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Afghan women in textile mill Kabul

Afghan women work at a textile factory in Kabul, Afghanistan. Image: U.S. Senior Airman Andrea Salazar

(WNN) London, England, U.K., WESTERN EUROPE: Offering new funding that is hoping to increase the involvement of Afghan women in the upcoming elections in Afghanistan, the U.K. is providing $30.11 million (USD) to help boost women’s involvement in Afghanistan’s political process . This funding is also hoping to help provide women local counselors as well as support for local communities on information campaigns that aim to reduce violence against women.

Elections at the national and local levels will take place in Afghanistan on 5 April next year. This will include a vote for the next president in Afghanistan.

“Credible, inclusive and transparent elections are critical to ensuring a peaceful transition of power in 2014 and to building the confidence and support of the Afghan people,” said the U.K.’s DFID – Department for International Development.

This week the U.K.’s Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening met several Afghan women from civil society organizations in the town of Mazar. Each of the organizations currently receives U.K. support. The goal in part for Greening’s trip was to listen and to assess the challenges Afghan women now face as they work to promote human rights and women’s rights in the region.

The new financial support from the U.K. hopes that the funding will help “ensure that women have the chance to play a full part in Afghanistan’s elections next year,” Greening announced from Afghanistan’s capital Kabul yesterday.

While visiting Kabul Greening also signed a U.K.-Afghan education grant with Afghanistan’s Deputy Education Minister Rasa and Finance Minister Zakhilwal. The signing finalized a recent promise made by the government of the U.K.  to bring $76.5 million into the region to help ensure that rural girls are not left behind in their education. Funding will work through a program called the Girls’ Education Challenge Fund.

Literacy for women and girls in Afghanistan continues to be a challenge today as Afghanistan continues to face an ongoing situation of national illiteracy. Most severe in the rural areas among girls, women and other marginalized people, the estimated national adult literacy rate for those age 15 and above is 34 percent.

According to UNESCO out of these numbers women make up only 18 percent of those who are literate, while men make up 50 percent.

Through the Tawanmandi programme in Afghanistan, hosted by DFID, at least ten financial grants adding up to $3.26 million will go to civil society organizations in Afghanistan that will be “primarily focusing” on eliminating violence against women into  next year.

Part of the $30.11 million in new funding will be working specifically to help educate and empower more women to vote in the upcoming elections in Afghanistan in April 2014.

Support for women to become more engaged and knowledgeable about the political process in Afghanistan is also a goal.

“Despite recent progress on women’s rights in Afghanistan, many still face significant challenges, from physical violence and psychological abuse through to exclusion from the political process. We are helping to tackle the root causes of these issues to ensure that women’s voices are heard,” said Secretary Greening.

“Preparations for the elections next year are gathering pace. If the election results are to represent Afghanistan as a whole that means women playing a fuller part, both as provincial candidates and as voters. This new funding from the UK will ensure that whatever happens these elections will lay the groundwork for women’s participation for generations to come,” continued Greening.

In order to help strengthen women’s political participation and promote ‘more inclusive’ politics, the Women’s Political Participation and Dialogue Opportunities Programme will be delivered in close collaboration with the Independent Election Commission (IEC) for the region.

As one of the leading donors to the UN-managed elections programme, called Enhancing Legal and Electoral Capacity for Tomorrow (ELECT II), the U.K. has just announced more than $13 million in additional targeted funding.

DFID has now committed $32.5 million to “ensure effective and well organised Afghan-led elections in 2014/15, improve the voter registration system, increase female participation in elections, improve public confidence in election results and to ensure people have a stronger stake in the government they have voted for.”

The issues arising in the region for women as the nation moves toward transition come with challenges and determination for countless women. Violence against women in the region is a concern of many.

 

“For violence against women to truly come to an end we need to recognise the importance of putting women and girls at the centre of development. There is a feeling among women in Afghanistan that ‘in the last 10 years, men’s voices have been heard, in the next 10 years our voices must be heard. Our rights, needs and participation in society must be secured’,” said Sofya Shahab publicatons director for the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit in a recent editorial on the situation for women in The Guardian News Global Professionals Network.

 

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