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.”

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.

“We look forward to seeing good quality and well-connected applications, supported by relevant Theories of Change, 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 & consulting assignments.


First organisations to benefit from the Small Charities Challenge Fund announced

On Thursday 15 November 2018, the Department for International Development (DFID) announced details of further organisations to benefit from the Small Charities Challenge Fund (SCCF).

This follows an announcement made on 27 July 2018, about Monmouth-based charity, Bees for Development. They secured SCCF funding to deliver a livelihoods project in Ethiopia.

As part of the first funding round of this type, these organisations are being awarded grants from the £4 million available to small UK-registered charities and not-for-profit organisations. The funding will help organisations to support the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.

See the list of organisations below for full details:

Disability projects

Global Clubfoot Initiative (Uganda), Legs4Africa (The Gambia)

Education projects

Exeter Ethiopia Link (Ethiopia), Kids Club Kampala (Uganda), Learning for Life Ghana (Ghana), Redearth Education (Uganda)

 Health projects

Friends of Kipkelion (Kenya), International Network for Training Education and Research in Burns (Interburns) (Ethiopia), PHOEBE (Zimbabwe), Teams4U (Uganda), Zambia Orphans Aid UK (ZOA) (Zambia)

 Livelihoods projects

Bees for Development (Ethiopia),

Mbedza Projects Support (Malawi)

WasteAid (The Gambia)

Social protection projects

Carers Worldwide (Bangladesh)

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects

Water Works (Malawi)

More information about each project can be viewed on the SCCF grant holder page of the UKAidDirect website.

SCCF is a rolling fund and now particularly welcomes applications focused on securing better outcomes for widows, as well as those delivering to the Global Goals. The next review date is Thursday 28 March 2019 at 17:00 (GMT). Learn more in the Small Charities Challenge Fund overview section of the website.