20 June 2019, Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates - “This program built my confidence that we as women can be agents of positive change in our society,” said Shakiba Ibrahimkhail, a participant in the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) Hiroshima Office’s Women’s Leadership Programme for Afghanistan: The SDGs, Action Plans and Governance 2019.
“It was an opportunity to interact with new people to discuss, learn and share how we can do our part and cultivate gender equality in our community,” she continued, “As well as how we can better assess Afghanistan’s current situation and transform our ideas into action, so that no one is left behind."
Workshop II of the Women’s Leadership Programme took place in Abu Dhabi from June 13–18, bringing together the 15 young Afghan women leaders from 15 public, private and civil society organisations. Organized by the UNITAR Hiroshima Office, the programme is made possible with support from the government and people of Japan. The workshop opened with an inspiration message from H.E. Mrs. Ghani, the First Lady of Afghanistan, who encouraged the participants, who are the next generation, to “ acquire knowledge and competence so that you can engage on the path your older sisters have opened up”.
The six-day workshop focused on implementing action plans from a gender standpoint. In the workshop’s first sessions, Resource Person, Ms. Mariko Saito, Director of Gender Action Platform and National Coordinator of We Empower, gave participants a thorough understanding of gender, women’s leadership, and leading initiatives with a gender lens.
“The participants were a group of strong and passionate young women leaders committed to advancing the status of Afghan women and girls,” said Ms. Saito. “Through the gender and SDGs sessions, they familiarized themselves with the concept of gender equality, SDG targets and indicators, and began to mainstream gender across all SDGs.”
“The UNITAR team provided a safe working space — both physically and mentally — for all participants to share their personal values and experiences and come out fully empowered,”
The second half of the workshop, facilitated by UNITAR Hiroshima Office staff, focused on leading action plans. Following Workshop I, held in Kabul in April, participants developed action plan proposals to address a need they saw in their community or workplace. The proposals, presented on the first day of Workshop II, became practical examples for participants to immediately apply what they learned. Participants revised their proposals after sessions on the results chain, identifying stakeholders, and monitoring and evaluation. On the final day of the workshop, participants once again presented their action plans and received feedback from UNITAR staff.
Participant action plans included Bahara Hussaini’s “The Book Lovers.” In her organizational needs assessment, Ms. Hussaini found that 95% of children in a school in the fifth district of Kabul are not reading books on a regular basis. Her action plan comprised of reading sessions with students and book distribution. The plan aims to boost literacy and critical thinking skills and improve students’ performance in school, with the ultimate goal of reducing dropout rates.
Another participant, Fakhrunisa Ahmadi, plans to build awareness of workplace harassment in Kabul, which affects women and limits their education and job opportunities. She plans to conduct an awareness campaign, hold workshops, and lobby for increased protection for women.
As evidenced by their standout projects, participants found the training practical and highly relevant. Participant Hossnia Mohisni commented,
“Through the trainings in Kabul and Abu Dhabi, I learned how to make plans for my organization by doing environmental analysis and organization need assessments, with consideration for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This knowledge will help us achieve efficient work with good impacts.”
“As an Afghan woman leader,” Ms. Mohisni continued, “This programme was a great chance to enhance my skills in different parts of leadership. The whole programme was designed so that all participants could take part.”
Workshop II marked the completion of the second cycle of the Women’s Leadership Programme. Many participants from the first cycle reported successfully implementing action plans following the training. Now, second-cycle participants are swelling the ranks of passionate, highly skilled women working for change in Afghanistan. As programme alumnae share their skills and knowledge with their colleagues, the community of practitioners will continue to grow.