Canada’s Support for Afghan Women and Girls

Promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls is a priority for Canada in Afghanistan. Since 2001 Afghans, including women, have seen progress; however, the gains achieved are fragile.

 Progress and Challenges – Fast Facts

  • Afghanistan’s Constitution explicitly guarantees equality between men and women
  • Many international human rights standards, including the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights, have been incorporated into domestic law
  • Afghanistan passed the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law by presidential decree in 2009, which is a law that criminalizes baad (the exchange of a woman or girl), child and forced marriage, and 19 other acts of violence against women
  • Women account for 27 percent of parliamentarians
  • Three women stood as vice-presidential running mates in the 2014 election and women accounted for 10 percent of provincial council candidates
  • More than three million Afghan girls are enrolled in formal and community-based schools—up from none being enrolled in 2001
  • Canada has helped establish more than 6,300 community-based schools, which provide education to approximately 184,000 students, 80 percent of whom are girls
  • With Canada’s support, maternal mortality has decreased by approximately 70 percent in the last decade, and child mortality has been cut in half
  • More than 8 million children have received ongoing vaccinations against polio
  • More than 9,000 health professionals have been trained
  • Approximately 87 percent of Afghan women will face at least one form of physical, sexual or psychological violence or forced marriage in their lifetime
  • In 2013 more than 4,000 cases of violence against women were reported—28 percent more than in 2012, suggesting that violence against women is still a serious issue, but is increasingly being reported
  • Approximately 53 percent of girls are married by the age of 18, with 21 percent married by age 15
  • Support ($16.5 million since 2007) to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has successfully built up the AIHRC’s reputation as a recognized and effective authority on the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan and internationally.

Canada’s Role

Building on what has already been accomplished, Canadian advocacy and programming activities will continue to work to improve the lives of Afghan women and girls. Canada has committed $227 million in development assistance (2014–2017), with a focus on promoting and protecting the rights of women and girls through continued programming in education, health, human rights, and humanitarian assistance responses. Some examples include:

  • Funding ($5.5 million) to United Nations Population Fund’s establishment of 49 Family Health Houses, improving access for women and children to quality health services, and their mobilizing and training of women to become health professionals and health advocates in their communities
  • Support to the Community-based Girls’ Education project and the Girls’ Primary Education project ($20 million each) is helping to implement after-school learning programs, provide skills development, and train 8,000 teachers to support the basic education needs of 240,000 school children, the majority of whom are girls.

Canada has been outspoken about the importance of respecting the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan. As part of this, Canada is working with the Afghan government to support the full implementation and enforcement of the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW) law and to improve working conditions for women in the Afghan National Police.

In addition, Canada worked to strengthen Afghan women’s political participation and empowerment by increasing awareness of women’s right to vote in the 2014 elections and advocating for stronger security measures to ensure that women are safely able to vote on Election Day. Canada also supported a number of projects aimed at improving the transparency of, and women’s participation in, the elections.

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