April 12, 2007 15:08 ET

Canada's New Government Continues Investments in New Women's Programs in Afghanistan

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN--(CCNMatthews - April 12, 2007) - The Honourable Josee Verner, Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages, today announced that Canada will contribute up to $9 million for initiatives that will help to strengthen the rights of women in Afghanistan. This announcement will support efforts of the Government of Afghanistan, which has outlined in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy that the country's reconstruction and development requires the full participation of Afghan women in political, social, cultural and economic life.

Minister Verner made the announcement in Afghanistan while assessing progress made since her visit last October.

"Canada's contribution to the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan is improving the daily lives of many thousands of its citizens," Minister Verner said. "We strongly support the Government of Afghanistan in its efforts to provide greater opportunities for women in areas such as education and health, and in giving women a greater voice in decision-making."

The funding will be allocated as follows:

- Up to $5 million to help the Afghan government create stronger programs dedicated to enhancing the role and voice of Afghan women. This includes establishing a Gender Studies Institute at Kabul University.

- Up to $4 million to support local initiatives proposed by Afghans that help create more economic and educational opportunities for women and girls. Canada's field staff in Kabul will administer the fund, and will emphasize projects such as Women's Entrepreneurship and career development skills for women, training and advocacy on eliminating violence against women, and education and literacy for women and girls.

This announcement builds on the support of Canada's New Government since 2006 to strengthen the voice and the role of Afghan women and girls, including:

- $14.5 million for a Girls' Education Project and to train new teachers;

- $5 million for integrating Afghan women into markets;

- $1.75 million to support maternal health and women's literacy in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province;

- $16 million for a Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan to provide small loans and financial services to poor Afghans, particularly women.

For further details on CIDA's programming in Afghanistan, please visit the Agency's Website at:



Canada's New Government has invested in programs over the past year to help strengthen the voice and the role of women and girls in Afghanistan, focused on the areas of:

- Education;

- Sustainable livelihoods and women's economic empowerment; and

- Legal protection and women's rights

The investments include the following projects:

Microfinance in Afghanistan

Disbursements between April 2006 and January 2007: $28 million

Total historical disbursements to date: $56.35 million

The Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan (MISFA) is a national microcredit and microfinance program in Afghanistan. The Government of Afghanistan launched the MISFA in June 2003 as a multi-donor wholesale facility to build the micro-finance sector of Afghanistan.

Canada has provided strong support to this successful program since its inception, and it continues to be its lead donor.

MISFA is one of the world's largest microfinance programs. It funds 13 local microfinance institutions that, in turn, provide small loans and financial services to poor Afghans-people who would normally be denied access to such services. Often for the first time, such poor Afghans are now able to get small loans from MISFA-funded institutions to start new businesses, or buy land and animals, to better support themselves and their families. This program provides an alternative source of credit for urban and rural Afghans who lack collateral.

It is important to note that almost three out of four MISFA clients are women. As of January 2007, MISFA was assisting over 215,000 women in improving their livelihoods.

MISFA also serves as a source of training and technical assistance, as well as a mechanism for networking, sharing information, lobbying, and advocacy on behalf of the industry.

Girls Primary Education

Project Budget: $14.5 million

The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee - Afghanistan (BRAC-AF) is implementing the project in collaboration with the Afghan Ministry of Education. The project aims to establish up to 4,000 community-based schools, as well as after-school learning programs and to provide training for 9,000 schoolteachers, at least 4,000 of whom will be women. About 120,000 schoolchildren in 11 provinces (including Kandahar Province) will benefit from this project (85 percent of them girls). The project aims to promote gender equality in education by improving access to quality of basic education and life skills development focused on girls.

The establishment of community-based schools will supplement the efforts of the Ministry of Education to increase enrolment of girls, promote female teachers in primary education and develop the capacity of the teachers in government-run formal schools through training. BRAC-AF will establish two types of one-room schools: Community Based Feeder Schools and Community Based Accelerated Learning Schools, formerly known as Basic Education for Older Children (BEOC) Schools. At the completion of the project, these schools will be handed over to the Ministry of Education, to be integrated into nearby formal (government-run) primary schools.

Integrating Women into Markets

Project Budget: $4.95 million

This project aims to help 1,500 women develop horticulture operations in home-based gardens, growing fruits and vegetables to supplement family diets and generate income. Managed by the Canadian-based non-governmental organization Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), the project will be implemented over four years, benefiting over 5,000 members of the families of the women involved.

Women's Rights Fund

Project Budget: $1.75 million

With CIDA support, the Canadian non-government organization International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development (Rights and Democracy) promotes the rights of women. The project supports women's rights education, leadership training for women, capacity building and peace building initiatives, the participation of women in political processes, networking and information sharing, and programs for gender mainstreaming. CIDA's contribution also enables Rights and Democracy to continue to promote and protect women's rights in Afghanistan through advocacy.

Literacy Program in Kandahar Province

Project Budget: $1.4 million

UNICEF will expand its literacy program in Kandahar Province that currently provides training to 7,500 participants in 160 centres. An additional 155 community teachers will be trained and 4,600 participants, 80 percent of them women, will attend a 10-month course combining reading and numeracy with basic life skills, and health and nutrition education. Monthly food rations will be provided to participants by the World Food Programme to encourage regular attendance. CIDA development officers within the Provincial Reconstruction Team are closely involved in launching this initiative.

Maternal Health Initiative in Kandahar Province

Project Budget: $350,000

As part of a new multi-donor initiative led by UNICEF and the Afghan Ministry of Public Health to reduce maternal mortality throughout the country, CIDA's contribution will support UNICEF's project in Kandahar Province. UNICEF will set up a residential obstetric care facility next to Kandahar City's Mirwais Hospital, provide maternal and neonatal health care training at the Mirwais Hospital, and deliver a safe motherhood information campaign throughout Kandahar Province. CIDA development officers within the Provincial Reconstruction Team are closely involved in launching this initiative.

Socioeconomic Participation of Vulnerable Women

Project Budget: $473,000

This project, just completed, represents the second phase of a successful partnership between CIDA and the Canadian non-governmental organization International Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF). The first phase, called "Re-establishing Traditional Livelihoods in Kabul", was completed in mid-2003. The first phase provided basic education to 160 children from vulnerable households and offered vulnerable women the training and support needed to start beekeeping and silkworm farming, both traditional livelihoods. These income-generating activities allowed participants to help support their families. This current phase focuses on providing similar support to widows in other villages in the Kabul area.

Women's Community Support Program

Project Budget: $196,000

The Afghan Women's Community Support Program is designed in cooperation with a local women's community organization, the Afghanistan Women Council and non-governmental organization War Child Canada, to provide women with the education, training and support necessary to become empowered and engaged citizens. The project promotes women's rights and supports female participants on their path to economic self-reliance, self-realization and psychosocial well-being.

Women are offered skills and education in basic literacy, health education, parenting, conflict resolution, peace building, the environment, community leadership and rehabilitation. Women are encouraged to participate in workshops, share their knowledge and skills, learn from their peers and problem solve. The Afghan Women's Community Support Program provides childcare, psychosocial support, counselling, food and other basic provisions to ensure that women are able to participate to their full capacity.

For more information on Canada's reconstruction and development program in Afghanistan, please visit:

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of International Cooperation
    Nicole Lascelle
    Director of Communications
    Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
    Media Relations Office
    819-953-6534 (electronic version of document)