In northern Afghanistan, more and more people are finding work. Advanced training courses for entrepreneurs and infrastructure for small farmers are helping to boost economic development. Arbitrators and points of contact for women help people make legal claims and boost confidence in the judiciary.
Twenty-four-year-old Nasiba has been able to realise a dream: earning her own money and using it to fund her university studies. She is the head trainer at a bakery training centre in Mazar-i-Sharif in north-eastern Afghanistan. ‘With this job, I can cover a significant portion of my expenses while at the same time doing something that I really enjoy,’ she says.
Nasiba used to bake bread at home and sell it in her neighbourhood and to small shops. At a training centre supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, she had the opportunity to improve her baking skills and also learn about business administration and marketing. It quickly became clear that she had what it takes to teach others and so she became a trainer herself.
Baking is a popular traditional craft, especially in northern Afghanistan. New, professional bakery businesses have been set up in many places in recent years. These baker groups offer women in particular the opportunity to combine work and social participation.
The training in Mazar-i-Sharif gives the women and men who take part prospects that in the past were available to very few people in Afghanistan. The country is one of the world’s poorest nations, with per capita income still below the average for least developed countries. Six in ten people are unable to read or write. The fragile, and in some cases precarious, security situation also impedes reconstruction and economic development.
On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ is promoting economic development and employment in northern Afghanistan. In its work to support returnees and internally displaced persons, GIZ cooperates with non-governmental organisations such as Caritas International and Hand in Hand International. And the GFA Consulting Group plays a key role in helping GIZ to promote value chains.
The Sustainable Economic Development and Employment Programme takes a comprehensive approach, aiming to improve the value chains for agricultural products such as wheat, milk, poultry and vegetables. One of the priorities is to boost the marketing and sales of processed products. This can involve installing new infrastructure such as water reservoirs or enhancing the quality of products, as is the case in Nasiba’s training centre.
And the programme is proving effective. Some 13,000 permanent and seasonal jobs have been created since 2015 and 19,000 businesses and small farmers have benefited from various training measures. The programme focuses in particular on improving the knowledge and skills of women. These new skills then help boost yields and incomes.
Alongside assisting businesses and fostering development, cooperation in Afghanistan also strengthens the rule of law. As a result of weak institutions and the parallel existence of traditional, state and Islamic law, many citizens turn to informal structures to settle disputes.
On behalf of BMZ, GIZ is supporting the Afghan Government in reforming the legal system. The goal is to guarantee the rule of law for all citizens. One means of doing so involves establishing arbitration units, known as Huquq offices, whose legitimacy is recognised by the people. The Afghan Ministry of Justice has also set up Huquq offices in the six northern provinces. The offices offer arbitration in the event of disputes among citizens, such as those involving land, wages or family matters. In rural areas, people also frequently approach these offices to settle disagreements over grazing rights, cattle sales and property.
GIZ provides support in training the Huquq teams on the applicable law and assists with creating teaching materials. The arbitrators are given the skills they need to take women’s rights into account when making decisions. They are often asked to mediate in cases involving maintenance payments, divorce and withheld dowries.
In addition, GIZ supports the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs with establishing special points of contact for women. Around 100 of these contact points have opened in the northern provinces since 2015. In rural regions in particular, they provide access to justice, something that was previously not possible. Female citizens working on a voluntary basis offer women initial advice, for example in domestic violence cases. Sakina Nejrabi from Nahr-e-Shahi District is one of these volunteers. She participated in training with GIZ support. ‘Women weren’t aware of their rights,’ she says. ‘But thanks to our work, their views have changed.’ Nejrabi encourages them to take their cases to the courts and other official offices. She reports that more women are now calling for their rights to be respected in their everyday lives in their families and the community.
As at: April 2020