poverty in afghanistan
One can consider any form of foreign aid positive at face value, but Afghanistan could benefit from greater investment in private organizations due to its specific needs. According to a U.S. agency report on Afghanistan, political strings result in the Afghani government’s focus on the goals of its foreign investors rather than the needs of its citizens, accompanying aid from countries like the U.S. Poverty in Afghanistan requires attention unhindered by political expectations.

US Foreign Aid Policy

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in March 2020 that the U.S. would be cutting $1 billion in foreign aid to Afghanistan, which became a foreign policy initiative following a major U.S. military presence in the country. The U.S. foreign aid is allocated to a variety of purposes, some of which attempt to address the widespread poverty that still impacts 54.5% of Afghans. Despite these efforts, poverty remains a large concern. For example, the number of Afghans without basic food and housing increased from 6.5 to 9.4 million between 2019 and 2020.

Dr. Jessica Trisko Darden, an assistant professor at American University with expertise in foreign aid and Central and Southeast Asia, asserts that different types of foreign aid are better suited to target specific goals. Darden noted that U.S. foreign aid in Afghanistan is largely concerned with developing infrastructure tied to the needs of the foreign parties in this country, such as Kabul International Airport. Additionally, while the U.S. aid package may set aside some portion of the money with the intention of addressing poverty in Afghanistan, the larger goals are often political in nature.

Non-Governmental Organizations’ Contribution

Private organizations could focus their resources on areas that foreign government aid often ignores. “I think that, in terms of overall strategies for Afghanistan, getting more resources to outlying regions, and having more NGO and local NGO presence in outlying regions is something that should be a goal of a sustainable development strategy for Afghanistan, rather than continuing to over-concentrate resources and efforts in the Kabul area,” said Darden. The U.S. aid focusing on the Kabul area for accessibility and the ability to address political goals arguably takes away attention from less centralized regions. A larger NGO presence in the country could mean an established, long-term effort to target the humanitarian needs of Afghans and reduce poverty in Afghanistan.

Afghan Women’s Network

One of the most prominent independent groups acting in Afghanistan is the Afghan Women’s Network. It began with inspiration from the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. This organization serves as an umbrella for a variety of humanitarian efforts in the country. It has direct points of contact in several major regions throughout the country and provides support to other organizations in the remaining regions. With 3,500 members and 125 women’s groups under its leadership, the Afghan Women’s Network has the ability and resources to provide immediate and specialized support to Afghans.

The political struggles of Afghanistan exist in tandem with the struggles of Afghani citizens. Multiple NGOs with unique goals ranging from gender equality to infant mortality to education could target the diverse needs of the Afghani population more directly. By supplying aid without political expectations and restrictions, NGOs could work to downsize poverty in Afghanistan.

Riya Kohli
Photo: Pixabay

7 Non-Profits Working to Help Women in Afghanistan
Poverty and oppression go hand in hand for women in Afghanistan. In a country hosting a crushing degree of poverty, women face a variety of discrimination and violence, in many cases from their own families. Global Rights estimates almost nine out of 10 Afghan women will endure marriage against their will or physical, sexual or psychological abuse.

In response to the abuse of women in Afghanistan, several nonprofits have formed to focus on empowering women and helping them escape the trap of poverty and abuse. Many of these nonprofits are based in Afghanistan and feature Afghan women in prominent leadership roles. All of them face danger operating in rural areas of Afghanistan where the rights of women are routinely trod upon.

    1. Afghan Women’s Educational Center (AWEC): AWEC works to empower women in local Afghan communities while working towards gender equality. Through a series of programs focused on providing income and education opportunities for women, they hope to bring about lasting change in Afghanistan towards equality for all. Also as part of their agenda, the organization works to offer new social services for women in addition to founding community centers in rural areas to promote women’s issues and health.
    2. Afghan Women’s Mission: A small group of Americans founded this organization in 2000 as a way of providing medical assistance to Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. The Afghan Women’s Mission focuses its support on efforts led by Afghan women such as clinics, schools, orphanages, agricultural programs and demonstrations. The volunteers of this nonprofit are proud to support the political and humanitarian efforts of another organization on this list, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA).
    3. Afghan Women’s Network: Formed by a group of women after participating United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the Afghan Women’s Network seeks to provide a foundation for a movement of women in Afghanistan. Boasting a presence in Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Kandahar, Bamyan, Paktia, Nangarhar and Kunduz the network serves as an umbrella for 125 women’s organizations across Afghanistan. The member organizations are concerned with addressing gender-based violence, the health of children and education for girls.
    4. Afghan Women Welfare Department (AWWD): Founded in the last year of the Soviet war in Afghanistan in 1989, AWWD began as a way to improve the outcomes of Afghan women in refugee camps. Expanding from its original purpose, AWWD now attempts to assist Afghan women entrepreneurs in the Peshawar. In over 19 years, AWWD has educated some 13,000 women in education services, vocational training, general health, reproductive health, gender awareness training, human rights and income-generation.
    5. Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA): Perhaps the oldest women’s rights advocacy organization operating in Afghanistan, several highly-educated Afghan women formed the group in 1977 under the leadership of an Afghan woman named Meena. Surviving the Meena’s assassination in 1987, RAWA continues to struggle for the rights of women in addition to democratic and secular values in Afghanistan. Currently, RAWA provides publications to raise awareness of the plight of Afghan women and works to provide education, healthcare and employment opportunities to women in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
    6. U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council: The only mixed public-private institution on this list, a group of Afghans, university officials and U.S. State Department personnel formed the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council in 2002 at Georgetown University. Like the other nonprofits on this list, programming addresses education, health and economic empowerment of women while also focusing heavily on women’s leadership development. Honorary co-chairs of the organization include First Ladies Laura Bush, Hillary R. Clinton and Rula Ghani.
    7. Women for Afghan Women (WAW): Founded a few months prior to the attacks of September 11th in 2001, WAW is based in New York in the Afghan community in Queens. Responding to abuse directed towards women, its members operate long-term shelters for women and children in 13 Afghan provinces while also providing legal aid to women in need. Their past clients have included women targeted with mutilation, acid attacks, torture, rape and attempted murder.

Will Sweger

Photo: Flickr