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

World Water Week 2018 and UK Aid Direct grant holders

As many of our grant holders will know, this week is World Water Week, an annual event that brings together practitioners, innovators, and professionals from a variety of sectors, to exchange ideas, network, and to develop solutions to water-related challenges.

The theme this year is ‘water, ecosystems and human development’, and it is taking place in Stockholm, Sweden until 31 August.

For every funding round UK Aid Direct receives a number of applications to support water-specific projects (WASH) and we work closely with partners the Water, Engineering and Development Centre of Loughborough University (WEDC), to select the strongest of these.

Pump Aid is an Impact grant holder working with some of the poorest and hard to reach communities in Malawi to provide safe water and toilets.

Pump Aid irrigation pump and crops

“The UN Sustainable Development Goals set ambitious targets for future development but, in our drive to increase economic development and human resilience, it is easy to overlook the effect such actions have on the environment and vital ecosystems. Pump Aid’s (DFID-funded) self-supply programme seeks to address both these objectives by helping rural populations increase their access to water and improve their efficient use of it.

“For example, our rope-and-washer pumps are manufactured close to the point of sale (reducing the need for polluting transport), their manufacturers use locally sourced and, wherever possible, locally recycled materials minimising the use of scarce resources…

“Securing the engagement and commitment of the whole community is vital for the delivery of economic development in the most sustainable and environmentally friendly ways and the commitment of Pump Aid’s entrepreneurs to the roll-out of this programme is a tremendous endorsement of Pump’s Aid work and of the visionary approach taken by DFID when they agreed to fund the original pilot.”

– Michael Chuter, Chief Executive, Pump Aid

Community Partnership grant holders WellFound believe that clean water not only tackles direct issues such as water-related diseases but it also provides a solid base for communities to grow and take further steps to improve their daily lives.

“We have heard recently that in the village of Paili where WellFound has been working, their new well has become a community hub where men, women and children happily gather to fetch water for drinking, washing and cooking, whilst catching up with their neighbours and friends… With women and children spending less time each day fetching water, many more are able to attend school and gain an education which will help themselves and their families in the future.”

Women working to pump water from their new community well built by WellFound

For new Community Partnership grant holders, Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), although water is not the primary focus of the menstrual hygiene project they are delivering in Uganda with partners Faith in Water, a lack of water is proving to be a big challenge for them. Especially in the rural schools they are working with.

“Only 3 of the 12 Christian rural schools have a fully functioning water source within the school compound and for 3 of them the nearest water source is over 1km away. One of the Muslim schools, in a poor urban area near Kampala, had no water at all within 2.5km.

“There were hand washing facilities in just 4 of the schools and in 2 of them this consisted of a single jerry can.

“Dignity for Girls: Engaging faith groups in Uganda on menstrual health is providing rainwater harvesting tanks in 9 of the schools and repairing existing rainwater harvesting tanks in others. We are also building hand washing facilities in all the schools.”

– Susie Weldon, Faith in Water

Learn more about water-related challenges and the sustainable innovative solutions being discussed at World Water Week 2018 by

  • tuning in to the live-streamed events taking place throughout the week (or watch them after the event has happened) ; view a full programme here and
  •  follow #WWWeek and #Live on Twitter

Thank you to grant holders Pump Aid, WellFound and Alliance of Religions and Conservation for their comments on the use of water in their projects.

Children at a primary school, in Hoima District, Uganda, test out their new hand washing facility, installed with the UK Aid Direct Dignity for Girls project from ARC.