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U.S. Program To Boost Women's Role In Afghan Workplace Falls Short

FILE: Afghan widows wait to receive monthly rations from the World Food Program in Kabul.
FILE: Afghan widows wait to receive monthly rations from the World Food Program in Kabul.

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. program to promote the role of women in Afghanistan is falling short of its goals, a new report says.

The report published on September 14 by the Special Inspector General for Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR) said the Promote program had spent $89.7 million in three years but had made little progress in efforts to improve the employment status of women in the conservative Islamic nation.

The program by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was announced with funding of $216 million during the administration of President Barack Obama.

Promote was designed to improve Afghan women’s access to jobs in the public, private, and civil society sectors through training and other efforts over a five-year period.

It is expected to run through 2020 or 2021, and USAID has said it does not expect the Afghan government to continue it afterwards.

SIGAR, an independent watchdog, said that just 55 women had been able to get a job with the Afghan government through the program, far short of the target figure of 2,100.

Another part of the plan was initially intended to help 12,500 women obtain new or better jobs, but USAID lowered the number to 1,824 women.

A USAID spokesman insisted to The Wall Street Journal that the program remains on track to meet the target of helping 75,000 women in various sectors by 2020. He said the data had been given to SIGAR as part of an assessment agreed to by USAID.

In June, Afghan first lady Rula Ghani appeared to criticize the program after complaints from women’s groups that short-term training efforts did not create long-term employment opportunities.

She told a development forum in Washington that “women don’t need workshops and certificates. They need real, hard skills.”

Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, have voiced concern about women's rights in Afghanistan, which in 2015 ranked 154th out of 158 countries in the UN Gender Inequality Index.

With reporting by The Wall Street Journal, Tolo News, and dpa

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