News

Changing the future for those most vulnerable

Over the past few months the UK Aid Direct team has made several trips to visit our in-country partners. We’ve seen first-hand the impact UK aid funded work is having on the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. We wanted to share some of our journey and projects with you….

Raising awareness of human trafficking

In the rural areas of Nepal human trafficking is a common occurrence. There is little opportunity of employment, and only a small chance people will be able to work themselves out of poverty.

So, when families are offered a chance to send a family member to India or the Gulf States, with the prospect of a better future they are quite easily convinced. They are told they will be able to send home money to support their family and ultimately improve all their lives. Sadly, this is often a lie and the beginning of a dark future where people are taken and used as slaves or sold into the sex trade. Sometimes the traffickers keep in touch with families to give the impression the person who left is fine, this way the family doesn’t come looking for them.

Impact grant holders, ChildHope UK and in-country partner Shakti Samuha are working to reduce human trafficking. Shakti Samuha, based in Nepal, is the first organisation in the world set up by people who were themselves once trafficked into slavery. They know first hand what can happen and how better to warn people of the dangers.

The ‘social mobilisers’ who work in the project, travel around the rural communities of Nepal. They work with community groups, women’s groups, youth groups and others, to talk to them about their experiences and raise awareness of the dangers. They also act as neighbourhood watch reporting any suspicious activity to the police.

Alongside this speaking to the community, the youth volunteers help get children back to school to make sure they have the prospect of a brighter future – a prospect which reduces the chance they will fall into hands of traffickers.

Creating a stable home

There are children in Tanzania who have no rights, they have run away and have no place to go. They live on the street.

With an Impact grant, Railway Children is working both directly with these children and with the Tanzanian Government to help improve life for this vulnerable group of young people.

They have put in place a re-integration project to help the children re-connect with their families and move home. They don’t just return the children to their family but work with the child and the parents to address why they ran away, trying to overcome the cause of the problem. Offering therapy sessions often helps.

The organisation also provides facilities where children without a home can come to eat, wash, learn and have a private place to lock away their valuables.

Anne Liedloff, Grants Officer for UK Aid Direct, met those involved first hand: “I went with staff to visit one of the children who had returned home. Three staff attended the visit so that they could give both the child and mother time to talk privately, whilst the third member of staff looked after her mother’s baby. Such care and consideration were taken to the personal needs of the family.”

Railway Children is also working with the Tanzanian Government to help them to recognise and find ways to implement the UN general comment on the rights of street children. This comment says children living on the street have rights, but it isn’t yet fully recognised by the Tanzania Government.

Community resilience for pastoralists through land rights and gender equality

In a Masai village in Tanzania women have come together to create their own community banking scheme with the support of local partner Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) and Community Partnership grant holder African Initiatives (AI). AI are running several education, health and well-being, and livelihoods projects in the region.

With strong support from village leaders, these 24 women set up the scheme to create greater independence for the women of their community. They all pay into the scheme on a regular basis to help build up a pot of money. They want to eventually provide small loans to other women in their community so that they can set up their own businesses.

The fund is also there to support urgent social needs. One mother recently had to take her child to the next town for hospital treatment but did not have money to pay for the trip. The group provided financial support to cover the costs.

You can learn more about this project here.

These are just a few examples of UK Aid Direct projects that are reaching people across the globe.

On International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, hear from grant holders Afghanaid

25 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 10 December.

For UK Aid Direct grant holders Afghanaid, the principle of gender equality underpins their work.

With an Impact grant for their project entitled ‘Empowering Afghan women to reduce poverty and promote equality’ the organisation aims to empower vulnerable women in some of the most remote areas of Afghanistan.

This is what Afghanaid had to say about the challenges to their project:

“Although the protection 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. Women and girls still face major barriers to education, employment, and participation in decision-making processes in their own homes and communities.”

“As a result, they have very little influence over the issues which affect their day-to-day lives the most, for example marriage and family planning. Perceived as bearers of male and community honour, women frequently face violence if they go against established gender roles. 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.”

A photograph of Afghanaid beneficiary

This is Zahra (pictured). She lives in a remote rural village in Ghor province. Afghanaid is supporting Zahra to establish her own small business by giving her equipment and training in a vocational skill, as well as training in enterprise development, basic literacy and numeracy, and financial management.

Through this project, Zahra will gain the skills and resources to earn an income and lift her family out of poverty.

“We know that when women in rural Afghanistan start to bring money into poor households, they gain greater respect from their male family members. We will also be teaching the women about family planning and reproductive health. Once they have a greater knowledge and understanding of these topics, they will be able to harness their improved social standing to influence decisions over family planning and the early marriage of their daughters.”

Zahra was just 14 when she was forced to married her husband. He came to her father one day to ask for her hand, and he agreed without consulting her. One month later the marriage took place. The marriage has not been a happy one for Zahra.

“Thanks to Afghanaid, women are becoming more educated and our entire community is becoming more aware of women’s rights, including issues like early and forced marriage, as well as family planning. I was not so lucky. On my wedding day I was very sad to be taken away from my family to live with a man I did not know, and this is not the future I want for my daughters.

“My husband and I have seven children. He wanted to have a big family. He wouldn’t allow me a say in the matter. He does not have much respect for me so I would not have been able to change his mind.

My husband has problems with his knees, which leave him unable to work and we have struggled to provide for our large family. I would like to be able to afford education and nutritious food for my children, but at the moment I cannot.”

To Zahra, education and getting into work are the key to improving the lives of women like herself.

“If women are educated, if they earn an income and contribute to their family, they will get more respect from their husbands. With Afghanaid’s help, I hope to learn a skill and get into work, so that I can provide for my family and have a better relationship with my husband and sons.”

Afghanaid will also be working with male family members and mothers-in-law to increase their understanding of women’s issues. In this way, the entire community can stand together to improve gender equality and the long-term alleviation of poverty.

To find out more about Afghanaid’s work, visit their website at afghanaid.org

 

On World Toilet Day we consider the role UK Aid Direct plays in addressing water and sanitation challenges

On World Toilet Day we spoke with Dr Mansoor Ali, sector specialist, about the role that UK Aid Direct plays in addressing the water and sanitation challenges. He had this to say:

“World Toilet Day is an important day to remind us that more than 2 billion people are still without adequate and safe sanitation. This means a large proportion of the global population is facing a very high risk to their health.

“The programme structure and the levels of funding (through UK Aid Direct) is excellent as it encourages all sizes of organisations to participate. It’s very exciting to see the interest of many small and local organisations. This is so important to the programme.”

On the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector overall, Dr Ali expressed concerns.

“As we all know, the sanitation sector needs a lot of attention and in the last five years, many governments, donors and organisations have paid attention, but we need to do more. We need to do things differently.

“The sector is facing several challenges. This includes the challenges of sustainability, poor use and maintenance of facilities and achieving behaviour change.

“In some cases, governments do not create enough space for other stakeholders to play a role.

“Fragile states, conflicts and disasters also demand additional attention. This means we need larger and more programmes like UK Aid Direct.”

We asked Mansoor what he thought of the quality of WASH applications received through UK Aid Direct, and if he had any suggestions on how these could be improved.

“The overall quality is very good, but applicants could strengthen further their approach to sustainability.

“The geographical areas identified could be more specific, supported with needs assessment, data and information.

“The organisations must say more about their previous learnings and their relationship with the relevant stakeholders.”

The Small Charities Challenge Fund (SCCF) is currently open to applications, with the next review date Thursday 28 March 2019.

Dr Mansoor gave some words of advice to future UK Aid Direct applicants in general.

“We look forward to seeing good quality and well-connected applications, supported by relevant Theories of Change (when applicable), budgets, as well as monitoring and evaluation plans.”

Dr Mansoor Ali is a WASH sector specialist with more than 32 years of experience. He currently teaches, mentors, and conducts research and consulting assignments.