ASGP Capstone Ceremony
November 29, 2011
The U.S. Ambassador’s Small Grants Program to Support Gender Equality in Afghanistan held a Capstone Event on November 20 and 21 to highlight two successful years of program implementation. The event brought together senior VIPs from the U.S. Embassy and USAID, ASGP staff who managed program implementation in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan, and 52 civil society organizations and ASGP grant recipients. 20 media outlets attended covering the event. The event served to capture lessons learned and recognize program achievements to enhance the social, economic, and political status of the women and girls in Afghanistan.
Speaking at the capstone event, U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker said, “Democracy without the full participation of women is a contradiction of terms. Progress for women and national progress go hand in hand… As women leaders in Afghanistan, your role in helping to build the capacity of Afghanistan’s government and civil society, participating in decision-making, and in holding your government accountable to its people, is essential.” Crocker added, “The U.S. Government will maintain a strong focus on women’s rights and issues in Afghanistan and will look to you to continue a productive partnership as your country continues to advance towards peace and stability.” He closed by saying “I commend ASGP and its Afghan partners for their efforts and the courageous efforts of all Afghan civil society organizations who must be a driving force for change in Afghanistan. Additional speakers included Ian McArthur, the ASGP Chief of Party, Dr. Husn Banu Ghazanfar, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, , members of the Afghan Women’s Advocacy Coalition and several ASGP staff. At the conclusion of the event, several civil society organizations present were asked to provide their thoughts and recommendations for the future of Afghan women’s civil society movement. All guests noted the significant impact that ASGP has made on their communities and urged the U.S. Government to continue the program. Zadran, representing an ASGP recipient organization in Pakya said ‘through ASGP, women got courage to ask for their rights, and gained health, economic and social benefits. Another representative who ran a beekeeping project in Balkh province noted that “ASGP is different. It was not confined to one zone but worked nationwide. It strengthened self-confidence and gender equality.” The event was praised by U.S. Embassy and USAID staff, as well as the Ministry of Women’s Affairs who commented that few programs achieved what they set out to do and made such an impact on communities nationwide.
Key U.S. Government attendees included:
- Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker
- Ambassador Richard G. Olson, Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs (CDDEA), U.S. Embassy Kabul
- USAID Mission Director S. Ken Yamashita
- Peggy Walker, Deputy Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs (CDDEA), U.S. Embassy Kabul
- Maura Barry, USAID Office of Democracy and Governance, Deputy Director
- Asta Zinbo, Emily Krunic – USAID AOTRs
Media present included:
USA Today (International Reporter, Ms. Lianne Gutcher), Tolo TV, Shamshad TV, One TV, Ariana TV, VOA (Ashna TV), Afghan TV, Aina TV ( Mr. Amir Shah, reporter), Negah TV, RTA (Mr. Maher Sherzoi, reporter), Maiwand TV, BBC Radio, Killid Radio, Azadi Radio, Spogmai Radio, Salam Watandar Radio, Pajhwok News Agency, Bakhtar News Agency, Saba Media Organization, and Hela Foundation.
The following day, ASGP held an internal meeting with all ASGP staff to discuss lessons learned, challenges and significant achievements of the program. ASGP staff praised the transparent and effective process of program development and discussed challenges of implementing activities in rural and insecure areas, the short implementation period for grants, staffing issues, challenges and proposed improvements to procurement and operations, and the critical importance of the program for communities throughout Afghanistan.
ASGP provided economic development support, vocational training, improved family healthcare, and education and literacy training for more than 400,000 Afghan women in 180 districts nationwide. The program also taught men and women to better advocate for gender equality leading to improved participation in the social and political development of Afghanistan. ASGP has awarded more than 1,000 grants totaling $16,075 million to support women-focused civil society groups in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan, provided ongoing technical support to 120 women-focused organizations, and formally registered an additional 350 civil society groups with the Government of Afghanistan. Setting the stage for lasting positive change for Afghan women, the project established the Afghan Women’s Advocacy Coalition, comprised of 30 civil society groups, project grant recipients, individuals, and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Coalition members are leading nationwide advocacy efforts and campaigns focusing on women’s and girls’ access to education, women’s access to justice and women’s political participation and leadership. Addressing the audience, Minister of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) Dr. Husn Banu Ghazanfar discussed the importance of the USAID project for Afghan women and committed her support to the women’s coalition. The coalition is committed to continue advocating for women’s rights after the USAID project closes and has established itself as a permanent structure within the Afghan women’s civil society movement. Despite the upcoming project closing at the beginning of 2012, hundreds of civil society organizations now have the tools to continue to operate, generate income, and share knowledge about the importance of women’s participation and education to other communities nationwide.
Significant Capstone Event Outcomes – MoWA:
The Minister of Women’s Affairs voiced her appreciation to ASGP for holding the event. She thanked ASGP for consistently sharing information with the Ministry, and noted how pleased she was that the three key speakers of the event, Ambassador Crocker, Ian McArthur and the Minister, all had similar positive praise for the program and its achievements. As a result of the conference, MoWA noted the importance of a closer working relationship with AWAC in the future. MoWA is nominating several AWAC members to attend a conference about women’s rights in Turkey in December. Before the Capstone, MoWA had requested Afghan Women’s Network (AWN), a member of AWAC and previously the largest network of Afghan women’s organizations, to attend the conference but upon realizing the increasing importance of AWAC, MoWA has invited AWAC to nominate attendees in lieu of AWN. AWAC is now seen as a larger, more impactful group that is working in close partnership with MoWA. In addition, the Minister of Women’s Affairs will hold a meeting with a key advisor of President Karzai to discuss AWAC and nominate several AWAC members to attend the Bonn Conference in early December.