Red Crescent Society of AfghanistanIn Kabul, Afghanistan in 1929, a charitable foundation was created by philanthropists to aid the victims of domestic disasters. This organization would go on to become the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan in 1934, and officially was recognized in 1951 by a declaration by the King.

The Red Cross Society of Afghanistan

Similar to all Red Crescent and Red Cross organizations around the world, the Red Cross Society of Afghanistan works to accomplish its goals by the Seven Universal Principles proclaimed in Vienna in 1956: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, volunteer service, unity and universality. These principles were adopted based on the experience of aid workers of the time. Although challenging, these principles have helped the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan claim many accomplishments in its years of active service.

The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan is organized into five different departments:

  • Disaster Management
  • Health Services
  • Organizational Development
  • International Relations
  • Financial, Legal, and Gender

In addition, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan also has three special issue groups:

  • Frostbite prevention
  • Marastoon
  • Poor houses

All eight departments work to tackle prominent recurring issues throughout the country.

Combatting the Elements

For example, the frostbite prevention group provides detailed advice on their website about how to prevent frostbite and how to handle a case of frostbite. Frostbite may sound like an odd injury to receive in Afghanistan (as many people picture the country as strictly a mountainous desert) but nighttime temperatures can drop significantly in a desert due to the lack of moisture to retain heat; in addition, average temperature can drop quickly as elevation increases.

Temperature is not the only environmental hazard that the people in Afghanistan must deal with — earthquakes also often strike Afghanistan. In 2015, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake shook the Hindu Kush Mountains; in Afghanistan, 77 people were killed by the earthquake and 2000 more were injured. The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan responded with volunteers to aid the injured and rebuild infrastructure.

Heavy snowfall must also be contented in the Hindu Kush Mountains as it causes avalanches and detrimental aftermath. In 2015, heavy snowfall and rain caused flooding, avalanches and mudslides in 22 provinces in Afghanistan, killing over 200 people and damaging over 600 homes. During and after the precipitation, Red Crescent members handed out foodstuffs along with blankets and heaters to those in need. In true fashion of the Red Cross Red Crescent Society, other Red Crescent Societies delivered aid and volunteers to Afghanistan.

Partnerships for Change

Cooperation between Red Cross Red Crescent Societies around the world is not uncommon, and the 2015 aid to Afghanistan is not the first time the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan worked with a partner. In 2013, the Red Cross Society of Canada and the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan launched a mission of cooperation.

The collaboration’s main goal was to mitigate the damages caused by common natural disasters in Afghanistan, and this arrangement lasted until 2017. The Red Cross and Red Crescent societies would work with the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority to improve the government capability to deal with natural disasters. Technology, money, and advanced planning techniques would be shared by the Canadians, who in turn would learn much from their Afghan cohorts.

The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan took over the operation and funding of the Marastoons (orphanages and poor houses), from the Afghan government in 1961. In 2015, over 1000 individuals lived in these Marastoons. Aside from providing safe housing for individuals, the Marastoons also help to provide, food, education, job training and other health services.

For example, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan helped to construct a high-school at the Marastoon in Kabul. The school was eventually recognized and accredited by the Afghan government, and now provides math, religion, English and computer courses to those who can attend.

Debunking Social Stigmas

In 2013, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan opened their Gender department. Its goal is to implement gender-sensitive education programs within the organization and the national population of Afghanistan. This is an important issue facing a conservative country, and it’s estimated that there are over one million widows in Afghanistan due to the ongoing war.

Often social stigmas prevent widows from returning to a normal life after the loss of a husband, and these “norms” sometimes relegate this population to second-class citizenship. On March 11, 2018, the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan celebrated International Women’s Day, in solidarity with other countries in the international community.

More Work to Be Done

The President of the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan gave a speech. In his speech, he marked the increasing education level of women in Afghanistan and professional training but also said that there is still work to be done; as a result, the Red Crescent Society will continue to work to further women’s rights in Afghanistan. The Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan and the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement recognize women’s rights as human rights.

The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan affects people at all levels of society throughout all of the provinces of Afghanistan. This combined with rampant corruption and tribal conflicts make aid work difficult in the country. Hopefully continued work by the Red Crescent Society of Afghanistan and those around the world will help mitigate the effects of these issues on certain populations.

– Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

UN Women Provides Internship Program for Women in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is a country where the population largely consists of people under 24 years old, and about 400,000 people are entering the workforce every year. It is hard enough finding a job as a young college graduate, but it’s even more difficult for the women in Afghanistan. Women in Afghanistan who seek education or employment still face backlash from a patriarchal society.

Although 64 percent of Afghans believe women should be allowed to work, many men still feel that women should be forbidden from pursuing an education. Girls who attempt to pursue education face great danger. Schools for girls have been burned down, teachers have been threatened and killed, and girls have been injured walking to and from school. The women who manage to complete their education often have forces working against them, preventing them from getting a job.

In December 2015, U.N. Women developed an internship program to help college-educated women acquire skills and develop a work ethic to better prepare them for the working world in Afghanistan. As of now, 48 women have completed the U.N. Women’s internship program in Afghanistan. The six-month program consists of two months spent training the women in different professional skills, and four months spent interning with an organization in the woman’s chosen field. The women receive a stipend from U.N. Women for the duration of their internship period.

The internship program has helped participants make vital social and professional connections with different programs around the world, some of which have offered these women jobs after completing their internships. The U.N. Women internship opportunity is helping women in Afghanistan look more suitable and appealing to job recruiters, giving them a competitive edge against young men looking for jobs.

As drastic and detrimental as things are for women in Afghanistan, the country is making progress for women and girls in education, political participation and economic roles. The National Unity Government is committed to the empowerment of women, and recognizes that equal opportunity for women is necessary for stabilizing Afghanistan and developing the country in a sustainable way.

There are more women in power than ever before. For example, 27.7 percent of parliament consists of women and three serve as ambassadors as well as the leaders of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and four ministries. Also, Afghanistan has in place a National Action Plan to implement a resolution for the peace and security of women. These measures of progress show that there have been efforts in promoting and upholding a peaceful society with equal opportunity for women.

Women in Afghanistan continue to be disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation. There is still a substantial amount of resistance and discrimination in the workforce, but Afghanistan is making progress. With the help from U.N. Women, the working and educated women in Afghanistan can be progressive role models and leaders to all other women and girls.

Although Afghanistan has established ambitious goals, these actions are necessary to ensure that progress is not reversed and to preserve the great gains the country has made.

Kayla Mehl

Photo: Flickr