Councils and grassroots community organizations. Participants are aged between 14 and 30 and gender balanced. The Activity & Learning Center curriculum covers women’s and children’s rights, alongside citizenship, health, nutrition, entrepreneurship, literacy and numeracy, language, IT and vocational skills. This program positions human rights and citizenship as the hub to which the technical and vocational spokes are connected, ensuring that the acquisition of knowledge and skills is oriented around an understanding of participants’ rights and responsibilities in society. 

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