KABUL CITY – At the Fifth National Consultative Conference of Community Development Councils (CDCs), Fatima Ehsani, 19, drew the attention of participants with her energetic presentation. She confidently addressed senior government officials, including the President, Chief Executive, and ministers, and more than 500 participants on the functions of the CDC in her village.
Fatima Ehsani attended the conference as a representative of Pasaband district in Ghor Province—the most underdeveloped, remote, and deprived province in the country. Despite the remote location and tough terrain, the National Solidarity Programme (NSP), through CDCs, has implemented many developmental projects in Ghor Province.
NSP is the Government of Afghanistan’s flagship program for rural development. Through implementing development projects all over Afghanistan, it has played an effective role in building capacity and empowering women in a country that remains on the lowest ranks of the human development index with some of the worst social indicators among women and children, who constitute more than half the population.
“NSP, under which the CDCs function, has paid special attention to women in its projects,” said Fatima in her speech. “It has organized vocational training programs in dressmaking, embroidery, rug weaving, hand embroidery and other vocations for women in villages. These programs have led to a tremendous amount of capacity being built among women.”
Half of CDC membership has been allocated to women, giving them the opportunity to participate in decision-making at village level and to voice their opinions. “NSP has provided a unique opportunity for women to participate in the development process from a government-sanctioned platform, allowing women to gather and discuss their development priorities within a formal framework for the first time and have their concerns taken seriously,” said Naseer Ahmad Durrani, Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, to a group of women CDC members during the conference.
The quota has enabled female CDC members to highlight women’s issues and needs in the community and include some of these matters in the councils’ working agenda. “In a country where most of the women end up as housewives, NSP has managed to improve mobility for women, giving them somewhere legitimate to go on a regular basis, uniting women with a single purpose for the first time,” says Mahajan Khairzad, 40, a CDC member representing Balkh Province at the conference.