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Herat: Aid for women's capacity-building embezzled

Herat: Aid for women's capacity-building embezzled

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On
Sep 17, 2017 - 09:53

HERAT CITY (Pajhwok): Most of $101 million aid provided for capacity-building programmes for women in western Herat province has allegedly been embezzled, Pajhwok Afghan News has learnt. 

Some local officials and Provincial Council (PC) members confirmed the embezzlement of aid money. They said some civil society organisations working for women's rights won projects worth millions of dollars but failed improve women's situation.

A report from the Economy Department shows $101 million was provided to Herat by foreign countries and organisations for the capacity development of women from 2014- March to 2017. But no constructive work has been done to address women's problems or facilitate them in a tangible manner.

Younis Rahnoud, the economy director, said 280 projects for women were implemented in 2014 at a cost of $42 million, 261 ($35 million) in 2016 and 81 costing $18 million in the first three months of 2017. Some 30 projects worth $6 million were executed to boost women's capacity, without any substantial results.

Rahnoud alleged most of the money meant for women's capacity building was embezzled by the women rights watchdogs. He admitted most capacity-building projects executed in 2016 and this year in Herat were not effective. Civil society organisations were awarded the projects on the basis of their political affiliations, he maintained.

Most of these projects were short-term, according to Rahnoud, who accused the government of not executing long-term schemes.

He, however, promised long-term projects such as construction of schools, dams, roads, bridges, culverts, hospitals, local industry, power supply and poultry farms would be lunched this year. These projects would be implemented at a cost of 117 million.

Embezzlement charges

Meanwhile, some women in Herat City and districts said they were unaware of the entire process, despite the huge amount spent on their capacity building.

They told Pajhwok Afghan News only few capacity-building programmes for a few weeks had been conducted in districts. Such programmes more than an eyewash, they said.

An official from the Women Council for Guzra district who wished to go unnamed said: “Most of the money spent of the women capacity building and uplift are embezzled therefore the capacity building projects were not effective.”

Khadija Rahimi, women affairs director for Shindand district, said half of the money provided by donors for the capacity building of women landed in the pockets of officials and their relatives. In most cases, officials bring their relatives to seminars and workshops.

Fatema Jafari, a Provincial Council member, said: “A small group, say about 20 percent of civil society organisations, works for women's capacity building.”

Fatema Azizi, a resident of Herat, said in seminars and workshops, a specific group of women having links with certain organisation took part. She complained a lot of money was being wasted but there was no strategy to resolve the basic issues facing women.

Zuhal Akbari, another resident of Herat City, said: “In my view, most women-related projects be executed in districts and far-flung areas because there is a lot of ignorance there and women don't know much about their rights.”

Ineffective projects

Officials of some organisations acknowledged certain figures with suspect backgrounds were part of civil society and apparently worked for women’s rights. But, in fact, they worked to promote their personal interests, they added.

Nazir Ahmad Ghafoori, head of Rada, expressed concern over the exploitation of civil society by some elements. H said such civil society activists defamed women’s rights advocacy groups and activities.

Susan Behbodzada, head of Herat Mothers' Association, said: “Women’s capacity building is paid close attention and a huge amount of money has been invested in this area after the fall of the Taliban regime, but such projects haven't yielded the desired outcomes.”

She added most of the projects tended to focus on reports and statistics only instead of delivering meaningful services -- a key reason for their failure to produce change.

However, Abdul Qadir Rahimi, regional head of Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in Herat, said women’s empowerment was being paid enough attention. But it was the responsibility of justice and economy departments to oversee how organisations spent the aid money in the area, he reasoned.

He asked the government to ensure security in districts, where women would benefit from projects the way their counterparts did in the provincial capital.

Hawa Gul Siddiqi, a woman from the Farsi district of Herat, said all projects approved for women were implemented only in districts close to the provincial capital. Remote districts of the province were ignored, she grumbled.

Women in Farsi district be provided with tailoring, embroidery, paste-making and bakery projects to make them financially self-reliant, she suggested.

Inadequate supervision

Wahida Samadi Qalam, the founder of Tahmina Organisation, said many started raising slogans of supporting women -- a vulerable group of society -- after international aid began flowing into Afghanistan and establishment of the provisional government.

She alleged a large number of civil society institutions -- supposedly working for safeguarding women’s rights -- had been created to grab forieng assistance to Afghanistan.

Qalam charged such organisations with exploiting the slogan of ‘women’s support’, using personal relations, obtaining major projects and huge amounts of money. In concrete terms, she said, they were doing nothing effective. Examples of such ineffective orgnisations abounded, she continued.

The absence of a proper mechanism to supervise projects and corruption caused large amounts of aid money to line personal pockets in the name of supporting and defending women’s rights.

Analyst Mohamamd Rafiq Shahir believed the organisations that abused the ‘women’s rights’ slogan rather contributed to violence against women.

Social media complaints

A number of Herat residents said the activities of most civil society institutes were limited to only obtaining projects. They are doing nothing effectively to build women’s capacity in the province.

Nazir Ayubi, wrote on his Facebook page that most of civil society activists had nothing substantial in recent years. In addition, he claimed, the organisations had make no significant achievements in the past either.

Some of them made pious noises on seeing projects, but did not wake up even if the city was drowned, he remarked.

Omar Khalid, another social media user, said civil society activists were only thinking about projects, money and trips to the US and other Europe countries.

Government’s response

The Herat governor’s spokesman, Jailani Farhad, confirmed embezzlement by some civil society institutes. However, he said: “We cannot compare a limited number of self-interested civil society institutes that misused opportunities and resources to other helpful groups.”

He added women in remote areas, whose rights were trampled on by some institutes, should benefit from short- and long-term projects.

Local officials say more than 200 civil society organisations are active in Herat, with 36 working for promoting women’s rights.

nh/mds/mud

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