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

Priti Patel visits MicroLoan Foundation – a UK Aid Direct grant holder

Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, recently visited MicroLoan Foundation giving them the opportunity to discuss how the Department for International Development (DFID) had helped the organisation to expand its reach and support over 6,000 of the poorest women in Southern Malawi.

Priti Patel with MicroLoan Foundation staff

Project aims

The MicroLoan Foundation’s ‘Pathways from Poverty’ project began in April 2013 and ended in March 2016.

Its aim was to provide 6,300 women living in poverty in rural Malawi with loans and business training, to enable them to set up small businesses and pull themselves and their families out of poverty.
In order to do this, MicroLoan Foundation Malawi employed and trained Loan and Training Officers (LTOs) and provided them with motorbikes to reach remote rural areas where many of the most marginalised and poorest people live. The LTOs’ role was vital in identifying women with entrepreneurial potential and delivering tailored business training to provide them with the knowledge and skills to set up and run their own enterprises.

With the DFID funds, it became possible to hire 8 LTOs, as well as a project officer, and deliver the project from the 7 existing branches in Southern Malawi.


  • the new LTOs enabled MicroLoan Foundation to extend its reach, meaning that 1000’s of impoverished rural women now have improved access to financial services, as well as greater monetary and business literacy
  • a total of 6,409 marginalised women were economically empowered through the provision of loans and business training – over 100 more than initially projected
  • the businesses they have set up have transformed the lives of their families
  • the increase in household income has meant that they can now afford to buy food, send their children to school, and buy life-saving medicines

As well as the immediate increase in household income, the impact of the loans and training is long term. MicroLoan Foundation encouraged clients to save in order to build financial security and resilience. Through training and support, all of the women were able to start doing this. New clients were found to be saving 11% of the loan value, exceeding the target 10%.

The project achieved positive changes in the poverty statuses of its beneficiaries and exceeded the target number of household members who benefitted from the increase in living standards.

– DFID Project Closure Report, 2016

The impact of the loans and training has been felt by many more than just the women themselves.

A total of 37,085 people experienced a reduction in poverty as a result of the ‘Pathways from Poverty’ project.

If you want to read more about the  work of MicroLoan Foundation, visit their website here (opens in a new tab)

UK Aid Direct grant holder receives MBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours list

UK Aid Direct grant holder, Abaseen Foundation UK, has been recognised for its outstanding contribution to the community with The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS) 2017.

Abaseen Foundation UK’s 3-year project with UK Aid Direct focused on improving maternal health and reducing child mortality through developing health service delivery for a poor and marginalised community in North West Pakistan.

We are very pleased to hear that the excellent work of the Abaseen Foundation UK in Pakistan has been recognised with this award. They have made a real difference to maternal and child health in the communities where they work.

– David Daniels, fund director for UK Aid Direct

For more information, visit Abaseen Foundation UK’s website here