Hand in Hand Afghanistan expanding with grant from EU
Now is a crucial time for Afghanistan.
Already, the country is in the process of electing its first new president after 12 years under Hamid Karzai. By the end of the year, with the whole world watching, that president will oversee the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force, inheriting main responsibility for the country’s security for the first time in just as long.
Despite uncertainty over Afghanistan’s future – or indeed because of it – Hand in Hand is committed to remaining in the country. In fact, we’re expanding our reach in Afghanistan thanks to a game-changing US $1.16 million (€840 K) grant from the European Union. Launched in February 2014, the deal marks a series of milestones for Hand in Hand:
- Our first grant from the European Union.
- Our first time working in Samangan Province, bordering Hand in Hand Afghanistan’s most developed operation in the province of Balkh. Samangan offers relatively stable security, support from local stakeholders and, given the absence of similar programs in the region, the opportunity to make a transformative impact.
We’re also introducing a number of upgrades adapted to suit Afghan conditions:
- Literacy and numeracy training. Countrywide, only 7 percent of rural women are literate.
- Vocational training and toolkits for in-demand skills such as beekeeping, silkworm rearing and motorcycle repair. Farming productivity in Afghanistan has fallen by half during 30 years of near-continuous war.
- Shari’a-friendly microfinance. Profitable lending is prohibited by Islamic law, causing most microfinance institutions to avoid Afghanistan. To help plug the gap we’re bringing our successful Enterprise Incubation Fund to the country.
As always, the need to boost women’s economic empowerment remains urgent – particularly in a country where 60 to 80 percent of marriages are forced and violence against women is on the rise. That’s why we’re increasing our female participation rate to 70 percent –significantly higher than both the national female labor participation rate, 16 percent, and the target of 35 percent set by the Afghan government for aid programs. (We target 30 percent men as a means to build trust and, ultimately, work with women.)