The Welfare Association for the Development of Afghanistan (WADAN) is a local organisation that works to advance the spread of democratic principles, development, social justice, human rights and freedom in Afghanistan, as well as to strengthen communities and local governance by promoting effective community and institutional development practices and drug control initiatives.
WADAN’s programs have expanded to include engagement in all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces with an emphasis on grassroots work with people in remote communities in the heartland of Afghanistan.
Awareness and civic education
Communities that were shattered physically and psychologically, and people who have suffered from decades of warfare, repression, lawlessness, and poverty, have a great need for conflict resolution, democracy and peacebuilding. Since 2002, WADAN’s mobile training teams have been engaged in imparting civic education workshops and training to several thousand community leaders in rural communities throughout Afghanistan. This grassroots approach is very popular, well received and effective, as the methodology and training approaches take into consideration local tradition, culture and values.
Messages delivered by WADAN encourage citizens to be responsible for themselves, their communities and their country. Transparent governance, national unity, democracy and respect for human rights are the primary objectives of these civic education projects.
Women and women’s concerns have been considered in all of WADAN’s community projects. Civic education workshops for men have specific emphasis on gender and women’s rights as well as human rights in general. Civic education workshops for women have the same content as those for men, and such events have been well-attended by women in the Helmand, Zabul and Kandahar provinces: a pre-presidential election awareness event drew hundreds of women in Kabul, and a pre-parliamentary election event with information for potential candidates was similarly well attended.
Similarly, and developed in consultation with WADAN, the ‘Voice for Humanity Project’ aimed to distribute around 20,000 recordings of civic education messages in Pushto and Dari to people in remote rural areas before the presidential election. In addition to messages about the positive effects of cooperation with the government, there were messages promoting both economic and political rehabilitation, and addressing health and hygiene, as well as music and motivational entertainment in order to reinforce the material presented.
As a result of WADAN’s civic education projects, voter turnout for presidential elections increased in areas where WADAN’s civic education events were held. Particularly notable is the interest of women who participated in the presidential election in rural villages and districts where such actions were, until recently, considered taboo.
Rural life in Afghanistan, the world’s largest producer of opium, is problematic for poverty-stricken farmers with few other cash-crop options. The detrimental effects of poppy growing, drug trafficking, and drug addiction are explained. People are made aware that involvement in a narcotics culture is bad for themselves and their communities.
The ‘Community Empowerment & Reintegration Project’ was designed to empower communities to participate in the rehabilitation of their own villages and districts.
The main objectives were to improve the livelihood of their respective constituencies and to advocate for the rights of children to have access to education. Involving communities in working for their own solutions served to encourage the sustainability of the project and utilised the skills needed to strive for national unity.
In the ‘Community Empowerment & Reintegration Project’ in the Nangarhar and Laghman provinces, women’s shuras (community governance groups) focus on gender equity and women’s rights. During an advocacy event, one participant said, “Today is a positive, historical turning point for Afghan women…” At the local level, women have started to speak out to help solve community problems. They stress tolerance, compromise and respect. They smooth problems between villagers as well as mediating domestic disputes.
Education suffered during the years of warfare and misguided government. In many areas a generation grew up without any schooling. This is a problem that persists despite the emphasis and efforts to educate children at government schools. Around 107 community based non-formal schools serving about 3,500 students have been organised by WADAN and community leaders in eastern Afghanistan. Primary education is provided to children in both girls’ and boys’ schools. Teachers come from the communities and WADAN trains them in current methodology and educational philosophy.
Drug treatment and rehabilitation
Drug addiction is a major problem in Afghanistan. Until recently, drug addicts were treated as criminals – some repressive regimes jailed them, families shunned them, and little was done with regard to treatment and rehabilitation. In an effort to alleviate misery and strengthen communities, WADAN opened Afghanistan’s first residential therapeutic drug treatment centre. The Bahar Therapeutic Drug Treatment Centre is located in Gardez, in the Paktia province. Addicts are admitted for one month of closely regulated treatment and rehabilitation. Family counselling is also provided. Aftercare and social reintegration are important aspects of the programme. Based on the successful Gardez model, WADAN opened two more drug treatment and rehabilitation centres in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. WADAN opened another treatment centre for drug addicts in Wardak province. The treatment centres have both residential and outreach community-based and home-based programs for drug addicts.
The centres are also involved in the creation of awareness-raising regarding the harmful consequences of illicit drugs. WADAN runs a drop-in centre in Logar and an outreach drop-in centre in Ghazni, and has implemented several drug-awareness projects in parts of Afghanistan by training around 30,000 local leaders on the harmful consequences of drugs, extremism and other social ills. The drop-in centres serve addicts, potential addicts, their families and the general public. Addicts are offered motivational counselling. Likewise, WADAN has also been running a counter-narcotics public information campaign project in Helmand province with the objectives of providing home-based and community-based anti-narcotic education; presenting and reinforcing the teaching of Islam regarding illicit and profane substances; advocating the development of an operational community network to reinforce and proliferate the anti-narcotic messages that will lead to greater awareness regarding social evils; and involving community leaders in drug control initiatives that will influence their constituents to cooperate with all national and international drug control organisations.
WADAN is actively working in Afghanistan to counter the detrimental effects of poppy growing, drug processing, drug trafficking, and drug addiction by demonstrating to both urban and rural citizens the negative effects of involvement in a narcotics culture. WADAN strengthens communities and local governance by promoting drug control initiatives through these drug treatment centres and drug-awareness programs at the grassroots level including initiatives in schools, community centres, mosques, shuras, and with community leaders.