AWEC has worked in a variety of ways. Activities and approaches often have an educational, capacity building or awareness raising component.
They have included:
Direct service delivery: A history of focusing on education for girls, catch up and accelerated learning projects for school dropouts, literacy, and peace education for women. Also, health and legal services.
Capacity building: Educating adults with life skills through vocational skills training, professional capacity building, psycho-social wellness training and a range of other trainings.
Lobbying and advocacy: Educating the public on issues through awareness raising on different topics as well as support to campaigns on specific issues, such as EVAW.
AWEC strives towards its aims at policy level through issue-based advocacy, through awareness raising and capacity development at community and institutional levels, and through providing services such as legal aid clinics for women. AWEC establishes women’s ‘shuras’ that work closely with the community, to improve women’s status in their family and communities. AWEC is currently initiating an evaluation the impact of past interventions on the lives of beneficiaries.
AWEC is aware that donor dictates have dominated NGO program priorities and designs (including for AWEC) during past years and are likely to continue to do so – unless there is a deliberate effort by CSOs and NGOs to build program priorities based on their own assessment of the needs and on their organizational key competencies. The resulting ‘scattered’ approach has made it difficult for management to provide clear organizational direction and to develop long-term human resource development plans. Honest and committed staff, interest from some donors to support specific program areas for longer periods and good rapport with some stakeholders has led to effective project implementation in the past.
AWEC has based program design on rapid needs assessments carried out by the provincial offices, often with little time to visit project sites, to ensure that assumptions in project designs are likely to be met. There has been little time for in-depth consultation with stakeholders and/or beneficiaries. From this point onwards, AWEC will begin to work towards establishing a theory of change for all projects and base this on sound quantitative and qualitative research (baseline studies and stakeholder analysis). Reviewing secondary data and existing research will also become standard practice in future, in addition to the existing practice of consulting experts. The focus of programming has been ‘doing’ (e.g. service delivery, training) whereas there will now be an increased supplementary focus on ‘understanding’ (e.g. information collection, analysis, research). This will need a longer-term approach and requires identification and selection of funding sources with longer timeframes.
AWEC’s work has also focused a great deal on service delivery, with limited participation by target groups and with engagement of other stakeholders as necessary and when time allowed. There will now be a greater focus on engaging target groups and stakeholders as partners that AWEC needs to cooperate with –or seek to influence – in the promotion of lasting social change. Focusing on a greater understanding of their involvement with these groups will help AWEC understand who, what and how to influence to bring about the sustainable social change it seeks. Another area of change will be engagement with local communities. This has hitherto happened through local leaders and elites, but the interaction will shift towards more participatory approaches.
AWEC’s approach has largely focused on ensuring that projects are implemented effectively, at times without adequate attention to long-term impact on beneficiaries and their situation – and with too little attention to processes of learning within the organization itself. As a result, information has been lost with staff turnover and AWEC’s many years of work and collected institutional memory on specific issues has not led to a reputation as an organization specializing in those fields. The organization has been more a clearing house for projects and less of an institution dedicated to achieving its mission and creating change. With this strategic plan the balance will begin to shift.
Apart from a broader focus on women and children, AWEC’s main target groups have been women and children in a variety of circumstances, with a range of special target groups being vulnerable and at risk groups for whom the organization has provided services and social protection. AWEC has also worked on empowering aspiring young women to become leaders in their chosen political and social spheres. Although AWEC, like many other organizations, has had to remain reactive to donor priorities, it has tried to focus on specific target areas of work. Looking at new sources of funding will give AWEC the possibility to be more proactive on programming and to become one of the leading organizations in Afghanistan dealing with vulnerable and at risk groups of women and children.
In future AWEC will focus its work on the following types of interventions, with its focus on women and children, especially specific at risk categories as special target groups:
Education, Vocational Training and Capacity Building – accelerated learning for those unable to access education under the Taliban, adult literacy, secondary education for girls in Eastern Afghanistan as well as a range of capacity building activities for AWEC’s target groups.
Empowerment and Leadership:moving towards gender equality and equity, increasing women and children’s meaningful participation in social, economic and political life, achieving internationally agreed goals for development and sustainability, improved quality of life through access to services and rights, access to and control of resources, and voice.
Social Inclusion, Reducing Vulnerability and Protection:In particular improving the terms on which vulnerable women and children take part in society, identifying groups with characteristics that place them at higher risk of poverty, exclusion and predation, and addressing the processes which reduce risk.
Poverty Reduction with a Focus on Livelihoods: Work with women and children on the street, income generation projects for vulnerable groups.
Advocacy, Lobbying and Networking: Supporting the campaign on EVAW and a range of other issues, lobbying for the government to respect its commitments to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions to ensure that women are part of the peace process.
AWEC will build on its existing work of helping women and children, in particular vulnerable and marginalized groups, to gain access to and control of resources. AWEC will continue to help groups develop their voice in society and in future do more work to increase agency. In future, AWEC will move towards a more gendered focus by involving men, since society is not composed of women in isolation and men continue to control many aspects of the lives of women and children in Afghanistan. For enhancing all these aspects AWEC will train staff in the utilization of analytical frameworks, in particular those focusing on gender.
As mentioned, AWEC will move towards an increasingly participatory approach at all stages of the program cycle, moving from passive to more active levels of participation, selecting the level of engagement expected from stakeholders and staff (see Annex 2 for levels of participation). To date, shortage of time and staff capacities have led to beneficiaries being passive participants in programs with interventions being brought in to their communities with little or no prior consultation. Mistrust of civil society and fear of association with foreigners cause communities to avoid close partnership.
Capacity to make decisions and choices independently and to take action to effect change
With NGOs and civil society. AWEC will increasingly seek two-way interactions with target groups and stakeholders at every level, leading to active participation and empowerment. AWEC has lobbied on behalf of some groups but such activities have been limited by concerns surrounding religious and cultural propriety and anxiety about generating conflict. The level of participation and empowerment will reveal itself in AWEC’s ability to assist marginalized categories to seek empowerment in forming groups and representing their issues, In addition to a participatory approach, AWEC will plan for conflict sensitivity and ability to manage conflicts in all of its programming. Social rarely takes place without the involvement of some level of conﬂict. One reason for this is the fact that social change often comes as a result of shifts in existing power balances and can therefore lead to conﬂict when some citizens claim their rights and hold government or other groups accountable to their promises. Conﬂict can thus be an inherent and unavoidable part of the processes forming social and political life. Democratic (as well as most traditional) institutions, for example, are not meant to eliminate conﬂict, they are designed to manage and channel it in more productive directions. Conﬂict is often a precursor to positive change.
AWEC staffs have stated reluctance and concern to push changes in gender dynamics, for example. This is because they fear that it may be perceived as being against culture or religion, and that pushing change may create security risks; that beneficiaries may not have the right level of education to understand what is happening, and so on. Not all stakeholders embrace change and they can resist implementation of activities which they consider as not profitable or appropriate in relation to their interests.
AWEC would also start to work on mobilization of appropriate target groups within communities based on their stated needs and aspirations. It is hoped that this will help AWEC progressively move towards programming which motivates individuals to participate and away from programming which involves incentives to encourage participants to attend meetings and workshops to fill predetermined quotas which currently count as ‘success’ indicators. Such a move will require staff to become trained in facilitation and to conduct much better analyses of and engagement with community contexts.
Working On Gender Equality and Equity
AWEC’s role within the NGO family has historically been as that of enhancing women’s leadership and the role of women’s groups in civic activities in the promotion of gender equality by ensuring women’s presence and voice in the right fore. However, a more collective response to gender inequality in the non-profit sector has been to bring balance on enhancing the role of women’s organizations in projects and programs and in coalitions to strike a gender balance. In 2002 AWEC, in collaboration with UNIFEM, supported capacity building of women’s NGOs, helping 20 NGOs from Kabul and the provinces to improve their fundamental concept of non-profit structuring, leading to the formation of bylaws. It also equipped them with basic networking tools. AWEC has partnered with Counterpart International (2006-2008) and supported several women-led organizations in the provinces of the North and the South in standing as major leaders in several zone; such as AWRC in the east, ECW in North West, and BWO in Balkh. AWEC has remained a main partner with the SALAH consortium in bringing a gender balance in major endeavors towards peace and capacity building.
AWEC will continue to build on their long experience with giving women access to influential fora and ensuring that they voice their concerns effectively. AWEC will continue to lobby and influence male and female stakeholders in a strategic manner. AWEC have come to understand that it is important to collaborate with men in order to create a smooth path for progress for women and girls. In order to enhance their understanding of how best to engage men and women in communities AWEC will improve gender analysis skills in the organization, to improve project design and implementation. Gender will be mainstreamed into all of AWEC’s processes and procedures so that staff gain an improved understanding of how their existing practices lead to changes in gender relations.