Aside from decades of war and conflict, Afghanistan’s population has another threat to the wellbeing of its people. Neglect of the natural environment across the country, over-population and air pollution from vehicle and industrial exhaust in many urban areas impact quality of life and public health. Inadequate trash collection and inappropriate waste disposal leads to poor sanitation and affects access to safe drinking water. In most cities, there is also a shortage of green space.
In order to combat these stark realities, a group of seven graduates from the USAID Promote Jawana program launched an environmental awareness campaign at Takhta-Safar in Herat city. The project focuses on raising community awareness about the importance of a clean environment.
“We should not always rely on the municipality and expect them to put efforts in cleaning the environment for us,” said Sahar Asufi*, a Jawana group member. “We as member of this community should clean areas near our very own homes and streets.
Becoming active in their communities through local engagement empowers women to have more active roles in society – which is one of the goals of USAID Promote.
The Promote Jawana curriculum is part of the Women’s Leadership Development (WLD) program under the five-year Promote umbrella. It is a 12-week program designed to provide 18,000 young Afghan women holding high school or university degrees with the sophisticated, cutting edge leadership skills to enable them to transform their lives, their communities, and their nation.
Jawana’s environmental awareness campaign was officially launched January 27, 2016. On hand at the public inauguration were government officials, municipality representatives, social activists, and local media. Community members of all ages participated in the event and were very receptive of the awareness message.
“I am privileged to be part of this campaign with you, as we do not have stable ecosystem in our country this increase health issues,” Nasir Ahmad Fazli, Head of the Herat Department of Environmental Safety, told the audience during the event.
To date, the Jawana has benefitted 350 beneficiaries via direct campaigning and more than half of the Herat population (of about 218,150) via media outreach. The second step of the campaign will be a clean up of the Bagh-e- Gowharshad Begom Women’s Garden, Bagh-e Melat and Herat Hospital. The group will continue to bring awareness about the importance of having a clean environment through outreach to girls’ schools and other institutions.
Promote aims to build on the gains Afghan women have made over the last decade by providing 75,000 educated women between18 and 30 from across the country with leadership skills to advance into decision-making positions in the political, economic and social sectors of Afghan society.
*Name changed for security Reasons