AFGHANISTAN:

Mentoring to Spur Empowerment and Self-Sufficiency of 480 Women

March 31, 2011

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March 8, 2011 – Baghlan Province, Afghanistan – Coinciding with celebrations for the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day, the USAID-funded CBSG project inaugurated the Women’s Mentoring Program at the Provincial Line Department of Women’s Affairs.

Given its strategic trade route and location on the only highway connecting Kabul to the north and Central Asia and beyond, Baghlan is considered vital to the Government of Afghanistan and its allies. But, just as the province is a key locale to the Afghan government so too does it attract insurgents whose efforts to win over the population has led to the area’s simmering insurgency. The USAID-funded CBSG, or Community Based Stabilization Grants Program, supports local communities through counter-insurgency (COIN) focused strategies to boost ties between the Government of Afghanistan and its citizens in an aim to bring stability to designated areas.

In Baghlan, a largely impoverished area of Afghanistan, women have borne the brunt of poverty and discriminatory cultural practices and so their relations with the Afghan government remain ambivalent due to the apparent lack of support to their needs. The inauguration of the Women Mentoring Program underscores the counter-insurgency strategy that is a large part of CBSG’s focus. Despite the establishment of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs by the Afghan Interim Administration, the government’s insufficient resources inadequately meet the needs of women in provinces such as Baghlan leading to targeted assistance from the international community and donors. In a terrain that is key to the Afghan government and larger counter-insurgency efforts, engaging marginalized women and providing them with skills to increase their world view is seen as a positive step in winning their support and a small but significant step toward routing the insurgency.

“Women are in dire need of capacity building and such programs [Mentoring Program] play a vital role in uplifting and empowering women by improving their self-sufficiency and ability to respond to the needs of their families and communities,” said the Provincial Line Department Director of the Women’s Affairs, Rahima Zarifi, who led the inauguration ceremony.

The current Mentoring Program will run for eight weeks catering to 30 women in each week of the operation. A total of 480 women will attend the Mentoring Program for its duration. The initiative’s main goal is designed to enhance women’s knowledge of Islamic issues, women’s rights, government regulations, civil rights, conflict resolution and violence against women. “The Mentoring Program is fundamental to the improvement of women and plays a vital role in advancing their knowledge of the world around them,” Zarifi told assembled guests. Present were the: Deputy Governor of Baghlan; USAID’s Foreign Program Officer; Provincial Line Department Director for Information and Culture; Commander of the 303rd Regional Afghan National Police Zone; a leading female member of the provincial council;, CBSG’s Regional Manager for the northeast; CBSG’s Provincial Manager for Baghlan; and the Provincial Line Department Director for the Education Department. Other guests included: the Baghlan Provincial Reconstruction Team, guests from local and international NGOs, teachers, students and many local women.

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