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Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan

Announcement of New Canadian Government Support Focused on Afghan Women and Girls

Announcement of New Canadian Government Support Focused on Afghan Women and Girls

July 2012

Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan (CW4WAfghan) welcomes the recent announcement  from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for renewed Canadian support to development in Afghanistan, focused on supporting women and girls.

Prioritizing support to women and girls represents much needed continuity in development assistance, in that it builds on Canada’s previous efforts, which have emphasized the importance of advancing gender equality in Afghanistan. We further commend the Canadian Government’s commitment to maintaining a robust development agenda in Afghanistan beyond 2014. A long-term Canadian presence in Afghan development will be critical to seeing earlier investments come to fruition, and to strengthening human development objectives in Afghanistan.

New data recently released by UNICEF and the Government of Afghanistan’s Central Statistics Organization, has shown that the educational status of women is the single greatest predictor of many human development indicators for women and children, including vaccination coverage, literacy, school attendance, access to clean water and sanitation, and a range of other indicators. This is strong evidence that investing in Afghan women is investing in human development at large. Further, no country in the world has been able to rise out of poverty when high female illiteracy rates persist. Finally, the status of women is increasingly recognized as inherently linked to peace and security prospects. Therefore, ensuring that development assistance serves women and girls, is a strategic investment in a safer, more prosperous world for everyone.

In our efforts to effectively support women and girls in Afghanistan since 1996, we have documented many valuable lessons learned, that we hope will be taken into account as CIDA undertakes its development activities in Afghanistan in the years to come. Most importantly, CW4WAfghan calls for greater accountability, transparency in aid delivery, and aid effectiveness. In particular, in working with the Government of Afghanistan as a development partner, special steps need to be taken to protect Canadian investments. We recognize that Afghanistan's development hinges upon these factors. 

For more information:

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Background: Our Thoughts on Doing Development in Afghanistan

What are some of CW4WAfghan’s recommendations when it comes to aid effectiveness in Afghanistan?

Integrate Gender Equality: For Canadian assistance to Afghan women to be effective, we emphasize that women need to be supported in an integrated way, across all types of aid programs, rather than through separate "women" projects. In other words, Afghanistan needs to ensure gender equity in education, health, economic development, infrastructure and all other aid sectors. By integrating assistance to women throughout regular aid programming, systemic change can be achieved within institutions, which has a more lasting impact once aid flows diminish. Women must never be the only "units of transformation": individual men, groups, institutions, and society need to also be transformed to be receptive to women's empowerment.

From Policies to Practice: The integration approach demands that “gender mainstreaming” go beyond policies on paper, and be realized in practice at all levels of Government. Principles and actions for gender equality must be adopted and advanced by Afghan actors within their institutions, and not merely temporarily added at the behest of external actors. This requires clear, measurable and realistic objectives to improve the status of, and services to, women in Afghanistan that are supported by outside aid.

End Corruption: The commitments towards anti-corruption in the Afghan Government need to be backed up by mechanisms in aid delivery that better enforce accountability, such as aid disbursements tied to accountability and reform demands. Many donors in Afghanistan have tolerated unacceptable levels of corruption among development partners, including government ministries, NGOs and contractors. The impact this pattern has on Afghan perceptions is a major destabilizing factor to the rebuilding effort in Afghanistan. There must be sanctions and consequences for corruption and aid ineffectiveness.

Promote Transparency: There needs to be a corruption reporting system for the Afghan public and for those engaged in development and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan that is secure, anonymous, trustworthy and functional. While various mechanisms exist, they are not publicized or well used. Individuals should have a safe means of reporting any kind of corruption in the aid sector, from petty corruption to high level corruption.

Small is Beautiful: We call for greater opportunities for "small aid" such as small grants funds. Why small aid? Click here.

Use Lessons Learned: Attention should be systematically paid to lessons learned in assistance delivery in Afghanistan, drawing on many years now of Canadian assistance in Afghanistan, and should build upon existing efforts.

Foster Continuity: Abrupt transitions to new priorities or paradigms can thwart earlier investments in development and aid. We advocate for development policy for Afghanistan that always builds upon earlier policies and achievements. Further, we call for human resource and organizational structures that facilitate good practice in knowledge management for development assistance, such as long-term field positions that allow for relationship-building, understanding of local dynamics, the documentation of lessons learned, and building long-term partnerships.

Why “Small Aid”?

Seizing the benefits of smaller aid and development projects requires a re-thinking of aid in a major way. There are often limited opportunities form major donors, such as governmental international development agencies, to apply for small grants, because managing small grants programs draws more on administrative resources of time and money. However, it has been clearly demonstrated in Afghanistan and elsewhere, that ‘small aid’ can often be most effective. Sometimes projects with modest budgets (under $200,000/yr) can have the greatest impact. Why is this true?

• Smaller projects and not-for-profit implementing organizations usually have less layers of administration.

• They discourage sub-contracting, which is very common among the for-profit development agencies.

• Encourages local ownership and stewardship of project resources and outcomes.

• When a huge aid project goes wrong, the harm is a lot more far-reaching than a small project.

• Smaller budgets leave less room for corruption. In a $20,000 budget there is a lot less ‘up for grabs’ than in a $1 million budget. There is simply less space and incentive for various forms of corruption.

• It is easier for a project manager to have a day-to-day handle on the project’s progress.

Large or small, a project that accounts well for the following ingredients will be more likely to succeed:

• Have the highest standard of transparency and accountability measures in place in the project’s management processes;

• Have well developed impact evaluation measures in project design (including a baseline assessment and reliable measurement methods throughout the life of a project);

• Designed for local conditions and activities carried out in partnership with local communities, with local stewardship leftover after the Implementing Partner (IP) is gone;

• Fosters a long-term presence and local ownership of project inputs and outputs. To this end, programmatic (long-term) thinking in development delivery is superior to project (short-term) thinking.

Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan
PO Box 86016, Marda Loop, Calgary, Alberta
Canada T2T 6B7

t: 1 (403) 244-5625

Registered Charity #887718203RR0001

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