Support Afghan Women
Read OPAWC’s latest Narrative Report for VTC Dec2015b
As Europe and the US go into recession, much of the funding for independent grassroots women’s projects in Afghanistan is disappearing. For decades extremely courageous and dedicated Afghan women have been running schools, education programmes for women, health clinics and orphanages, often at high risk to themselves. Their projects have been dependent on funding from ordinary people throughout the world.
Child Victims of War supports the work of the Organization of Promoting Afghan Women’s Capabilities (OPAWC) with a regular donation. Please help by setting up a standing order for a monthly amount, however small. All proceeds go directly to OPAWC.
OPAWC is a radical women’s organization run by Afghan women for Afghan women. It originated in the Afghan refugee camps of Pakistan in the 1980s, supporting and educating women who had fled the Soviet/Mujahideen violence. They have worked inside Afghanistan since 1999 and became officially registered in 2003. Their aim is to empower women through literacy, vocational skill training and healthcare provision. They see these three factors as requisite for giving women ‘a foothold on the journey to achieve their constitutional right of equality’. They are outspoken against all male dominated and fundamentalist power structures in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, the NATO occupation, and the warlords within the Afghan government. For this reason they are dependent on support and funding from grassroots peace and justice organizations in the West. Currently most of their funding comes from Australia, Italy and the UK via Child Victims of War.
Why support OPAWC?
OPAWC has an excellent track record of education and healthcare provision for some of the poorest women in Afghanistan, many of them war widows. Their focus is on sustainability: empowering women to provide for themselves and their children and encouraging them to pass these skills onto others. Because of their political stance they get little help from the Afghan Government or larger NGOs, despite the proven quality of their work. OPAWC , like Child Victims of War, runs on a voluntary basis so the money you give goes directly to the projects.
Examples of their work
[With photographs by Guy Smallman]
All women who enroll on OPAWC’s programmes have to attend the literacy classes. 88% of Afghan women are still illiterate which is a disgrace, considering the country has been under Western control since 2001. Learning to read and write gives women greater self-esteem, helps them care better for their children, opens up new employment opportunities, and helps them to understand their basic human rights.
A study made by the Afghan Government and UNICEF (2010 – 2011) on progress towards millennium development goals showed that the single most important factor, on virtually every front, was the educational level of the mother.
OPAWC runs a Vocational Training Center in Kabul for women who are already attending the literacy classes. They learn crafts such as sewing and embroidery; IT skills, and English lessons. There are many widows in Afghanistan due to decades of violence. They have very low status in this male dominated society and the majority are reduced to begging or doing the most menial and low paid jobs. OPAWC’s courses can have a dramatic and life-changing impact.
With a large international presence in Kabul, there are always job opportunities for people who speak some English and are computer literate. The Ministry of Education did not believe that poor illiterate women would be capable of mastering such skills, but OPAWC’s students are defying prejudice, and showing great enthusiasm and aptitude.
OPAWC need more support to continue the vocational training and pay for a crèche worker so mothers can bring their young children with them when they attend the classes.
Hamoon Clinic is a clinic for Afghan women and children in Farah Province. This is a very poor region of Afghan and still holds many conservative values. Much of the province is once again under the control of the Taliban. The clinic in Farah province was founded by MP and activist Malalai Joya in 2003. It provides healthcare to women and children from some of the poorest communities in the country. It is funded by donations from abroad and run by OPAWC.
There are high malnutrition rates in Afghanistan and women walk many miles to collect food supplements for their children.
Many women die in childbirth in Afghanistan for want of professional help. The custom is that women can only be treated by female health workers and the Hamoon Clinic desperately needs money to pay for a female gynaecologist.
Recently OPAWCs partners in Australia, SAWA, raised the money for new ambulance. Few people in Farah have transport and the roads are very dangerous. The ambulance is giving people access to life-saving medical treatment
OPAWC Reports 2013:
One of the founders and directors of OPAWC is Malalai Joya, activist, writer and former Afghan politician.
Listen to her Message