A couple of months ago, Spirit of America helped to fund a venture for the Kandahar Director of Women's Affairs (DOWA), Ruqia Achekzai. Accompanied with members from the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and the Regional Command-South Gender team (RC-South), she headed up to the Nangarhar Province in order to see successful women's projects in action with the intent to replicate those achievements in Kandahar. This site visit allowed her to explore ideas for lasting economic alternatives for females in her own area.
While PRT/RC-South reps joined the DOWA on the trip, they did not actually go with her to the different locations as it was all Afghan led. Joined with the Nangarhar and Zabul women's affairs directors, Ruqia observed the various ongoing endeavors which included a vegetable nursery, poultry farm, and tailoring center. The females involved in these operations have received startup funds through USAID but have become increasingly independent allowing them to use some of their profit to put towards production and supplies while still taking home money for their families. The officials also stopped by Sherzai Park where Provincial Governor Gul Agha Sherzai created a women's market which permits them to sell their goods to the general public. Every Wednesday, the park is only open to females so they may spend time together and shop for assorted products, which is truly a progressive step in Afghanistan. The Kandahar DOWA is very interested in implementing this feature in her own province as well.
Unfortunately, no source of funding was available to pay for Ruqia's travel and lodging costs. She does not have a budget for these types of trips either. If it weren't for the generous support of SoA, she may never have been able to study these advancements first hand thus impeding future development for women in Kandahar. With limited technology and cultural restrictions, it is difficult for females across multiple provinces or even in villages to collaborate and share ideas for job opportunities. However, this experience afforded Ruqia the chance to meet with other innovative community leaders and speak with them about unique concepts for empowering females. According to one PRT rep, "The trip to Nangarhar was critical to helping make progress in women's involvement in agriculture, and in developing future programs for women." As of late, Ruqia has been coordinating with other line ministers to plan for meaningful women's initiatives in Kandahar. She and the PRT/RC-South team are forming a strategy to elevate the status of females in the province and to improve their quality of life overall.
Afghanistan Field Rep