GEP II Annual Progress Report 2013
Gender Equality Project (GEP-II) is UNDP Afghanistan’s flagship program on gender and women empowerment. Now on its second phase, the project’s overarching objective is to develop effective gender mainstreaming models and strengthen the capacity of government ministries and institutions in gender-based policy making., GEP-II contributes to UNDAF Outcome in enhancing government capacity to deliver services to the poor and vulnerable as well as to the Tokyo Mutual Assistance Framework’s (TMAF) objectives of inclusiveness and sustainable development. Implemented in collaboration with the Government of Afghanistan's Ministry of Women's Affairs (MoWA) the project is line with the goals set out in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS) for gender equity and is consistent with the National Priority Programs (NPP) and National Action Plan for Women in Afghanistan (NAPWA). The project also assists MoWA on the application of the Elimination of Violence Against Women Law, which is a key deliverable in the TMAF.
To achieve the project goals outlined above, GEP-II has three main pillars: 1) enhancement of Ministry of Women’s Affair’s capacity for policy-making and oversight of National Action Plan for Women in Afghanistan (NAPWA) implementation: 2) development of women’s entrepreneurship skills and capacity building for women’s cooperatives; and 3) increasing access to justice for women including awareness of women’s right among men and women.
In regard to the first pillar on strengthening MoWA’s capacity for policy-making and oversight of NAPWA implementation, GEP-II worked closely with the MoWA’s Women’s Policy and Development Center (now a Directorate). Through its partnership with local research institution, GEP-II supported the successful completion of a Policy Review Toolkit that will be used by ministries in reviewing the gender sensitiveness of their policies. In 2013, GEPII completed the policy review of nine ministries exceeding its 2013 annual target of reviewing policies of eight ministries. With support of the project a ‘Strategic Plan to establish Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) mechanism’ within the Government of Afghanistan was developed. GRB approach was incorporated into the budget statement of six pilot ministries for the years (2012-2013) to support fair distribution of resources from a gender equality perspective. This resulted in GRB allocation increase from 27% in 2011 to 29% in 2013.
Part of strengthening the capacity for oversight on NAPWA implementation is increasing the demand and supply for understanding gender-based rights in Afghanistan. To this end, GEP continued to support training programs of the Gender Studies Institute (GSI). GEP has also taken gender trainings one step higher this year as it took initial steps to establish a Master’s Degree Program in Development and Gender Studies in Kabul University and in partnership with Middle Eastern Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey. This will be the first graduate program of its kind in Afghanistan. It can be concluded that GSI achieved its main targets in providing certificate courses and trainings and partnership with relevant universities but more importantly, the establishment of the Master’s Degree will institutionalize and ensure sustainability of the delivery of gender training programs in Afghanistan.
On the second pillar which is contributing to women’s economic empowerment, GEP-II implemented activities that improved the entrepreneurship skills of women including management of women cooperatives. In this regard, GEP-II efforts in 2013 focused on vetting and contracting NGOs and CSO partners who will deliver services such as business development service packages and cooperative management trainings. For GEP, this meant developing clear scopes of work for the NGOs, selecting and getting agreement and buy-in from MOWA to work with the NGOs and finally providing the NGOs with contracts to deliver the activities.
Moreover, during the year a total of 486 women entrepreneurs from the provinces of Balkh, Bamyan, Herat, and Nangharhar benefitted from trainings, conferences and exposure visits locally where they had the opportunity to showcase their products and establish market linkages. Business management skills were also developed through out of country visits in Pakistan and Kyrgztan. In Pakistan, women learned the rubrics of cooperative management and enterprise development while in Kyrgyzstan they learned about social mobilization and women’s economic empowerment. Exposing women entrepreneurs to local and international business models improved entrepreneurship skills and knowledge of women thereby increasing their chances in expanding their business and generating more income.
One of the biggest obstacles faced by women in Afghanistan is access to justice and very limited awareness of their rights. In 2013, GEP-II activities under the third pillar aimed to increase awareness of women’s rights by supporting MoWA’s high-level advocacy campaigns such as the 16-day campaign on Elimination of Violence Against Women in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan including 10 districts of Kabul Province. Through a partnership with the Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs, religious leaders who play a critical role in influencing citizens’ understanding and acceptance of women’s rights received training on women’s rights in Islam. In turn, they committed themselves to spreading the knowledge to their communities. By raising the awareness on women’s rights among religious leaders, this type of trainings has the potential of contributing to elimination of violence against women. Those religious leaders if sensitized contribute to changing mind set and societal change of women’s rights and empowerment. In Afghanistan if awareness-raising of women’s rights is done by religious leaders it is more powerful and influential.
GEP-II also supported Legal Help Centers (LHCs). LHCs play a critical role in improving women’s access to justice. These centers assist women in resolving their issues such as domestic abuse, forced and early marriages and other forms of violence. Data received from the centers reveal high success rate in resolving cases with 83% of registered cases resolved at the LHC level, 16% referred to Department of Justice and less than 1% referred to the police. This indicates effectiveness of legal help centers as well as trust in these facilities. LHCs play informal mediation role and in demand at local level as they provide protection for vulnerable women.
Overall, 2013 was a challenging year for GEP considering that it was operating with less than half of the staff that it needed in more than 6 months of the year. Despite this, it managed to deliver modest yet effective results. In 2013, GEP-II concentrated its efforts in four provinces: Balkh, Bamyan, Herat and Nangarhar. Six more provinces will be added in 2014 to scale-up efforts and increase geographic coverage.
GEP-II is generously supported by several donors. These are the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Canadian International Agency for Development (CIDA), the Government of Italy and the Government of Afghanistan.