Being a woman in Afghanistan: a hard life
Afghanistan is one of the most challenging countries for women. Girls are forced by their family to marry young; 60% are married by the age of 16. Education levels of Afghan women are low, about 85% of the Afghan women cannot read or write. A large proportion of the married women are widowed at a relatively young age, because their husbands are much older, or are killed in armed conflicts. Presently, in Afghanistan there are some 1.5 million widows, having few to none economic perspectives.
As Afghan women have a primary role in caring for the family’s livestock, this offers a great opportunity for DCA to empower women within the safe environment of their homes. Within the cultural context, DCA involves women as much as possible in the organisation itself as well as in the projects it implements.
Gender in the DCA organisation
About 20 to 25% of the DCA professional and support staff are female. These women staff are working at all levels of the organisation with equal responsibilities and for the same pay as their male counterparts. There are special facilities for female employees, like reimbursement of a male traveling companion, and maternity leave. In addition, female DCA staff is offered many opportunities to participate in capacity building.
Gender in the DCA projects
In the DCA projects, the women-to-women training approach is very successful. Female extension workers specifically are training women groups, often focusing on the most vulnerable women like widows and poor families. DCA developed an extension package especially for the role of women in livestock health and production. The female beneficiaries are eager to learn, applying the newly gained techniques and approaches to their own animals. The results are increased livestock birth rates, reduced morbidity and mortality, flourishing backyard poultry flocks, successful marketing of dairy products, etc. Thanks to the contribution of the women to the family income, the social status of the women is enhanced, and family livelihoods and health are increased.