The National Democratic Institute (NDI) will award its 2015 Madeleine K. Albright Grant to Worker Women Social Organization (WWSO), a grassroots women’s group based in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
WWSO works with young women to help them become leaders in their communities and make a difference in the everyday lives of Afghans.
WWSO will use the $25,000 grant to introduce young women in Kandahar to the political process and equip them with skills to be part of Afghanistan’s next generation of leaders.
WWSO was launched in 2010 to change the status quo in Kandahar that discouraged many young women from getting involved in politics.
Despite the departure of the oppressive Taliban regime in 2001, women in in Kandahar continue to face threats to personal and community security, and challenges to participating in public life.
“One of the larger problems for women in Afghanistan is a lack of security, which often prevents women from going to school,” said a representative of WWSO. “There are many districts in Kandahar where women have never been to schools. The doors of schools are closed for them.”
Before WWSO’s launch, there was no support system in Kandahar to help and encourage young women to enter politics and push for improvements and peace in their communities.
To connect with younger women, WWSO worked with high school and college students, and recent graduates. It hosted weekly after-school seminars and training sessions on leadership, civic participation and democratic values. Through role play demonstrations, lectures and group discussions, the young women not only learned leadership skills, but also how to use them.
A student participant in WWSO’s “Youth Empowerment in Public Life” project recently explained that through WWSO’s training sessions, she was able to develop the confidence to run for a leadership position at her school. She eventually was elected leader of her class.
Because unemployment is rising in Kandahar, many women and their families face economic hardships, which discourages many of them from entering politics. This is why WWSO is focusing on helping women develop management and communications skills.
In one example, a high school student needed to find a better-paying job to help her family hire a defense lawyer who could represent her wrongly imprisoned brother. The student entered in a one-year computer, English language and management training course organized by WWSO. After she completed it, she was hired as a supervisor at a local nonprofit. With her new job stability and income, the student’s family was able to hire a lawyer who secured her brother’s release.
Looking forward, WWSO’s goal is to build a core group of young women in Kandahar who can lead efforts to improve life there and promote peace. “We must continue working to promote peace in Afghanistan’s provinces, to educate people on the advantages of security, and how women serve a vital role in promoting sustainable peace,” said a representative of WWSO.
The Madeleine K. Albright Grant, which was first awarded in 2005, stipulates that organizations receiving the prize must address systemic and structural barriers to women’s advancement and presence in the public and political spheres. In addition, organizations should demonstrate the desire and mission to advance the civic participation of women and girls in politics.
The Albright Grant is made possible through the generosity of the Melvin and Bren Simon Foundation and the Win with Women Global Initiative, which promotes women’s political leadership worldwide.
Winners of the Albright Grant are selected from a competitive pool of applicants. Past recipients include Aswat Nisaa (Women’s Voices) of Tunisia, the Network of Support for Women Municipal Leaders (REAMM) of Mexico, the Women’s Discussion Club of Kyrgyzstan, the Departmental Network of Chocó Women of Colombia, the Women’s League of Burma, the 50/50 Group of Sierra Leone, the Mostar Women’s Citizen Initiative of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Women’s Political Caucus of Indonesia.
Published on April 30, 2015