How does ODA from Kazakhstan help women in Afghanistan?
By Gennadiy Rau
I started having an interest in development about ten years ago, when I first travelled to study in Canada. The simple image of the world shaped by my life in Kazakhstan was shattered and completely changed over the following several years. I guess this type of realization dawns on one when they see for the first time how even the smallest things are done differently in various countries. Back then the thought of sharing experience and helping one another on country levels crossed my mind.
My knowledge, skills and this new-found thirst for exchanging experiences motivated me to try and bring in positive change by working at UNDP on improving government institutions. I started exploring Kazakhstan’s development pathway and the results showed that Kazakhstan had managed to reduce poverty rates from around 46 percent in the early 1990s to less than 2.7 percent in 2015. Besides, Kazakhstan turned from the recipient of assistance to emerging donors eager to share its knowledge with other countries. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, over the past 20 years the country has provided foreign aid worth around 450 million US dollars. Notably, aid delivery has been increasing in the past decade: In 2015 the country spent 43 million US dollars on development assistance .
While drafting concepts and making roadmaps for Official Development Assistance is an important part of the work that we do, the real value is making a positive difference in the lives of ordinary people.
This summer we hosted a workshop to share Kazakhstan’s experience in civil service with counterparts in Afghanistan. The project was organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan; with support of the Government of Japan; Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and UNDP.
Prior to the workshop a Kazakh delegation travelled to Afghanistan to establish contacts with partners and shape the ODA pilot. In our conversations with local stakeholders we learned that women in Afghanistan face a series of challenges that considerably limit their opportunities in social, political and economic areas. Often, they risk their life by expressing opinion or even challenging the status-quo, as it was the case in Farkhunda’s murder in 2015, which shocked Afghanistan and the world.
One of the participants in the workshop was Lida Sheerzad – a person far from an ordinary one.
“I live in an insecure province of Kunduz in Afghanistan. It has lots of security problems and it’s also contested between the Government and the Taliban. I am a women’s rights activist and I promote women’s rights in the media, on TV and radio. At times it’s very dangerous for me,” says Lida, Provincial Manager at Afghan Women’s Network in Kunduz city.
Kunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, which has fallen to Taliban twice in 2015 and in 2016. There are very few brave activists like Lida Sheerzad working in Kunduz because of a precarious security situation.
“Normally I can’t travel even out of the province because the highways are too dangerous. When I travelled from Kunduz to Kabul to attend the seminar in Astana our car was stopped in Ali Abad district for Taliban checking and questioning. Fortunately, I was wearing a Burqa, which hid my face, and they didn’t search me. I had my documents, my mobile phone, tickets, passport, and money on me. It was risky because they could have killed me if they had found out who I was.”
Among the main things which Lida would like to take away from the workshop in Kazakhstan was a course in gender-responsive budgeting.
“I think that if the same policies we’re introducing now could trigger conversations around the impact that it has on women, I’d say that this result would be the beginning of a big change,” she says.
Stories like these from women in Afghanistan show that Official Development Assistance connects countries on levels which are far deeper than knowledge exchange. Lida wants to have a special session with her colleagues back in Afghanistan and introduce changes based on what she had seen in Kazakhstan.