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

 

Spotlight on Street Child and their UK Aid Direct project

Street Child believe that achieving universal basic education is the single greatest step that can be taken towards the elimination of global poverty. 121 million school-aged children are currently out of education world-wide. Millions more are in school but failing to learn.

UK Aid Direct funding is supporting Street Child through an Impact grant, to run a 36-month project in Nepal. This grant is helping the Musahar community gain access to education, and is allowing them to build the skills needed to run their own businesses and break free from poverty.

Musahars are the most politically marginalised, economically exploited and socially outcast group in Nepal. They have been traditionally oppressed through a system of caste segregation that considers them pariahs. They are alienated from other communities – some people won’t even buy a cup of tea or food served by a Musahar.

The Musahar literacy rate is just 3.8% amongst women and girls and 100% are out of school after the age of 10. This project will support 3,650 Musahar girls aged 15 to 18 in Dhanusha, Mahottari and Siraha in Nepal, to achieve functional literacy and numeracy.

The girls take part in a tailored education programme which will also support them to transition into employment. This work will help them to overcome poverty and break free from generations of bonded labour; where a person pledges their services as a payment for a debt, but as the terms of the agreement are unclear the person holding the debt then has control over the labourer.

Many of the girls taking part in the education programme have been sharing their stories with us.

Three young girls tell their stories
Runa Devi (middle, red sari, 16), Dutri Devi (right, red & yellow sari, 18) and Sitli Devi (left, orange sari, 18)

These girls are neighbours from the same village and are enrolled in the education programme. They are all married, passionate and ambitious, determined to change attitudes to girls’ education in their communities and set up their own businesses. Sitli wants to run a grocery shop, Runa wants to set up a tailoring business and Dutri wants to create a cosmetics business.

Jiten sir (the community educator), was the one who informed us of the classes in the community centre and encouraged us to attend. In our first few months, we have learnt the Nepali alphabet and can count-up to 100. This encourages us and gives us hope about what we can learn with even more lessons.

Our families are very supportive, and our husbands encourage us to go to classes every day to get an education. We hope that with an education we can set up our own small businesses. The only shops we have in our village are liquor shops, run by men. By having our own businesses, we think we can set an example to our community and help change attitudes.

Nandani, a 25 year old mother of four is breaking down barriers by running her own successful fruit stall in Lahan, Siraha:

It’s been three years since I started this business. I save Rs.200 per day and Rs.6000 per month. I am very happy with it.

Three years ago, I didn’t work. My husband works as a mason. It used to be very difficult for us to manage our expenses. We sent our kids to school, but it used to be a struggle to cover their costs. I was not confident to work myself. Later, my husband supported me to start this business and we took a Rs.40,000 loan from Swabalamban Microfinance, as well as some money from creditors. We started the business with a few fruits.

Initially, I didn’t know how to do calculations, which is why I was losing money for a few months. But my daughter then taught me how to do them. Thanks to her, I can do all of the calculations for my business myself now.

I know the importance of sending my children to school and I’m so proud that all four of them are attending.

By educating and giving Musahar girls livelihood training, the project will enable them to eventually earn an income which will contribute to household costs and sending the next generation of Musahar children to school.

From Wednesday 26 September to Thursday 27 September 2018, an open learning and networking event for UK Aid Direct and UK Aid Match grant holders will take place in Bakhundole, Lalitpur in Nepal.

The objective of the event is to bring grant holders together to allow the sharing of experiences and learnings, as well as to provide a deeper understanding to grant holders of DFID’s strategy.

Street Child will be our hosts for the event.

Recording of Jo Cox Memorial Grants panel discussion and transcript available online

UK Aid Direct hosted a panel discussion on the Jo Cox Memorial grants on Tuesday 27 March.

Focusing on theme 1 – the social, economic and political empowerment of women – representatives of 180 organisations signed in to listen to the discussion which was designed to:

  • debate the key challenges and opportunities that the Jo Cox Memorial grants could try to tackle;
  • to help inform detailed guidance that would be made available to all applicants of the Jo Cox Memorial grants on the UK Aid Direct website

Excerpts from the discussion include:

Theo Sowa – CEO, African Women’s Development Fund (opens in a new window): “I think we can take real pride and encouragement from the work of women’s rights organisations on the ground…”

Musimbi Kanyoro – President and CEO, Global Fund for Women (opens in a new window): “…It does not matter if they’re in the City of London or in a village somewhere in Kenya or a slum in another city… the biggest barrier is the lack of equality of women and men…”

Dr Narmeen Hamid – Strategic Advisor, AmplifyChange (opens in a new window): “…I think in terms of the closing civic space for women’s organisations and how they are coping with it, language is important. So, they are modifying the language they are using…”

Jo Cooke – DFID’s Gender Equality team, who said:
“…Progress on gender priority has actually gone into reverse. That means some of the global rights that women and girls are facing have actually got worse, which I think really challenges most of our assumption that we are on a slow but sure improvement, globally. I think that was a wake up call for a lot of people…”

The panel discussion was moderated by Ben Latto, Head of DFID’s Civil Society Team.

To listen to the full recording of the discussion, visit the UK Aid Direct YouTube channel : and to download the transcript, click here.

Please note: the funding round is currently open and the closing date for submitting concept notes (if applying for a Network grant), or full applications (if applying for a Strengthening grant), is Wednesday 13 June 2018 at 17:00 (GMT).