Since its establishment as a civil society support forum, ACSF has been striving for social inclusion and justice for all citizens of Afghanistan without consideration of their sex, ethnicity, religion, geographic location and political perspectives. ACSF believes that no civil society will exist without active participation and contribution of both, women and men. The very same messages have been portrayed in ACSF activities in all different provinces of the country and in the organizational working culture.
In order to ensure a systematic gender mainstreaming effort in ACSF, with the help of an external consultant ACSF gathered its staff’s recommendations and suggestions for regular and systematic gender mainstreaming practices in the organization and to develop this policy document. The Gender Consultant held a workshop with the managers and the responsible staff of different sections and devised this Gender Policy based on the current capacities, needs and priorities of the organization.
This Gender Policy is developed in line with the vision and mission statement of ACSF to work towards a “democratic and equitable civil society based on the rule of law, respect for human rights, and fundamental freedom in Afghanistan”.
This Gender Policy provides applicable guidelines based on the suggestions of ACSF female and male staff in order to ensure the active participation of women and men in achieving ACSF’s vision and working mission in Afghanistan.
Gender is a cross-cutting issue and the implementation of the Gender Policy will require the commitment, participation and contribution of every staff member. ACSF’s commitment to integrating gender perspectives will need to be reflected in project planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, including work plans and budgeting as well as in technical cooperation activities with partner organizations.
2. Background and Rationale
ACSF’s vision is “a democracy supported by informed, committed and active citizens who continue to participate in the development of a just and equitable society based on the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedom in Afghanistan.” It is well recognized that in Afghanistan women continue to be marginalized, discriminated and subjected to grave and life threatening human rights violations.
Differences in the opportunities and resources available to women and men, and in their ability to make decisions and exercise their human rights are based on the fact that society prescribes to women and men different roles in different social contexts. Gender roles and unequal gender relations interact with other social and economic variables, which then results in different and usually inequitable patterns of access to resources, social services, decision-making processes and positions of power.
Violence against women is a systematic and strategic tool used in Afghanistan to keep women suppressed and deprive them of their basic rights/entitlements. It is an established fact, that overcoming gender-based violence is a key for women to realize their social and economic rights as well as civil and political rights.
Responding to this reality and in line with its commitment to promote an equitable democratic society in which the enjoyment of human rights of every individual is guaranteed ACSF will integrate gender considerations in all facets of its work (gender mainstreaming). It will be ACSF’s policy to ensure that all research, policies, programs, projects, and initiatives with ACSF involvement address gender issues. This will contribute to increasing the coverage, effectiveness, efficiency and ultimately the impact of all ACSF interventions for both, women and men, while at the same time contributing to the achievement of ACSF’s goal and objectives.
ACSF is also committed to advancing gender equality in its own workforce. Integrating gender considerations into technical programmes and achieving equality between women and men in staffing are complementary policies.
According to this Gender Policy Gender Mainstreaming becomes a cross-cutting theme in all ACSF policies, procedures, and programs which are complemented by specific programs for the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment as stand alone issues. This means that in addition to the incorporation of both men’s and women’s perspectives, concerns and voices into every policy, procedure, and project of ACSF there should be also a focus on separate programs and projects to address the current gender disparities, and strategic gender needs of women and girls in the country.
Goal and Objectives
The goal of this policy is to work towards an equitable participation of both women and men in the activities and decision-making processes of ACSF and its partners on all levels and to promote gender equality within the Afghan society in terms of access to social services, information, and positions of power as well as participation in social, political, economic and cultural processes.
- Analyse and address gender issues in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, programmes, projects and research.
- Gender mainstream human resource management in ACSF, including recruitment, promotion, work contract termination, and the provision of suitable workspace for men and women and specific trainings for raising the gender awareness and empowering women.
- Make the implementation of gender specific programs and projects an integral component of ACSF’s activities.
- Support Partner Organizations on how to undertake gender-responsive planning, implementation and evaluation of policies, programmes, and projects.
- Gender Mainstreaming Programs and Projects
Often organizations have a strong policy commitment towards gender equality and women’s empowerment, which, however, is not translated into effective actions. In order to prevent such policy evaporation, ACSF will ensure the following:
- Organizational commitment towards gender equality are actually seriously put in practice on the program and project level and creates a culture of respect and human rights with dignity for every woman and man involved in ACSF’s projects.
- Gender aspects are considered and integrated in all activities of the Organization, including research, programme and project planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, human resource management, and budgeting.
- Gender Analysis is an integral component of every project management process. It is important that gender inequalities and dynamics are considered and the promotion of gender equality becomes a cross-cutting issue in every project. This means that ACSF must incorporate a gender analysis and extract sex-disaggregated data in all project phases ranging from needs assessment over monitoring of the implementation process to impact evaluation of the project.
- A Gender Focal Point and a Gender Working Group will be appointed to facilitate and support the gender mainstreaming of ACSF’s work and to ensure overall coherence. A local or foreign Gender Expert may be consulted or hired for building the capacity of ACSF staff in gender.
- Gender Mainstreaming Human Resource Management
Gender mainstreaming ACSF’s human resources management includes the raising of gender awareness of the staff, gender sensitivity in hiring, promoting, and developing the capacity of staff, as well as in providing staff facilities to ensure that female and male staff is aware about their gender needs and create a culture of genuine mutual respect, acceptance, and tolerance.
- The willingness to promote gender equality and adhere to the Gender Policy will be a requirement for the recruitment of new staff. Therefore, the gender related responsibilities will be highlighted in every ACSF vacancy announcement and job description. ACSF will ensure that the language is gender sensitive (using she/he) and does not pose any gender based discrimination to discourage women and girls from applying for the job. The vacancy announcement explicitly expresses the organizational commitment for gender equality and may include a sentence stating that “women as well as persons with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply”. It is important that the gender responsibilities related to the post are also clearly defined during the interview so that the applicant is fully aware about ACSF’s commitment for gender equality and her/his responsibilities and rights in the organization.
- In order to reduce the likelihood of gender bias during interview processes with job applicants at least one female staff member will be part of the ACSF interviewing and decision-making team.
- In order to ensure that all female and male staff members adhere to their gender related responsibilities that were assigned to them in their Job Descriptions this aspect should also be integrated in their Performance Evaluation taking place every six months. If the staff member hasn’t been able to demonstrate gender sensitivity either in his/her work or attitude, the senior management in the organization will explore the root causes and address them seriously. Without offending the staff member, ACSF management will pave the way for improvement and a better working culture for the female and male staff of the organization.
- In terms of Staff Development, since Afghanistan has only very few educated and qualified women, there is a need for affirmative actions to empower women for the sake of gender equality. This may include the provision of resources, training opportunities and flexible working hours to encourage female staff and their families to let women work in the organization. Due to a lack of previous opportunities and experience, the women hired in a position may need more training than a man hired in the same position who had more exposure and opportunities in the past. ACSF is committed to build the capacity of women through knowledge transfer within ACSF and through the provision of specific work-related training sessions (e.g. proposal writing, M&E, management, etc.) to female staff. ACSF is aware that staff development is not only about training, but is also about promoting and building confidence especially in female staff. This requires that the contributions and the raising of concerns of female staff in decision making processes at the organizational level are encouraged and taken seriously and considered at all aspects.
Women, likewise men, gain the full confidence of ACSF and are encouraged to be active staff members, carry out essential work and to appear in public on behalf of ACSF, e.g. through holding speeches and networking activities, etc.. Women will be given the same chances as men (if necessary through affirmative action) to be promoted to a higher position. In case of equal qualification between a female and a male staff member preference will be given to the female candidate until gender equality has been achieved.
- All kinds of gender-related concerns of ACSF staff regarding the workplace and administrative as well as management issues shall be communicated to the management and/or the Gender Focal Point. Every concern will be duly considered and appropriate measures will be taken in order to establish a gender-sensitive environment.
- In order to ensure the incorporation of women’s perspectives in management meetings and decisions, the Gender Focal Point (female) will be included in all ACSF management meetings.
- Gender Specific Programming
In order to promote gender equality and bringing about a change in unequal status of women in Afghanistan ACSF is required to both deepen but also expand beyond its current areas of work.
- The staff of ACSF has shown great enthusiasm to work towards gender equality in accordance with the teachings of Islam that guarantee equal rights to Muslim women and men. Given the fact that Afghanistan is a very strong Muslim community the effective way to work for gender equality will be to address this issue from an Islamic perspective. Following the recommendations of ACSF staff, ACSF will look for opportunities to broaden its advocacy activities towards advocating for women’s rights under Islam.
- Other gender specific programs and projects will be implemented upon needs assessments. ACSF’s aim is to be constantly implementing at least one gender or women’s rights specific project.
- Capacity Building of ACSF Staff in Gender and Women’s Rights
In order to effectively implement this Gender Policy in ACSF and work towards gender equality in Afghanistan, the implementers and staff of the organization must be well aware of the gender policy and of gender concepts and issues in the global context as well as in Afghanistan.
- Therefore, measures will be regularly taken to make all female and male staff understand the importance and benefits of gender equality and the realization of women’s rights to the Afghan society as a whole. ACSF staff will receive specific trainings in gender concepts and theories and gender analysis frameworks so that they are able to understand and apply gender concepts in their work and to assess the gender impacts of all ACSF’s projects and policies. Possible training topics may be the following:
- Gender and Islam
- Gender and conflict
- Gender and economics in agricultural countries like Afghanistan
- Gender and health
- Gender and leadership
- Gender and human rights
- For the introduction of an ongoing and regular capacity building and technical assistance mechanism in ACSF a (local) gender expert may be consulted.
- Gender Capacity Building of Partner Organizations
In the process of addressing Strategic Gender Needs (see glossary) which mainly deal with improving women’s social status, ACSF will integrate this gender policy in all its programs and projects.
- Since ACSF works with a number of CSOs in the country to upgrade their capacities and to promote their participation in the socio-political development of the country, ACSF will also forward its commitment towards gender equality to its partners all over Afghanistan. This will be put in practice through the involvement of partners in gender specific projects and provision of trainings in gender concepts and analysis tools as well as through promoting cooperation with the female staff of partner NGOs.
- Organizational Arrangements for Implementation
This policy applies to all work throughout the Organization: research, programme planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, human resource management, and budgeting. Effective implementation of the policy will require senior level commitment and validation, organizational support for activities to advance the knowledge and skills of staff for efficient gender analysis in their area of work. The Managing Director and Programme Manager will be expected to institutionalize mechanisms for building capacity among the staff providing, information, training (through consultants) needed to assure the policy’s success.
The senior management will take the necessary steps to ensure the policy is translated into action in both technical and management aspects of ACSF programmes and projects. They will transmit the policy to technical and administrative staff and monitor its consistent and effective application throughout the work for which they are responsible. They will be accountable to the Managing Director for successful incorporation of gender considerations in their work.
All ACSF departments and field offices will be expected to collect disaggregated data by sex, review and reflect on the gender aspects of their respective areas of work. They will develop plans of action for integrating gender perspectives into their work. These action plans will be used to monitor progress.
In order to ensure the adoption of appropriate measures for the promotion of gender equality and gender mainstreaming at the organizational and programmatic levels, ACSF will regularly consult with an external gender expert and/or appoint a full time and permanent local Gender Focal Point. The Gender Focal Point, whether a full-time or voluntary staff member will be part of the senior management team and the voices and recommendations will be considered seriously by the ACSF senior management.
General guidance and support to the gender mainstreaming of the different departments’ work will also be provided by a Gender Working Group (GWG) or Gender Unit. The GWG will assist and support the development of a strategy for appropriate capacity building of ACSF staff, and mechanisms for monitoring and evaluation. The Gender Unit will also have responsibility for on-going collection and dissemination of information from the different departments and/or other organizations, such as case studies of “good practice” in mainstreaming gender.
All ACSF staff (including support staff) will be thoroughly informed about the content of this Gender Policy and their roles and responsibilities in promoting gender equality through a presentation by the Program Manager and the provision of a copy of this Gender Policy.
In order to ensure a proper and effective implementation of this Gender Policy all aspects of gender mainstreaming discussed in this Policy will be integrated in the respective and appropriate activity and policy areas included in the strategic plan.
4. Responsibilities and Policy Evaluation
The primary responsibility of ensuring the effective implementation of this Gender Strategy lies with the senior management and the project managers of the different working areas of ACSF. This responsibility will be (regularly) discussed with the senior management and project managers to ensure that they are aware of their (added) responsibilities.
Through the recruitment of a permanent Local Gender Expert placed in the senior management structure and/or the regular consultation of an External Gender Expert the senior management will be provided with expertise on gender mainstreaming within the organization. The (local) Gender Expert also has the responsibility to provide technical assistance and information on recent gender mainstreaming practices in the organization and to ensure that all ACSF staff members have a sense of ownership of their gender commitments.
In order to ensure effectiveness and adaptability of this Gender Policy, ACSF will have an annual review of this policy, the achievements made and its shortcomings. All staff and stakeholders are encouraged to voice their concerns and feed them into the Gender Policy. In a secret ballot under the participation of all staff ACSF will elect the Gender Equalizer of the Year.
Gender is used to describe those characteristics of women and men, which are socially constructed, while sex refers to those which are biologically determined. People are born female or male but learn to be girls and boys who grow into women and men. This learned behaviour makes up gender identity and determines gender roles.
Gender Roles are learned behaviors in a given society/community, or other special group, that condition which activities, tasks and responsibilities are perceived as male and female. Gender roles are affected by age, class, race, ethnicity, religion and by the geographical, economic and political environment.
Gender analysis identifies, analyses and informs action to address inequalities that arise from the different roles of women and men, or the unequal power relationships between them, and the consequences of these inequalities on their lives, their health and well-being.
The way power is distributed in most societies means that women have less access to and control over resources and are less likely to be involved in decision-making.
Gender equality is the absence of discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex in opportunities, in the allocation of resources and benefits or in access to services.
Gender equity refers to fairness and justice in the distribution of benefits and responsibilities between women and men. The concept recognises that women and men have different needs and power and that these differences should be identified and addressed in a manner that rectifies the imbalance between the sexes.
Gender mainstreaming The ECOSOC Resolution defines mainstreaming gender as “…the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and social spheres, such that inequality between men and women is not perpetuated.
The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.”
“Mainstreaming gender is both a technical and a political process which requires shifts in organizational cultures and ways of thinking, as well as in the goals, structures and resource allocations …. Mainstreaming requires changes at different levels within institutions, in agenda setting, policy making, planning, implementation and evaluation. Instruments for the mainstreaming effort include new staffing and budgeting practices, training programmes, policy procedures and guidelines.”
Gender Planning Gender Planning refers to the process of planning developmental programs and projects that are gender sensitive and which take into account the impact of differing gender roles and gender needs of women and men in the target community or sector.
Empowerment is a process through which women and men in disadvantaged positions increase their access to knowledge, resources, decision-making power, and raise their awareness of participation in their communities, in order to reach of control over their own environment.
Gender Needs: Leading on from the fact that women and men have differing roles based on their gender, they will also have differing gender needs. These needs can be classified as either strategic or practical needs
Practical Gender Needs (PGN): Practical gender needs are the needs women identify in their socially accepted roles in society. PGNs do not challenge, although they arise out of, gender divisions of labour and women’s subordinate position in society. PGNs are a response to immediate and perceived necessity, identified within a specific context. They are practical in nature and often concern inadequacies in living conditions such as water provision, health care and employment.
Strategic Gender Needs (SGN): Strategic gender needs are the needs women identify because of their subordinate position in society. They vary according to particular contexts, related to gender divisions of labour, power and control, and may include issues such as legal rights, domestic violence, equal wages and women’s control over their bodies. Meeting SGNs assists women to achieve greater equality and change existing roles, thereby challenging women’s subordinate position. They are more long term and less visible than practical gender needs.
Sex disaggregated data For a gender analysis, all data should be separated by sex in order to allow differential impacts on men and women to be measured.
 E/1997/L.30 Para Adopted by ECOSOC 14.7.97.
 Development and Gender, Issue 5: Approaches to institutionalizing gender, Gender in Brief, Institute of Development Studies, University
of Sussex, England, May 1997.