The people of Afghanistan face numerous challenges that threaten their security and well-being and undermine the democratic vision for the country. Women in particular are often denied the right to participate in political life, receive inadequate access to election information and are affected by the repeal of quotas ensuring female representation in the National Assembly. Although comprising more than 60 percent of the population, youth have few opportunities to express their opinions to government leaders.
Counterpart has been working in Afghanistan since 2005, with our current project, the Afghan Civic Engagement Program (ACEP), beginning in 2013. The program helps enable citizens — especially women and youth — to influence policy, monitor government accountability and serve as advocates for political reform. ACEP will achieve these results through:
- strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations to lead in accelerating dialogue with the government;
- equipping civil society and media to better understand, monitor and report on issues relating to democracy and governance;
- engaging citizens, especially women and youth, to enable greater civic participation;
- improving access to independent news and public affairs information.
- Launched the Afghanistan Institute for Civil Society (AICS), the first locally-driven, independent organization supporting civil society at the community level in Afghanistan. AICS helps Afghan civil society organizations improve their capacity to deliver impacts and awards certificates to organizations meeting local and international standards of excellence.
- Convened 128 activists to discuss the role of civil society in the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections and the 2015 parliamentary elections.
- Established an annual, national summit for Afghan women leaders across the social sector to learn from each other and build collaborative networks. More than 130 civil society activists attended the 2014 summit, including the directors of 24 women-led organizations.
- Conducted 20 Ulemma dialogues in 20 provinces, reaching 2,145 people including 906 women.
- Established the Emerging Civil Society Leaders program to support Afghan youth activists through trainings and international exposure visits. To date, 100 young men and women from 34 provinces have graduated from the program. A further 34 individuals are currently part of 2016’s group of ECSL.
- Organized “innovation labs” in Herat, Nangarhar, Balkh and Kabul where 1267 citizens, including 394 women, collaborate to harness technology to solve critical social problems through software prototypes and apps in areas such as security, healthcare, agriculture, education, poverty, governance and human rights.
- Supported the 54 members (24 females) of the Civil Society Joint Working Group in drafting a position paper and supported 16 Afghan civil society delegates in presenting the paper at the 2014 London Conference on Afghanistan and the AYENDA Civil Society Conference.
- Convened government representatives and civil society organizations to identify strategies to create an enabling environment for civil society.
- Organized the country’s first training on how to use social media as a tool for promoting civic activism. More than 200 civil society representatives, including 80 women, from 30 provinces attended.
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Sustainable Development Goals Addressed
Funder: United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Collaborators: Internews Network (Internews); International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL); Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) USA.