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United Nations Development Programme

The Development Advocate 1 May 2013

Empowered lives. Empowered lives. Resilient nations. Resilient nations.

afghanistan edition

Inside the micro hydroelectric power plant in Kata Qala village. (Joel van Houdt/UNDP)

Micro Hydroelectric Power

Lighting up the homes and lives of thousands By Mujib Mashal Borghaso, Bamyan Province — Eleven-year-old Mohamed Nasim, who is in sixth grade, wakes up at 5:30 every morning to take computer lessons in a makeshift classroom here in Borghaso village, Bamyan Province, northwest of Kabul. He draws a house in Microsoft Paint, colors it, and types his name in the corner as his young teacher watches over his shoulders. The back of Mohamed’s hands are dried and cracked by the cold weather. Outside, just in the distance, farmers tend to their wheat, trying to bring in the harvest in preparation for the harsh winter ahead. The mountain peaks in the distance already gleam with snow. Mohamed is one of 46 people— 28 children and 18 adults—benefiting from this computer class. The freshly built room was donated by a local elder, but what makes such initiatives possible here in Bamyan province, where there is no power grid, is the use

of micro hydroelectric power plants. Afghanistan has one of the lowest per capita rates of electricity consumption in the world. In 2007 only seven percent of the population had access to electricity, according to Government data. Since then, that figure has risen to about 30 percent, thanks to an increase in imported electricity and the construction of micro hydroelectric and solar panel stations. But imported electricity, which provides more than half of the country’s power, does not reach Bamyan province. As a result, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has funded the construction of 18 micro hydroelectic power plants in Bamyan province, with a budget of US$997,000 generously provided in part by the Governments of Denmark, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway and the European Union. The plants are currently generating a cumulative 196 kilowatts of electricity

government turns to Merit-based recruitment Local Democracy and Development Go Hand-in-hand PAGE 4


that is powering 2,163 households, benefiting more than 15,000 people. These plants are not only bringing tangible improvements to the lives of the people who now depend on them for access to electricity, they are creating jobs for locals, improving relationships with the Government of Afghanistan and providing environmentally-friendly, and thus sustainable, sources of energy. And in a country where many people depend on kerosene oil, wood and cow dung for heat and lighting, they offer a clean and healthy alternative, eliminating indoor smoke. According to the World Health Organization, every year nearly two million people around the world die prematurely from illness attributable to indoor air pollution from household solid fuel use. Take the power plant in Borghaso. The local shura—a traditional assembly of tribal elders and religious scholars— took eight months to build it, at a total cost of $62,064. continued on pAGE 2

New Environmental Councils Changing the Face of Development in Provincial communities


Mr. Ajay Chhibber meets H.E. Vice-President Mr. Khalili. (UNDP Afghanistan/Sayeed Farhad Zalmai)

Dear Readers, It is with great pleasure that I introduce this edition of the Afghan Development Advocate. Our mission with the Advocate is to provide you with a look at Afghanistan through an unusual point of view: that of Afghan men and women who are spearheading positive change, confronting the odds and defying conventional wisdom. UNDP is privileged to be part of that transformational process. All the stories of our projects there, some bigger in scope than others, have at their core the common aspirations of a people yearning to make their country a better place. Their dreams and hopes dovetail with UNDP’s core values and mandate in the areas of poverty reduction; democratic governance; crisis prevention and recovery; and environment and sustainable development. It has become clear that the Afghan people are eager to learn and explore, and take on new challenges. Support from across the world—from governments, aid organizations and corporations—has been vital in that effort. And it is making a difference, as we demonstrate in the pages of the Afghan Development Advocate. So please do take the time to read their stories, and listen to what they say. We hope you enjoy reading this special edition, and please feel free to share any suggestions, feedback or ideas. Sincerely,


Ajay Chhibber Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator of UNDP and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific

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The Development Advocate 1


MANAGING THETRANSITION IN AFGHANISTAN By Rebec a Grynspan, Associate Administrator, UNDP

As the international forces prepare for their announced military drawdown date of 2014 in Afghanistan, the United Nations system and other global organizations working there can expect to play a stepped up role in working with the Afghan Government to help manage the transition and beyond. After more than 50 years of development work in Afghanistan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has a special and critical task. Indeed, our country programme there remains our largest operation across all the countries we work in, and we are committed to staying in Afghanistan for the long haul, with defined plans to work even more closely with the country and its people to build a stronger nation. Since 2001, an important area of our engagement in Afghanistan has been our support to the Law and Order Trust Fund (LOTFA), a programme within the Ministry of the Interior. LOTFA has ensured that Afghanistan, with all its security challenges and other operational risks, has had a police force that now numbers almost 140,000 police officers. In

CONTENTS hydroelectric 1 Micro power: Lighting up the homes and lives

the months and years ahead, UNDP will work closely with the Ministry of Interior to streamline LOTFA’s operational effectiveness and transparency so it continues to be seen as a bulwark against any possible challenge to the country’s stability and well-being. Besides LOTFA, UNDP operates development projects—alongside the Government and civil society counterparts—across the country’s 34 provinces, with the aim of contributing to a secure transition as national and sub-national institutions take increasing responsibility for the country’s development agenda, management of its economy and governance of its citizens. For instance, since 2002, with the Afghan Government, UNDP has completed more than 2,300 rural infrastructure projects benefiting over 14 million Afghans. These projects have provided wages for approximately 3.8 million working days through a cash-for-work programme. Our work also ensures almost 1.6 million Afghans have access to safe drinking water, while nearly 132,000 people in rural areas have power for lighting, education and agriculture

The Afghanistan country programme remains the largest UNDP operation across all countries, and UNDP is committed to staying for the long haul, with defined plans to work even more closely with the country and its people to build a stronger nation.

editorial team Nicholas Rosellini, Deodat Maharaj, Satinder Bindra, Pernille Mortensen, Trygve Olfarnes, Kumar M Tiku, Megan Cossey and Maureen Lynch

Managing 2 Editorial: the transition in Afghanistan

Articles may be freely reproduced as long as credit is given. Design Suazion, Inc.

Bringing the police closer to the people

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use Islam 5 Clerics to protect women and their rights

A girl taking a computer lesson in a makeshift classroom in Borghaso village, Bamyan province. (Joel van Houdt/UNDP)

Recruiting: Female 5 police officers democracy 6 Local and development go hand-in-hand

Empowered lives. Empowered lives. Resilient nations. Resilient nations.

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continues to be a challenge. In a country where 46 percent of the population is 14 or under, youth employment and participation in the economy, civil society and governance is key. Influenced by mass upheavals led mainly by disaffected youth in the Middle East, UNDP realizes Afghan youth can just as easily and quickly engineer similar social turmoil. Trapped by their frustration and lack of opportunities, these youth can also be targeted for recruitment by insurgent groups. Given such a scenario, UNDP has been underscoring the need for supporting the Government to develop strategies targeting younger Afghans. With UNDP support, the Ministry of Youth Affairs has started to engage private sector partners to provide vocational and professional training for poor youth. In all, over the past few years some 200,000 younger Afghans have either been enroled in professional courses or received vocational and other forms of training. UNDP believes that the future of Afghanistan, its development and security, is in the hands of its own proud people. Indeed, we look forward to our own drawdown date, when our large-scale presence is no longer needed. Until then, we will continue to work with the Government and the people of Afghanistan to ensure a secure and peaceful future for all. n

Published by United Nations Development Programme Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific

of thousands

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thanks to a UNDP-supported network of micro hydropower plants. Based on these experiences and responding to the country’s own stated needs, UNDP will increasingly focus on three key areas of development: shoring up democratic governance, including elections; elevating the status of women; and improving employment opportunities for young people. In terms of governance, UNDP has contributed to rebuilding and improving critical state institutions in Afghanistan, including the Independent Election Commission and the Parliament. As the Independent Election Commission steadily takes over responsibility of the electoral process, UNDP is working to help the Commission to improve voter identification

methods and broaden democratic participation in preparation for the upcoming 2014 presidential election, building on lessons learned from past elections. We are also strengthening governing bodies at the provincial and municipal levels. After more than 30 years of conflict, Afghanistan continues to face enormous development challenges, many of them related to the advancement of women. The country cannot substantively improve its human development indices— among the world’s lowest—without significant progress in women’s rights. This is why UNDP will ensure a strong emphasis on gender in all of its development programmes. For example, as part of LOFTA, UNDP not only helped to recruit and train 1,500 female police officers, but also has started a widespread media and outreach campaign aimed at convincing the population that Afghan women have a critical contribution in enhancing the security of their communities. Even though much work remains to be done to achieve gender equality in Afghanistan, women are taking an active part in decision-making at several levels. More than 27 percent of seats in the country’s Parliament are held by women, and an active civil society has developed in recent years. Nevertheless, enabling women to affect political decisions, including those related to peace negotiations,

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lighting up the homes and lives of thousands


About 160 families, or 1,120 people, benefit from the 12.7 kw of electricity generated by the plant. Putting the shuras in charge of the projects ensures local ownership, and is the first step in guaranteeing that the plants will actually be useful and thus maintained by the communities who build them. The shuras not only oversee and coordinate the construction, but they also put in place a tariff system after the plants open, ensuring that

they pay for themselves. In Borghaso, the shura charges a monthly rate of about 90 cents per light bulb for electricity and $1.70 per television set. The tariff is collected by the shura cashier. The two electricians manning the station—who were trained in the provincial capital through a 15-day UNDP workshop—are paid a monthly salary by the shura, from the collected tariff. The rest of the money from the tariffs is put in savings to be used if the power plant malfunctions at any point in the future. While electricity is now providing a cheap substitute to oil lamps and smoky woodstoves in the evenings— reducing household lighting costs by almost 90 percent in addition to

indoor pollution—people using the plants are also trying to figure out creative ways to make use of the electricity during the off hours of the day. The computer class in Borghoso is one example, although for now the hefty monthly fee of $10 per student in this poor village keeps enrolment low. “These days the world is one of knowledge and technology,” said Mohamed Hakim, head of the Borghaso shura; his daughter, a second grader, attends the computer class. “Yes, the fee is a bit much— but parents are willing to pay for it, because if not equipped with these skills, our kids won’t make it in the work force.” continued on pAGE 3

lighting up the homes and lives of thousands COVER STORY: CONTINUED FROM PAGE 2

In Sia-Khak district, about a 20minute drive from Borghaso, the local shura decided to build a flour mill attached to its micro hydroelectric power plant. The flour mill is able to grind 1,100 kilos of wheat a day. The mill charges one kilo of wheat for every 10 kilos that it grinds. In Kata Qala village of Yakawlang district, about a 1.5 hour drive from Bamyan province’s capital city, the shura also decided to create a daytime computer course that would use electricity produced by their hydroelectric plant. About 30 students learn basic computer literacy in two different shifts, and pay a monthly fee of $5. The Kata Qala power plant was built in 2010, and the shura has saved about $2,000 from tariffs after paying the electricians’ salaries. At one of Kata Qala’s regular meetings, Nabi Muzzafari, UNDP’s on-the-ground partner from the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, urged the launch of a number of projects he believes will bring tangible and positive change to the local economy. “You should save a small amount of the money in case the power plant malfunctions, but with the rest why don’t you start an English language class or hire a teacher to provide basic literacy for adults?” he says. “Or even better, why don’t you install two carpet-weaving stations … If you can teach 10 people how to weave carpets, you would have done wonders to their financial situation.”

Electricity is now providing a cheap substitute to oil lamps and smoky woodstoves in the evenings— reducing household lighting costs by almost 90 percent in addition to indoor pollution. In the dynamic discussion, as members of the shura and Muzzafari weigh the benefits of different projects they can implement from the saved money, a clear picture emerges: the micro hydroelectric power plants are not only lighting the houses of these poor villagers at night, but they are also playing an instrumental role in developing the local economy of some of Afghanistan’s poorest communities. n

Abdul Hamid, an electrician, works at the micro hydroelectric power plant in Borghaso. (Joel van Houdt/UNDP)

Bringing the Police Closer to the People By Kumar M Tiku Farza, Kabul Province—Colonel Noor Aqa Ibrahimkhail, the district Chief of Police for Farza, located 45 kilometres north of Kabul, is a veteran officer who has experienced many brushes with violence and unrest throughout his career. But compared to all of his previous postings, he says, Farza is a haven of peace and tranquility. “The main difference here is that the citizens listen to their elders. The messages we convey to the elders are easily accepted by the whole community. This is amazing—I have not seen it anywhere else,” he says. In September 2009, the Government of Afghanistan, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), started reaching out to communities in eight northern districts in Kabul province to strengthen ties between police officers and regular citizens. The districts of Kabul city, Mirbachakot, Kalakaan, Guldara, Deh Sabz, Qarabagh, Shakar Dara and Istalif were the first to benefit from the outreach. The Policee-Mardumi, or community-policing initiative, forms part of Afghanistan’s most recent national police strategy, and is supported by Switzerland and the United States. Indeed, in the overall backdrop of general public distrust and limited engagement between the police and public, the Farza model of community-policing is showing the way in rebuilding the image of the police as protectors with a human face. The scope to strengthen rule of law in Afghanistan is immense, with the project already at work in Kabul, Herat and Jalalabad and plans to expand throughout 60 districts and 15 provinces. Both the police and public require extensive training to embrace the concept of community-oriented policing. The process of building public trust started by introducing

the local police to community leaders, including elected members of community development councils and district development assemblies, religious leaders, and the local shura, a traditional assembly of tribal elders and religious scholars. Haji Mohammad Hanif, the Malik— or head—of Qalai Salim Khan village in Farza, says that thanks to the Policee-Mardumi (community outreach) initiative and regular meetings with Colonel Ibrahimkhail, security has improved significantly in Farza. This has helped speed up construction of basic infrastructure across the district, such as roads, schools and health centres across the district. “Our weekly meetings with the district governor and the police chief have provided a forum to report on threats, analyse insurgent activity and find common solutions,” he explains. “We will not allow insurgents to infiltrate into our villages as they are a threat to our lives as well as to our infrastructure.” Raz Mohammad, a local shopkeeper, agrees with his village head, Haji Mohammad Hanif. “Unlike other parts of the country, we have never had to shut down our businesses because of incidents of crime or violence,” Mohammad says. “Not in the last year, at least. The credit must go to the role played by our community elders and the local police who work together to make peace an everyday reality in Farza.” The main security challenge for Farza comes from its geographical location. The district is surrounded by mountains and with scattered troop deployment it is easy for the Taliban to occupy one of the hilltops nearby and mount attacks on the district. Indeed, the Taliban maintains a huge presence in a conflict-ridden district west of Farza. Over the last five months, Taliban fighters have planted mines in inhabited areas, but thanks to the

cooperation of young community members, the mines were identified and defused before exploding. The police chief credits the close ties between the police and communities with these small but significant gains in maintaining security in the district. “The good thing about our community-police solidarity in Farza is that we all know each other,” says Dr. Bahloul, a respected community elder who goes by one name. He says women’s issues are regularly discussed in district-level meetings. “We have shura (traditional) councils at the village level that have women’s representation. The council representatives in the district committee direct the attention of district officials to issues raised by women,” he explains. The community elders agree that the police have improved security for girls in schools, clinics and other government institutions. There are four high schools for girls, five middle-level and six junior-level schools serving Farza’s population of 61,000 people. At a local health centre, women even work the night shifts. “This district has a tradition of respect for women,” says the village

Colonel Noor Agha Ibrahimkhail, Farza District Police Chief, meets with local village heads and religious leaders in Farza, Kabul Province. (Photo: UNDP/Sayeed Farhad Zalmai)

head, Haji Mohammad Hanif. “We make sure that crimes against women are dealt with firmly.” While the community elders and Ulemas (religious leaders) have assisted the Government in dealing with petty crime and securing progress in development, there is a need to equip the police with proper weapons and training so that external threats to peace efforts in the district can be dealt with more effectively, explains Haji Mohammad Hanif. Citizens claim that stealing and robbery occur less frequently. “What keeps us busy is issues related to family disputes. Most of these have to do with economic distress and joblessness. If we had more opportunities for work for our youth, they would never be recruited by the insurgents. This could only enhance our security,” Haji Hanif says. The Government of Afghanistan is favoring this new approach to policing. At a recent meeting with foreign embassy officials in Kabul, Minister of Interior Ghulam Mujtaba Patang called for a move towards a civilian police force that includes unarmed officers, a move that would help “decrease the distance between the population and the police.”n

“Our weekly meetings with the district governor and the police chief have provided a forum to report on threats, analyse insurgent activity and find common solutions. We will not allow insurgents to infiltrate into our villages as they are a threat to our lives as well as to our infrastructure.”– Haji Mohammad Hanif, Malik of Qalai Salim Khan village afghanistan edition

The Development Advocate 3

Government turns to merit-based recruitment UNDP supported the establishment of the first female Provincial Council members network in the Northern region of Afghanistan. (UNDP Afghanistan)

By Duncan Keith Wilson Kabul—Sayra Shakib Sadat was a young female school student from an illiterate family, living in an isolated village in northern Afghanistan, when fighting broke out among political leaders and the mujahedin in the early 1980s. The fighters ran a brutal racket of extortion and violence, and government health and education services rarely reached her village of Zargarkhana, or other contested parts in the country’s northern provinces. Twenty years later, as a teacher in the same province of Jawzjan, Shakib encountered similar repression, this time under Taliban rule. “I went through a very difficult time,” remembers Shakib, who is now 50. “Since I was a student I had a huge interest in government. I was always wishing that people working in their posts did their job with honesty and served the community and the people.” “But my experience of government was shaped by fighting, and I

gave up on the future,” she says. Yet in January 2013, at an oathtaking ceremony in Kabul, Shakib became Afghanistan’s sole female District Governor, among 61 new District Governors and 15 Deputy Provincial Governors appointed through a merit-based recruitment process. They all swore to promote good governance and effective service delivery, uphold Islam and observe Afghanistan’s Constitution and laws. More than 50 percent of Afghanistan’s 373 District Governors and nearly all 34 Deputy Provincial Governors are now recruited through a transparent and competitive process lead by the Government of Afghanistan and supported by UNDP. This is a significant change, compared to five years ago, when all District and Deputy Provincial Governors were appointed, often on the basis of political affiliation. If that system still existed, Shakib says, candidates like her, raised in isolation and poverty, would never

Sayra Shakib Sadat, District Governor of Khwaja Koh Dokoh, is Afghanistan’s sole female district governor. She was appointed through a merit-based recruitment process supported by UNDP. (UNDP Afghanistan)

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stand a chance of being selected. The merit-based process “is important for a better future for governance and Afghanistan,” she says. “It will bring great hope for the people of Afghanistan because more educated

the critical link between the central government and the citizens. They need to first understand the problems of the citizens in their area and then work toward solutions.” As District Governor, Shakib coor-

The UNDP merit-based recruitment project supports local governance and public administration reform, empowering provincial and district offices to effectively fulfill their roles, and to improve admin-

“It’s important for me to know the matters of the people, and their expectations from government. We need to enhance awareness of local governance among family members and the community. Not listening to the people is a big problem of local governance.” – Sayra Shakib Sadat, Afghanistan’s only female District Governor and professional people will join the posts.” The new recruitment process is run by Afghanistan’s Civil Service Commission. It publicly advertises vacancies nationwide, with job qualifications that specify minimal educational and professional requirements, and offering salaries in alignment with Afghanistan’s civil service salary scale. The Commission works with the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, and their joint committee administers a written exam on management and administration, and interviews successful candidates. Renaud Meyer, Deputy Country Director of UNDP Afghanistan, says that such merit-based appointments are pivotal to the promotion of good governance, particularly in the context of the upcoming political transition in 2014 and beyond. “The Afghan State is at a critical juncture of nation building amidst the ongoing conflict,” Meyer says. “In such a situation, government officials at the subnational level need to be

dinates and oversees the activities of line departments such as health and education, security and justice in her district of Khuwaja Do Koh, in Jawzjan Province. In a sparsely furnished government office in Khuwaja Do Koh, Shakib meets with a long procession of line department heads and community leaders. “It’s important for me to know the matters of the people, and their expectations from government,” she says. “We need to enhance awareness of local governance among family members and the community. Not listening to the people is a big problem of local governance.” At the UNDP-supported oath taking ceremony, the Director General of the Directorate, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, called merit-based recruitment “a great event in the subnational governance of Afghanistan.” “Appointments are no longer based on tribe, race, gender or privilege, and District and Deputy Provincial Governors can perform their jobs with full transparency and accountability,” he says.

istrative and performance management systems. Once in office, District Governors’ challenges can include a lack of resources, insecurity and— for Shakib—personal criticism and harassment. “One of the challenges is competition from men in the district, due to community ignorance that says women cannot be representatives in the districts,” she says. “But the day I decided to serve the realm of people and government I realized there would be challenges from many sides and I decided to stake out my goals. I have many challenges, and I attempt to overcome these challenges.” For Shakib, the newly appointed District Governor of Khuwaja Do Koh, this understanding and focus on solutions is fundamental to good governance. The work is challenging, but she perseveres. Her name, Shakib says, means patience. And her favorite poem, in Dari, reminds her that with patience, “a stone will become a precious ruby.” n

clerics use Islam to protect women and their rights By Sayed Barez, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan Kabul—The Government of Afghanistan is tapping mullahs and ulemas (Islamic scholars and clerics) as well as other religious and community leaders to make people aware of the rights of women in accordance with Islamic Law, through a programme supported by UNDP. The national programme, which is being implemented by the Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, requires mullahs and other Islamic and community leaders to raise awareness about the consequences of early marriage, forced marriage and gender-based violence. Mullahs, ulemas and community leaders participating in the programme— supported by Italy and the United Kingdom—have begun to speak out about violence against women during Friday sermons in mosques. Their listeners, all men, are told about the negative implications of such actions as laid out by Islamic texts. The hope is that by involving men from the outset as agents of change, society’s views toward the status of women will begin to shift. “In Afghanistan, when people are given instructions based on their religious values, they will easily listen and accept them,” said Mawalwi Abdul Hanan, a participant. “We believe that by involving religious leaders such programmes will reduce domestic violence.” Participants also discuss inheritance issues, including a comparison between what Islamic Law says about a woman’s right to inheritance and what happens in practice. Afghanistan’s population consists mainly of traditional communities who strictly adhere to their local cultures and customs. As a result, people often have a deep-seated trust for their religious scholars and mullahs, who are respected as the custodians of their society’s values. “This kind of training is very essential for people like us who work in government positions and deal with people’s cases,” said Abdul Wasa Antazar, deputy district head of Rodad district in Nangarhar province. “We have learned a lot of things about women’s rights and violence against women in this training, which we will use in our daily work now.” Antzar, his 25 colleagues and a group of village elders participated in a 10-day training course on women’s rights. The programme started in the northern Balkh province in late 2009. Two hundred fifty mullahs from five districts took part in a series of trainings, knowledge-building and participatory discussions on women’s rights according to Islam. Today, the programme has reached over 3,900 community and religious leaders in six provinces. Faridullah, 35, has noticed the new messages about women’s rights at his mosque in Jalalabad since his mullah participated in the workshops. “For me, personally, I did not know that much about women rights, but since our mullah started to talk about them I have learned a lot and now I always try to attend his speeches on a regular basis,” Faridullah says. “If such speeches by mullahs continue in the future I am sure violence against women will significantly decrease in Afghan communities.” UNDP is working with the Government of Afghanistan to address women’s needs, a crucial element for the country’s development. Recently, the Government committed to fast-tracking the increase of women’s participation in civil service at all levels to 30 percent by 2013. n

UNDP supports workshops on gender-based violence for Afghanistan’s religious leaders. (UNDP Afghanistan)

Lieutenant Colonel Latif Bayat and Captain Zohra Daulatzia discuss their experiences as police officers. (UNDP Afghanistan)

recruiting: Female Police Officers BY Titus Moetsabi Kabul—It was four years ago that Captain Zohra Daulatzia joined the Afghan National Police. But the mother of two girls aged 10 and 8 years still gets excited about that momentous day in her life when she achieved one of her greatest life’s ambitions. “I was excited to wear the uniform and felt like I was in the sky and not on earth. I was full of joy,” she says. Captain Daulatzia’s experience as a woman and a police officer is still a very rare one in Afghanistan. Half the population in Afghanistan consists of women, but only one percent of the Afghan National Police are female officers. In order for the national police force to deliver quality services to the entire population, the Ministry of Interior aims to increase this number. “There are always big challenges in male-dominated societies,” explains Lieutenant Colonel Latifa Bayat, Deputy Director in the Ministry of Interior’s Gender Unit, a woman who joined the force 15 years ago. “Our customs do not allow women to work in the police force. Women, have no access to education … hence they end up having low capacity, even in terms of getting jobs in the police force.” UNDP, through its Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan—with support from its development partners—is working closely with the Ministry of Interior, where the Fund is based, to make this happen. Beginning in 2010, the Fund and the Ministry established a system for the national police force to begin recruiting women police officers. UNDP and the Ministry also initiated a series of multimedia campaigns on radio and television encouraging women to apply for police jobs, and it set up a telephone information hotline and sent police representatives out to recruit girls right out of secondary school. In addition, the UNDP project is providing specialized three monthlong training courses in leadership, management, accounting and information technology for women police officers at the rank of lieutenant colonel and above. All police officers are now receiving training in the new code of conduct by the UN Office for

Drugs and Crime and, in collaboration with the European Union’s Police Mission in Afghanistan, female officers who handle domestic violence cases are taking a course in crime scene analysis. UNDP’s Law and Order Trust Fund and the Ministry of Interior established 33 ‘family response units’ across the country. As part of this expansion, additional women police officers who will staff these units are being trained in information technology, basic crime scene investigation, forensic awareness, exhibits handling, interviewing witnesses, victims and suspects, taking statements and compiling crime dockets. Female police officers who have participated in these specialized training courses say that, as a result, they have been able to improve their day-to-day decision-making abilities, their knowledge of policies and practices and their overall confidence on the job. Serious challenges remain, however, making the recruitment of women police officers a formidable task, one that requires more effective hiring campaigns as well as changes in attitudes both within the police force and within the communities they serve. “The Afghan National Police around the country faces a big problem with their security in general,” says Marina Hamidzada, a gender specialist who works for the Law and Order Trust Fund. “For women police officers, the situation is worse. They cannot even patrol the streets wearing police uniforms,” as it can—and has—proven to be a death sentence for them. The biggest challenge women police officers face is how they are viewed by their fellow officers says Captain Daulatzia, who has benefited from some of the programme’s training courses. “Although they are powerful as women, and they can run departments by themselves, there is a strong perception in the police force

that women police officers are weak,” she says. “This ignorance about the power and knowledge of women is something we are trying to change every day.” In a 2011 UNDP-sponsored police perception survey, the contributions of female police officers were positively noted, particularly in terms of family issues and domestic violence. According to the survey, 53 percent of Afghans said they were in favor of having female police officers in their community. By August 2012 there were a total of 1,445 female police officers spread across various ranks in the national police force, an increase of 1,000 since 2007 when the recruitment programme began. Their numbers include three brigadier generals, 35 lieutenants and 584 sergeants. This is a far cry from the 5,000 women that the programme hopes to recruit by June 2014. However, the Law and Order Trust Fund and the Ministry of Interior have agreed to fast track recruitment while simultaneously addressing the challenges of recruiting women to the force. “There is a need for a monitoring mechanism to ensure that posts earmarked for women do not end up being filled by men,” warns Captain Daulatzia. Women working on the national police now have a forum for matters related to their welfare and profession in the Afghan National Police Women’s Association, which was established with the help of the Law and Order Trust Fund and the Ministry of Interior. Both Lieutenant Colonel Bayat, who has been in the police force for 15 years, and Captain Daulatzia, who is now in her third year of law school at a private university she attends in the evenings after work, say that through the Afghan National Police Women’s Association they met other strong women police officers who were just as capable as their male counterparts. n

“I was excited to wear the uniform and felt like I was in the sky and not on earth. I was full of joy.” – Captain Zohra Daulatzia

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The Development Advocate 5

Local Democracy and Development Go Hand-in-hand By Kumar M Tiku Mahmud-i-Raqi, Kapisa Province— Mushtari, a 42-year-old high school graduate and secretary of the District Development Assembly of Mahmudi-Raqi district, some 80 kilometres north of Kabul, is presenting to fellow Assembly members a project to build a primary school for girls. Having just completed a six-day workshop on project design, monitoring and financial management, Mushtari speaks assuredly on the project goals, a security assessment of the village where the proposed school would be built and an overall work plan for the project. Though covered and invisible behind the burqa, the traditional veil that many Muslim women wear, Mushtari’s voice is loud and clear. She is actually participating in a UNDPsupported mock training exercise, meant to conclude the training programme, but the Assembly members are real and they listen to her with attention and respect. Since 2006, almost every district of Afghanistan—388 out of a total of 402—has appointed and supported a District Development Assembly, thanks to UNDP support to a nationwide programme focused on creating legitimate and accountable local governing bodies. Additionally, in over 120 of these districts, the

governance programme has established District Information Centres to collect and provide reliable and much needed data on development and the social and economic aspects of their respective districts. In contrast to the traditional jirgas and other forms of villagelevel governing groups, Assembly members are elected by the people they serve and are mainly tasked with improving the quality, transparency and ongoing sustainability of rural development projects. As part of the initiative, most of the new Assemblies and their members have received training in local governance, conflict resolution, the importance of gender equality and the nuts and bolts of making development projects happen, from fundraising and procurement to monitoring and implementation.

Reconciling Families

“In the absence of a functional court system, locals prefer us over the courts when it comes to arbitrating reconciliation among families and neighbours,” says Mohammad Malang Miskinyaar, 50, chairperson of the Mahmud-i-Raqi Assembly for which Mushtari acts as secretary. He also says that while the jirgas sometimes made decisions that went against modern Afghanistan law,

the District Development Assembly system goes in accordance with the law. Equally important, the Assemblies include elected female representatives, resulting in the real concerns and voices of women being openly expressed and addressed by the Assemblies. A resident of Deh Baba Ali village in Mahmud-i-Raqi district, Mushtari has risen from being a member of her district’s Development Assembly to the role of secretary since the Assembly was first established three years earlier. A mother of six, she volunteers for three hours a day to do the Assembly’s work. She is especially keen on meeting women from the district’s villages individually and in groups, listening to their issues and bringing them to the Assembly meetings. Mushtari says that poverty among women in the district is widespread, and she believes the Assembly has been key in bringing forward projects that benefit women in particular. “Our District Development Assembly has already done a good job of implementing income-generation projects for women such as bee-keeping, tomato processing and baking,” Mushtari says. In Sufian village, part of Mir Bacha Kot district on the outskirts of Kabul province, vineyard owner Ghulam Mohiuddin praises his District

Mohammad Malang Miskinyaar, chairperson of the District Development Assembly in Mahmud-i-Raqi. (Joel van Houdt/UNDP)

Development Assembly’s success in the building of a 150-metre irrigation canal that has not only put a stop to recurring fights over water distribution among villagers but has resulted in an increase in their crop yields. For example, Mohiuddin’s vineyards are now producing 80 percent of their full potential yield, compared to 50 percent the previous year. “The canal has been a boon,” he says. Back in Mahmud-i-Raqi district, District Development Assembly members are proud of the capacity they have built for themselves over the last three years in proposal writing, project design, monitoring, procurement and financial management.

Soaring expectations

Looking forward, however, Miskinyaar, the Assembly’s chair, worries that members do not yet draw a salary, and that they still lack regular funding to run Assembly affairs. “With expectations soaring, we often find ourselves spending long hours addressing issues that the locals bring to us,” says one member. “Even though a small grant of US$170 a month is provided, it is hardly enough to meet our daily needs.” Meanwhile, the district itself is crying out for resources to match

many of the plans that its Assembly has rolled out in its district development plan. Before the creation of the District Development Assemblies, there were very few rural development projects underway in Afghanistan and those that existed were poorly implemented. Miskinyaar cites the example of a failed energy project based on diesel generators that were too expensive to maintain. “Now if the District Development Assembly was to put its mind to an energy project, we would propose a micro hydroelectric project that stands a better test of sustainability,” says Waris, the Assembly’s deputy chair. The Assemblies’ success in Afghanistan has spurred progress in developing a unified policy for coherent, decentralized districtlevel development. Going forward, a recent Presidential Decree has tasked UNDP’s partner ministry, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, with unifying a number of the District Development Assemblies with other existing shuras into District Coordination Councils. UNDP and the Ministry are playing a leading role in preparing regulations for the establishment of these new Councils, which will be ultimately responsible for coordinating development and governance at the district level. n

A woman works in a tomato processing factory north of Kabul. The local District Development Agency set up the factory as part of a jobs project for women. (Joel van Houdt/UNDP)

Abdul Waris, the Deputy Chair of the Mahmud-i-Raqi District Development Assembly, speaks at a meeting. (Joel van Houdt/UNDP)

6 The Development Advocate

afghanistan edition

New Environmental Councils Changing the Face of Development in Provincial communities

Nine-year-old Shabana and her brother draw water for their family from Char-i-Kar’s only water source, the Joe-e-Projey canal. (Sayeed Farhad Zalmai/UNDP)

By Kumar M Tiku Char-i-Kar, Parwan Province— Standing at the edge of Joe-eProjey canal in the northern town of Char-i-Kar, Mohammad Tahir, a car mechanic, rues the fate of children who drink water from the local canal. “This canal has snuffed out many, many young lives. It is a bed of dirt and disease,” he says sadly, with moist eyes. The 70-year-old patriarch of a large family of eight children and a gaggle of grandchildren is echoing what local residents have known for years. The canal water is dangerous, sometimes deadly, to human life and health. For an estimated 10,000 families in Char-i-Kar the Joe-e-Projey canal on the Panjshir River in Parwan province is the only source of drinking water. Unsustainable economic growth and the lack of sewage systems have caused the once pristine canal to drain and become clogged by garbage. Change is on the way, however, with a new environmental agency planning to clean up the canal and to combat a host of other environmental problems in Parwan. Habib Rahman, 36, is a money changer and a father of five children. “We are caught in a quagmire of disease, death and poverty,” he says. “When we take our children to the doctor, the water from the canal is the culprit. Not many can afford medical treatment so often we let our children die.” But the newly formed Provincial Environment Advisory Council in Parwan, some 60 kilometres north of Kabul, is aiming to make a difference. The Council is in discussions with local government officials to clean up the canal. Today, 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces have these Provincial Environment Advisory Councils, thanks to a nationwide environmental management initiative supported by UNDP in partnership with the Food and Agricultural Organization and the UN Environment Programme, and with financial backing from the

Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund. The Councils are legally mandated by the central Government and meet twice a year. The 30-member Councils include mayors, heads of local government departments, community elders, the religious Ulema—made up of senior clerics and religious scholars—and representatives from women and youth civil society organizations. The Councils are specifically charged with both advisory and advocacy roles, helping to mold provincial-level environmental policy and procedures. Development and infrastructure projects across Afghanistan are increasingly being made to go through basic environmental and public assessments by the Government, a task that the Councils are taking on. Mohammad Mahfouz Kohistani, the provincial director for Parwan’s National Environment Protection Agency, which convenes the Environment Advisory Council, says his agency, along with the Council, is closely monitoring the development of a new urban settlement on the outskirts of Char-i-Kar called Ahmed Shah Massoud City, named after a legendary Tajik fighter. Kohistani says Massoud City is being designed according to stringent environmental standards. For example, proper care is being taken to provide drainage and sewage lines. “We wish the residents of the new city never again pay the heavy price for chronic neglect of the environment,” he says. The active involvement of the new provincial councils in the development process in Parwan has led to growing awareness among state and community officials of the environmental threats facing the province. Abdul Wasih Azizi, the provincial head of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development claims environmental issues are strongly reflected in each of the 826 Community Development Council Plans at the village level. His ministry has directed all the Councils and District Development Assemblies to enforce strict environmental standards.

The environmental actions go well beyond cleaning up the canal. The community itself is participating in a large-scale effort to green the region. Residents tell of a Parwan once lush with greenery and full of trees.

“The Kabul-to-Parwan road in my childhood was full of shade, with tall imposing poplar trees lining the road on both sides,” says Kefayatullah, a 35-year-old resident. “The Russians came and launched a massive

tree-cutting drive in order to open clear access for their soldiers. It was as if overnight our villages were stripped and exposed.” But three years ago, Haji Mohammad Khalid, head of neighbouring Golgondy district’s Association of Skilled Laborers and a member of Parwan’s Environment Advisory Council, led a drive that helped plant more than 8,000 pine trees. “The saplings were planted three years ago and are still being looked after by the volunteers, and as a result nearly all the saplings have survived,” he says. Mullah Abdul Wasih Safi, who heads the Ministry of Islamic and Religious Affairs in Parwan, describes the environment as a major responsibility of the Ulema. In fact, he says verses of the Holy Koran deal with the significance of protecting the environment and promoting public hygiene. “I take it as my main religious duty to invite my Muslim brethren to volunteer their services in every way possible for the protection of our fragile environment,” he says. Meanwhile, Parwan’s Provincial Environment Advisory Council has convinced local business to stop burning rubber tires and plastic, a major cause of respiratory illnesses. Bakeries and hamams—public bathing places—were particularly notorious for such practices. Based on the Council’s advice, the provincial government took tough action against some establishments, including the closing of the largest hamam in Char-i-Kar. As a result, most businesses have started to use liquefied natural gas as fuel. n

Today, 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces have Provincial Environment Advisory Councils, thanks to a nationwide environmental management initiative supported by UNDP in partnership with the Food and Agricultural Organization and the UN Environment Programme, and with financial backing from the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund.

“This canal has snuffed out many, many young lives. It is a bed of dirt and disease,” says Mohammad Tahir, 70, a resident of Char-i-Kar. (Sayeed Farhad Zalmai/UNDP)

A volunteer checks on one of 8,000 pine trees planted in Char-i-Kar. (Sayeed Farhad Zalmai/UNDP)

afghanistan edition

The Development Advocate 7

Afghanistan by the Numbers JAWZJAN









UNDP-supported Projects







Democratic Governance Crisis Prevention and Recovery Environment and Sustainable Development



Poverty Reduction and  Sustainable Livelihoods









106 micro hydropower plants completed

1,557 female police

students enrolled in a human rights-based curriculum

officers recruited with UNDP support

1,405 km of roads constructed

with UNDP assistance, connecting 4,228 villages to district centres and markets Images (this page, left to right): Farzana Wahidy/ UNDP; Farzana Wahidy/UNDP; Joel van Houdt/UNDP; Farzana Wahidy/UNDP; Marie Frechon/UNDP

Donors Australia Canada Czech Republic Denmark Finland Germany India Italy Japan Norway Poland

4 million


4.9 million paid workdays through UNDP’s cash-for-work programme

17,023 families now with

access to electricity

Republic of Korea Spain Sweden Switzerland The Netherlands Turkey United Kingdom United States European Union UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

voters cast their ballots in 2010 Parliamentary Elections


Ministry of Interior officials trained in financial management, accounting, human resources, administration, up-to-date payroll and funds transfer technologies.

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The Development Advocate United Nations Development Programme Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific One United Nations Plaza New York, NY 10017 Empowered lives. Resilient nations.

Afghan Development Advocate (ADA)  

Afghan Development Advocate (ADA)

Afghan Development Advocate (ADA)  

Afghan Development Advocate (ADA)