Spotlight on 3 Amazing Organizations That Are Led By Young People

Did you know that Afghanistan is home to one of the world’s youngest and fastest-growing populations? According to the United Nations Population Fund, nearly two-thirds of all Afghans—about 64%, or around 22 million people—are under 25 years of age. And although this young cohort has a difficult legacy of conflict and instability to contend with, they are already showing an incredible determination to build a better life for themselves, their families, and their country. Read on for a look at three inspiring youth-led organizations in Afghanistan that are taking the future into their own hands.

Afghans for Progressive Thinking

As Afghanistan’s largest youth-led professional organization, Afghans for Progressive Thinking (APT) works to promote and foster a culture of openness, tolerance, and respect among Afghan young people, particularly college and university students.

APT was founded in 2010 by a political science university graduate who was certain that many other Afghan youth shared his vision of a peaceful and progressive Afghan society. He believed that they simply needed a structure within which they could work toward that vision. APT is the result. It’s an organization based on two social theories of change, critical thinking theory and contact theory, which it uses as touchstones in its work of disrupting existing systems, opening channels of communication, and building understanding of and respect for diversity. Since it was founded, APT has worked with more than 20,000 university students from more than 35 Afghan universities.

Today, APT’s work encompasses a diverse array of activities, programs, and initiatives. These include:

UN youth representative—APT was an instrumental force in helping to select Afghanistan’s first ever youth representative to the United Nations in 2018. With support from the Netherlands Embassy in Kabul, APT worked with a number of Afghan government ministries and other organizations to develop a candidate selection program for youth delegates and to attract applicants. After a multi-stage process, 28-year-old Ramiz Bakhtiar was chosen as Afghanistan’s youth representative to the UN following a live debate at the Bayat Media Center in Kabul.

Leadership development—APT organizes a number of annual leadership development courses designed to help young students prepare to exercise leadership in their own communities and become effective influencers in Afghan society. Held in both English and Dari, these courses are taught by professional experts from Afghanistan and abroad.

Young Peace Builders Award—This award is given annually to three or four Afghan youth who have made significant contributions to promoting tolerance and peacebuilding in Afghanistan. The inspiration for this award comes from the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace, and Security, which recognizes the positive role that youth can play in helping bring peace and security to their home countries.

Youth 4 Change and Development

Youth 4 Change and Development (YCDO) is a non-profit NGO, led entirely by Afghan youth, that aims to create a culture of mutual cooperation and understanding among all the different actors working in the field of youth welfare in Afghanistan, including youth voluntary agencies, youth groups and clubs, and individuals. Founded in response to the disenfranchisement and neglect experienced by many Afghan youth, YCDO strongly believes that youth empowerment and capacity building is an essential part of ensuring Afghanistan’s ongoing development, as well as its long-term stability and prosperity.

As part of its mission to inspire Afghan youth to create positive change within their communities, YCDO organizes a variety of programs and events, including:

The Social Good Summit—In late 2017, YCDO partnered with the United Nations Development Program to organize a summit on the theme of Afghanistan’s future and creative strategies for attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The summit brought together hundreds of participants from civil society organizations, government, the private sector, and youth groups and university organizations.

The Afghanistan National Youth Assembly—Initiated by YCDO in 2017 and led by a team of committed young Afghans, the Afghanistan National Youth Assembly is the country’s first ever platform for youths to make their voices heard, share their ideas, and contribute to a strong foundation for positive change and development in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization

From a movement of young activists in a single province, Afghanistan’s New Generation Organization (ANGO) has grown to become a network of passionate youth change agents all across the country. Based in Kabul, this independent NGO works at the grassroots level to inspire and support Afghan youth as they take an active role in leading Afghanistan towards a peaceful and progressive future.

To accomplish its mission of mobilizing and empowering youth, ANGO creates programs that are specially tailored to the unique needs of young people. In order to achieve a long-term, lasting impact, ANGO allows these programs to develop as a process, with a particular focus on sustainability beyond individual project cycles. At present, the organization’s activities and offerings are geared towards four core program areas: civic engagement and advocacy, citizen journalism, social inclusion, and capacity building.

Spotlight on the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) has been in existence for more than 35 years. Its goal is to bring support and stability to Afghans who are struggling with the impact of war and violence on their country and their communities.

The organization is committed to maintaining operations in the country as long as necessary. The SCA currently serves as the second-largest channel for the development aid that is provided to Afghanistan by the Swedish government. Read on to learn more about the SCA and its activities in Afghanistan.

 

What is the SCA all about?

SCAlogoThe SCA was originally founded in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. In the early 1980s, the SCA was largely focused on raising funds for humanitarian support. It engaged in relief activities like providing essential health care and education to refugees and residents of occupied Afghanistan.

Over time, the SCA gradually expanded its work beyond the delivery of basic humanitarian services. It became a development organization with a much broader focus.

Today, the SCA’s vision is of an Afghanistan that is free from poverty, violence, and discrimination, where all citizens can live in dignity and enjoy equal opportunity and social justice. Supporting this vision are the SCA’s 12,000 members and individual donors in Sweden as well as the more than 6,000 Afghan employees who implement the SCA’s programs in 14 Afghan provinces.

 

What kinds of activities and programs does the SCA operate?

The organization aims to support some of Afghanistan’s most vulnerable groups, including children, people with disabilities, and rural and remote communities. The SCA operates programs and activities across four major focus areas:

 

  1. Healthcare

Access to healthcare and health outcomes in Afghanistan have improved in recent years. Despite this, the country’s health situation still remains a major challenge.

At present, the SCA is responsible for providing healthcare services and building healthcare capacity in Laghman province and Wardak province. In Afghanistan, it is typical for basic healthcare to be provided primarily by non-governmental organizations on a province-by-province basis.

Particular initiatives include conducting community-based health and hygiene education campaigns; training more health care providers, particularly midwives; and increasing health care access for people with disabilities.

Highlights from 2017 include: performing 2.6 million patient consultations; giving immunizations against diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis b, and polio to 50,000 children under the age of 5; providing maternal care to more than 44,000 women; and establishing 31 more health clinics in the two provinces.

 

  1. Community Governance

In the Afghan countryside, many local communities have severely restricted opportunities for residents to effect change, make their voices heard, and assert their rights. This is the result of conflicts, corruption, and mismanagement at the municipal level.

To help empower these communities and their residents, the SCA works all around Afghanistan. It builds the capacity of local decision-making bodies and provides education and training to local authorities.

Highlights from 2017 include: providing support to nearly 370 community development councils, which in turn implemented 65 local projects; offering training in service delivery and community rights to members of local government; and conducting social audits of community projects in three provinces.

 

  1. Rural Livelihood

Rapid urbanization has taken place in Afghanistan over the last decade. Despite this, an estimated 75 percent of the country’s population still lives and works in rural areas. Unfortunately, many of these rural citizens, especially those in remote or isolated communities, are among Afghanistan’s most vulnerable people.

As a result of conflict, difficult environmental conditions, and natural disasters, poverty is endemic in most rural areas. As a result, the potential for long-term self-sufficiency is very limited.

To help rural citizens build secure livelihoods for themselves and their families and access new sources of income, the SCA facilitates the formation of self-help groups. These groups can save money together, develop business partnerships, and exchange knowledge and skills.

The SCA also provides practical, hands-on training in potentially income-generating activities such as poultry farming, vegetable farming, soap making, tailoring, and carpet weaving.

Highlights from 2017 include: forming over 200 new self-help groups; establishing 32 village-based saving and loan associations; granting micro-loans to more than 2,500 rural households; conducting an impact study revealing that previous loan recipients increased their household income by almost 29 percent.

 

  1. Education

Education is one of Afghanistan’s most important priorities. The SCA is just one of many organizations working to improve access to and quality of education for children all across the country. As a result of concerted efforts by these organizations and the government of Afghanistan, more Afghan children are attending school than ever. At present, nearly 70,000 children go to SCA-run schools.

Highlights from 2017 include: a 5 percent increase in the number of children enrolled in SCA primary schools; construction of seven new school buildings, 20 washrooms, and one resource center; the provision of special education to more than 1,600 children and adults with disabilities; and mainstream school inclusion for 600 children with physical disabilities and 2,000 children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

3 Charities Making a Difference in the Lives of Afghan Children

In a 2015 article about a movie she shot in Afghanistan, director Pietra Brettkelly described the Afghan people as “resilient and welcoming.” The New Zealand-born documentary filmmaker added that they “cherish their culture and history.” Over the course of millennia, the people of Afghanistan have, despite hardships, developed their own distinctive customs in areas such as the visual arts, music, and food—cultural traditions that they continue to pass on to younger generations.

Today, these young generations of Afghans are in need of social support from nonprofit groups in order to lead healthier and happier lives. The following three charitable organizations are among the most notable groups that are making a significant difference in the lives of Afghan children through various forms of educational support.

 

  1. Help Afghan School Children Organization

HASCOlogoEducation plays a crucial role in reducing poverty and the improving the health of children worldwide, many experts believe. Research has even suggested that 170 million fewer people today would be living in poverty if every child on Earth had the ability to read.

Based out of Vienna, Austria, the Help Afghan School Children Organization (HASCO) has made the education of Afghan children its primary goal. The group’s main service project focuses on providing school supplies to students in need. The education kits contain basic school supplies to support learning, including pens and pencils, notebooks and paper, rulers, erasers, calculators, and geometry sets. The organization also facilitates an educational sponsorship program for children in need who have lost their parents. Donations to HASCO can be send via mail.

 

  1. Aschiana Foundation

aschiana logoLike HASCO, the Aschiana Foundation concentrates on helping Afghan children in need to gain access to a quality formal education. The Aschiana Foundation’s approach to this important social movement, however, is quite different.

Created by Americans who lived and worked in Afghanistan and who witnessed the plight of many of the country’s children firsthand, the Aschiana Foundation takes a multi-pronged approach to addressing educational needs. While it operates independent programs in the cities of Gardez and Mazar-i-Sharif—as well as in internally displaced person (IDP) camps for children experiencing homelessness throughout the nation—the group’s primary work takes place in the capital city of Kabul, where the Aschiana Foundation built and operates a children’s center. The center features 24 classrooms, a library, music rooms, a kitchen, an outdoor activity space, clean bathrooms, and even a health clinic.

At the center, employees provide two types of education classes. The first is a basic education class which aims to help children catch up to their peers who have received formal schooling, along with computer lessons to prepare them for the modern world. Potentially more impactful, however, are the trade classes that the Aschiana Foundation offers, including lessons in professional sectors relevant to the Afghan economy. They include tailoring, carpentry, and masonry. In many cases, children in Afghanistan between the ages of 5 and 16 years old must work at least part time every day in order to help their families. The Aschiana Foundation aims to help them develop useful job skills that may support them in their quest to do so.

Lastly, at every operations site operated by the Aschiana Foundation, children are able to access basic hygienic materials, hot meals, and, in the case of the IDP camps, even clothing donations. The nonprofit outlines the five most effective ways for donors to support their work on the “How to Help” page of their website, Aschiana-foundation.org.

 

  1. Afghan Connection

afghan connection logoAfghan Connection focuses on the academic education of children in Afghanistan. The group also provides a unique and important learning experience to the country’s youth. Through a collaboration between Afghan Connection and the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the charity helps teach children across the country to play cricket while also providing them with the training, facilities, and equipment necessary to compete.

To this day, the nonprofit has built 100 cricket pitches at schools throughout the country, which have allowed more than 100,000 children to participate in the sport. These schools have also received sporting attire and cricket kits appropriate for hosting games, and the organization has trained 180 teachers at the schools to become youth coaches. Altogether, 4,500 students to date have participated in 9 regional tournaments since the inception of Afghan Connection.

In 2002, Dr. Sarah Fane established Afghan Connection after serving as a physician in the country. While the organization originally focused on providing medical equipment and training for vaccination programs, it has increasingly emphasized education to facilitate progress in the country. The organization has supported the education of over 75,000 children through the construction of 46 schools.