The level of economic and social development in the rural parts of Afghanistan is very low. Conflicts, corruption and mismanagement in the administration result in local communities enjoying extremely limited opportunities to effect change. People are powerless, geared to survive, and cannot claim their rights against authorities. They often find it difficult to carry out the measures they think are necessary.
Everyone is entitled to exert influence
Contributing to effective, efficient governance at the local level is a vital part of SCA operations, but getting involved locally and demanding rights is neither simple nor risk-free. The current conflicts between the government and armed opposition groups over power and influence have led to further uncertainty.
The hardest hit are the already vulnerable groups - women, children, people with disabilities and marginalized groups in rural areas. Other recurring problems include the general weakness of the state and the lack of ability and limited resources of local governments.
One major problem is unequal representation in local decision-making bodies. Women, People with Disabilities (PwD) and other marginalized groups are often excluded from participating in development planning, implementation and making decisions, which means that their rights are not fulfilled. Their interests are protected to a lesser extent by both the authorities and the communities themselves.
What does SCA do?
Women and people with disabilities are groups that have traditionally not been included in joint decision-making. It is therefore part of the SCA mission to strengthen these groups' participation. Their representation in both self-help groups and development councils is important as these bodies must reflect society at large.
In order to achieve the required change, efforts have been coordinated in several areas. In villages, Community Development Councils and community-based organizations receive support from SCA to plan and budget for their work, as well as support in arguing for their rights vis-à-vis decision-makers. SCA supports and helps the formation of local councils. They provide the opportunity to influence and participate in decisions concerning the village's future, for groups that are usually excluded too. SCA supplies advice on project management training, gender equality, disaster risk reduction and conflict resolution, as well as on human rights and legal issues. The councils are elected by the relevant villages.
Staff in local authorities receive basic training in information management and community-driven development in order to carry out their work more effectively. These trainings have been very much appreciated and help bringing multiple stakeholders to address issues related to development delivery.
Infrastructure a precondition for development
In order to fulfil the enormous needs for clean water, livelihoods infrastructure and other community facilities in rural areas, development councils implement development projects every year. Together with SCA they discuss and determine priorities. Representation in these councils must be broad-based and inclusive.
SCA started the implementation of rural water supply projects for 28 communities in 2018, and continued physical works of a piped water scheme designed to deliver water to 14 communities located in a water-scarce area of Takhar province. We also implemented 51 economic development projects that included roads, protection walls and canal rehabilitation.
Villages were connected by local roads which create interfaces that are important for both social and economic development of rural communities. Irrigation projects have led to better crop yields, and retention walls have saved farmers from crop losses and land damage associated with floods and landslides.