A One-year Internship Program that Gives Women the Skills for Lifelong Careers
Overall, WIG has enrolled more than 3,900 women in the year-long internship program across Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Nangarhar, and Kandahar. The program provides intensive hard and soft skills training in project management, computer science, human resources, procurement, and finance. Upon graduation, interns receive a certificate granting one-year of work experience and making them eligible to apply for government jobs. More than 300 of the program’s 1,583 graduates have gotten jobs across nearly 40 government ministries and independent agencies. Of the graduates to date, 92 percent have reported increased self-efficacy and 99 percent reported improved professional skills following the internship.
The WIG internship program has garnered high-level support, including that of Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah who reminded 400 Kabul interns at their April graduation, “Every one of you can be a source of positive change and transformation.” We are witnessing this transformation. Farima*, one of the WIG graduates from Mazar-e-Sharif, got a job as a gender specialist with the Mazar Municipality. After just a few months in the position, she is already training district staff in anti-harassment, and she recently submitted a proposal for the municipality to open a female gym to serve the women in her city. Farima exemplifies the impact that one woman can have on a community.
In July, more than 300 women graduated from the year-long internship in Kabul.
Sustaining Policy Reforms that Transform
Giving women the skills and resources they need to get jobs in the government is not enough. The women of Afghanistan face tremendous obstacles when it comes to participating as equal members of society. Many of these obstacles emanate from government policies that do not adequately account for their needs.
To overcome some of these policy-related challenges, WIG leverages relationships with more than 70 Afghan government counterparts to develop and implement key policy reforms that empower women working in the government, including non-discrimination, anti-harassment, and other working standards that foster a female-friendly workplace.
Recognizing the challenges associated with inter-ministerial coordination and the realities of building political will to support women in a deeply conservative society, WIG developed an innovative strategy for policy reform in alignment with USAID’s facilitation approach. The project facilitates three policy working groups comprised of ministries and independent agencies that collaborate to identify, develop, and implement policy reforms around capacity-building, public awareness, and workplace enablers for women in government.
While WIG facilitates, the working groups are led by key government partners, including the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) and the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC). Rather than defining which policies and regulations need to be reformed from an outside perspective, WIG supports working group members to identify and own policy reform efforts. Policies are developed in coordination with civil society representatives to ensure that they respond to the realities on the ground. We also bring in the perspectives of WIG interns — the ultimate beneficiaries of these policies as they start their careers in government. The project provides targeted technical assistance at the request of government partners. Currently, WIG’s policy team is supporting MOWA to draft Afghanistan’s new national gender policy.
This model has already been successful. In 2018, WIG supported the Afghan government to formally adopt the reformed Anti-Harassment Law. The new law lays out a detailed definition of harassment — in public and in the workplace. It also establishes formal complaint mechanisms and anti-harassment committees within ministries, while setting forth clear penalties for harassment.
Building Societal Support for Women
“Religion does not impose restrictions on the rights of women and their jobs, religion has no problem with them [women], with women’s rights, work, and their development in society; you can see this in the history of Islam,” according to Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs Faiz Mohammad Osmani. This important message transmits as the project implements communications and outreach campaigns to expand the impact of project interventions and promote local stakeholder support for women working outside the home. Communications and outreach activities promote positive public attitudes toward women in government, advocate for employment, and support the adoption of policy reforms by government institutions.
WIG implements a targeted and layered approach to communications and outreach — using radio, television, and SMS platforms to promote positive behavior change among male heads of household, religious leaders, the media, and the public at large. These messages reflect the culture of storytelling in Afghan culture. From a radio drama series that features strong women in conservative communities to digital training resources for government employees, the project uses a variety of tools to cultivate positive, sustainable change.
Moving Faster in the Right Direction
Unfortunately, not all the problems for women in Afghanistan are solved yet. But by employing more women in the Afghan civil service, supporting policy reforms, and widely disseminating positive communications, Afghanistan can become more inclusive, diverse, and accepting of women in the workplace. WIG supports this paradigm shift, specifically for women working in the Afghan government.