By: The Kabul Times
When women are economically and socially empowered, they become a potent force for change. As the cities in the rural areas of Afghanistan, women can play a key role in running households and make major contributions to agricultural production and rural development. But the inequalities that exist between women and men make it difficult for women to fulfil their potential.
Women rarely have access to the resources that would make their work more productive and ease their heavy workload. Ultimately, it is not just women who are held back, but also their families, their communities and local economies. Rural women have many roles, and they have responsibilities and knowledge that differ from those of men. As farmers, they plant, weed and harvest food crops and tend livestock. As caretakers, they look after children and relatives, prepare meals and manage the home. Many women earn extra income by working, producing and selling vegetables, or engaging in small-scale trading and enterprises. Added to these multiple tasks, they spend long hours fetching water and collecting firewood. In poor and marginal areas and areas affected by climate change, where men have been forced to migrate in search of work, women often have the sole responsibility for farming and raising the children.
Despite their many responsibilities, women have significantly less access to the resources and services they need to increase their productivity and their income and ease their burden of household duties.
Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) has long recognized the importance of improving the well-being and prosperity of women and fostering equality between the sexes. MRRD-supported programs and projects help women access resources and participate in decision-making, and work to ensure that women and men benefit more equally from development initiatives. There is no single formula: men’s and women’s roles and relationships differ according to context. Understanding and addressing these differences is an ongoing endeavor. In many years of working in rural development, MRRD has seen that women can be a powerful force in fighting poverty. To that end, MRRD works to defend their land rights; improve their access to water, education, training and credit; and strengthen their leadership roles. MRRD plays an equally important role in policy making for more investment in rural women and underline the importance of prioritizing women’s needs within development programs.
MRRD has implemented water supply network construction projects through the Water Supply and Sanitation Program in remote areas where previously people especially women didn’t have access to water.
By the mentioned program MRRD has made better access to water and health services a starting point for improving the overall well-being of women and their families. Easing women’s workloads opens up opportunities for income-generating activities. Women are able to use the extra hours to develop kitchen gardens and profitable small enterprises.
Sharifa, a resident in Enjeel district of Herat province, used to spend up to six hours a day fetching water for her household of seven. The nearest spring was 2 kilometres away, queues were long and the water was filled with sediment. Now she spends just two minutes carrying clean water from the new communal water point situated about 30 metres from her home.
Women’s groups organized by Women Economic Empowerment Rural Development Program (WEERDP) of MRRD, offer training in improved farming practice for women and they learn new skills such as managing small businesses and marketing for their products.
The Afghanistan Sustainable Energy for Rural Development (ASERD) program developed by MRRD and UNDP builds on the existing efforts to provide energy to rural areas of Afghanistan, introduced a number of simple, cost-effective and environmentally friendly ways of improving conditions and saving time in the home, such as energy-saving stoves . Not only are women earning more, but now that they share more equally in available resources, their social standing in the community has improved.