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.

This Foundation Helps Promising Students in Need

Improving access to quality education is a top priority for many international charitable organizations working in Afghanistan, and Bamyan Foundation is no exception. Dedicated to promoting and providing assistance to Afghan populations that are high-need or at-risk, Bamyan Foundation believes that supporting education is one of the best ways to bring about sustainable and equitable social development and stability in Afghanistan. Read on to learn more about Bamyan Foundation, its educational initiatives, and its local partners on the ground in Afghanistan.


What is Bamyan Foundation?

bamyanfoundationBased in Washington, DC, Bamyan Foundation is a registered nonpartisan charity that works to support social and economic development in Afghanistan. In particular, it focuses on community organizations that are meeting a critical, locally identified need in Afghanistan with limited external aid. The foundation believes that providing targeted assistance at the grassroots level is one of the best ways to make a significant, long-term impact on social and economic mobility in Afghanistan.

Bamyan Foundation is managed by an international team of skilled and dedicated professionals who are committed to volunteerism and service. This allows the foundation to maintain extremely low overhead costs (in 2016, overhead was about 5 percent) so that dollars raised can go directly to Afghans who are most in need.


What kinds of programs does Bamyan Foundation operate?

Bamyan Foundation’s most important initiative is the scholarship program it operates in partnership with a number of Afghan schools. This initiative supports promising students by covering annual school tuition fees and providing stipends for related expenses like books, transportation, supplies, and uniforms. The scholarship program was launched in 2016, and, to date, has provided scholarships to 150 students.

Every year at the close of its annual fundraising campaign, Bamyan Foundation allocates funds based on total incoming donations to each partner school; the foundation and the school then agree on how many students to support and which type of scholarship each student will receive. While there are always more deserving students than funds available, the scholarship program is highly scalable so that more students receive support should the foundation exceed its fundraising goals. Partner schools also agree to keep the foundation appraised of the students’ progress through mid-year and end-of-year reports.

In addition to the scholarship program, Bamyan Foundation recently worked with the Haider Abad School in Bamyan to construct and fund a new library. The project was supported by an anonymous donor who had previously led a number of other educational and humanitarian initiatives in Afghanistan.

Construction on the library was completed in late 2017, while books, computers, and other equipment were purchased in early 2018. Open since April 2018, the library is staffed by one professional librarian and two assistant librarians chosen from the school’s student body.


Who are Bamyan Foundation’s partners?

Bamyan Foundation’s partner schools are located in some of Afghanistan’s most marginalized Hazara communities (the Hazaras are an ethnic minority group from Afghanistan’s central highlands region who speak a variant of Dari). These schools include the following:

Baba High School (Bamyan)— A rapidly growing institution, Baba High School has more than 300 students and covers kindergarten through 10th grade, with plans to expand up to 12th grade by 2019. The comprehensive curriculum includes math, science, history, as well as Dari, Pashtu, and English literature. To help increase their chances of success in today’s economy, students begin learning English and computer skills in the first grade. After graduating, many Baba School students apply to nearby Bamyan University. Interestingly, in Dari, baba means “grandfather” or “respected elder.”

Rahnaward-e-Noor High School (Ghor)—Rahnaward-e-Noor High School is located in one of the most remote regions of Ghor Province, and is breathing new life into a long-neglected community. When the school was established in 2011, there were only 32 students; today, there are 350 students from grades one to 11, and a 12th-grade graduating class will be established by 2019. As at Baba High School, students begin learning English in the first grade; they also have classes in subjects like public speaking, writing, and music, and enjoy special workshops on democracy, tolerance, and human rights.

Khedmat Learning Institute (Kabul)—Founded by respected Afghan political economy scholar Dr. Timor Sharan, this unique educational institution recruits at-risk youth from the most disadvantaged provinces in Afghanistan and trains them to become future leaders. Students at Khedmat take intensive courses in science, English, computer skills, and literature, as well as leadership skills training. Prominent public leaders are frequently invited to the institute to give motivational speeches and share their knowledge and experiences with the students. At the end of the program, students are expected to return to their home communities and become leaders of and advocates for change.

3 Things You Need to Know about the Afghan Institute of Learning

afghaninstituteoflearningThe Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL) aims to create a brighter future for Afghanistan through a focus on education. In 1995, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi founded AIL to address what she perceived as a systemic problem. She observed that Afghans in need were not able to access basic education and health services and were subsequently less able to support themselves, a situation that impacted Afghan society as a whole. Furthermore, Dr. Yacoobi believed that the only way to address this problem was to adopt a holistic approach. As a result, AIL is built firmly on grassroots principles, and its work is guided by the belief that major societal change occurs at the community level by transforming lives. To date, more than 14 million Afghans have benefitted from AIL’s offerings. Here’s what you need to know about this visionary organization:


1. It offers a wide range of programs and services.

When AIL was founded, it focused primarily on basic education and health initiatives. However, AIL’s scope of offerings has grown considerably over the years, and the organization now provides a wide variety of programs and services across a number of different areas. Following are some examples of AIL’s projects:

Learning Centers—AIL’s unique Learning Center model is the cornerstone of its educational endeavors. Learning Centers are schools or other educational facilities that typically serve Afghanistan’s rural communities or urban neighborhoods that are underserved. They offer a wide range of classes and educational opportunities, ranging from university-level classes and literacy courses to workshops focused on crafts such as calligraphy and carpet-weaving. A community demand-driven project, Learning Centers are established specifically at the request of individual communities. Communities that want a Learning Center collaborate closely with AIL to plan, fund, and operate them. The ultimate goal is that each Learning Center will eventually become self-sufficient. Since 1996, AIL has opened or supported over 340 Learning Centers.

Teacher training—One of the challenges that has hampered the progress of Afghanistan’s educational system has been a lack of qualified, trained teachers. AIL works to fill this gap through intensive, small-group teacher training workshops. Subjects covered include the pedagogical basics of teaching, the creation of a good classroom environment, the development of curricula and lesson materials, and testing and evaluation.

Cultural programs—Preserving Afghanistan’s cultural heritage and reviving its cultural sector are important priorities for many organizations, including AIL. Since 2011, AIL has been working with local government officials in Herat to develop and implement a series of cultural projects and programs. They include the establishment of a library and research center at the Gawhar Shad Musalla Complex, a historic mausoleum, and a workshop series on traditional Afghan arts and crafts where master craftsmen teach skills such as miniature painting and tile-making at the recently restored Herat Citadel.

Legal services—In 2015, AIL established a Legal Clinic Project in Herat to provide indigent Afghans with legal support. Located near Herat’s courts and staffed by five experienced lawyers, the Legal Clinic Project helps people with legal difficulties who lack sufficient financial resources to access legal representation. Its mission is guided by five core values.


afghanistan education


2. Its mission is guided by five core values.

AIL founder Dr. Sakena Yacoobi firmly believes that the people her organization serves are the ones who know best what their own needs are, and that trust is the key to building relationships that lead to sustainable change. Consequently, she has placed these five core values at the heart of AIL’s work and mission:

Listening—According to Dr. Yacoobi, the most important thing that an organization can do to serve people in need is to listen. Only by listening is it possible to learn what is needed to improve a particular situation.

Community support—The full support of each community member is essential in developing programs that lead to lasting change. True transformation occurs when communities are part of the solution rather than simply recipients of charity.

Leadership—AIL is all about helping each person to achieve their goals by providing them with the tools and resources they need for success. In doing so, AIL demonstrates what it means to be a leader.

Evaluation and reflection—Assessing what has worked and what has not for new programs and initiatives is a vital component of AIL’s work. Building on successes and learning from losses helps communities to move closer toward their goals.

Innovation—While successful projects bring joy and fulfillment, AIL believes that innovation never ends. There is always something new to try or a new idea that provides inspiration.


3. Its founder has received widespread recognition.

AIL’s founder, Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, has received widespread international recognition. Through her tireless work with AIL, Dr. Yacoobi has earned recognition from leading institutions around the world. Among her many honors are the Opus Prize, the WISE Prize for Education, the Harold W. McGraw Prize in Education, and the Sunhak Peace Prize. In addition, she has received six honorary doctorates from various institutions.