Moving Stichting Voice of Afghan Wo=Men into the International Sphere

Stichting Voice of Afghan Wo=Men

Catalystas is delighted to be working with Voice of Afghan Wo=Men, a fantastic Rotterdam-based activist group focusing on gender equality and ending harmful traditional practices in diaspora communities. The organisation is now moving into international development, in partnership with NPO-RRAA, a long-standing humanitarian and development organisation with almost 30 years of experience in the country.

Initially working within a rather isolated Afghan diaspora community in Rotterdam, VoAW realised that there were similar experiences, similar practices, in other communities. They started bringing together people from different backgrounds to meet, talk and collaborate in changing mentalities.

Their distinctive methodology involves cross-cultural dialogue, discussion and training. They take an intersectional feminist approach, engaging people from different backgrounds, men as well as women, to combat social problems and inequalities from the ground up. 

With time, it became apparent that their work was having further-reaching effects, touching not just communities in the Netherlands, but also people in the countries of origin of the communities they worked with. Because people from diaspora communities often travel, new perspectives and knowledge gained travelled with them.

After nine years of successful projects in the Netherlands, as well as several partnerships with key organisations working in international development in the area, VoAW is looking to take the experience they’ve gained and translate it to an economic empowerment project in Afghanistan. 

As part of recent project Key Agents for Peace, VoAW focussed on training young Afghan change-makers in peace processes, communication and UNSC Resolution 1325 (which seeks to protect women’s rights in conflict). A 30-strong group of young women and men, all highly educated, received training.

Catalystas is providing fundraising and project support for a pilot project to build on this work. Economic hardship and particularly a lack of jobs is a key issue affecting young people in Afghanistan. The change-makers that took part in this project say that their biggest barrier to creating yet more lasting change is that they need income to support themselves. Further, they need jobs that befit highly educated people. Decent jobs are not only important in terms of income and job satisfaction for our change-makers. Professional jobs confer social status and highly educated young women and men with the skills and knowledge to be empowered and promoted within their communities will be seen as authorities whose opinions are informed and legitimate.

Together, VoAW and NPO will be looking to find new, scalable interventions to alleviate unemployment amongst educated youth and allow the change-makers to continue their activism sustainably. Catalystas will be helping VoAW to move into the international development sphere and to continue using their unique methodology, skills, and networks to positively impact the lives of people in Afghanistan and beyond.

Follow Voice of Afghan Wo=Men on Instagram @stichtingvoaw

Women Leading Women in Rwanda.

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The 1994 genocide in Rwanda left behind a population comprised of mostly women — approximately 80% of the survivors.  Historically a patriarchal culture, out of necessity, women stepped up in many ways to keep the country going forward.  

Women were granted rights that were completely unimaginable before the war:  the right to inherit property, the right to use the land as collateral to get loans, the right to have their own bank accounts, etc.  Due to the aftermath of the war, economic independence for women was fast-tracked. Institutions and political processes were revised to mandate 30% of government positions held by women.  Although the country’s framework changed rather swiftly, society has been slower to accept the new reality. For example, the gender stereotypes that ran strongly in Rwandan culture pre-1994 are still very much prevalent despite the systemic changes.  Although women hold more positions in government, they are still expected to serve as the primary caregiver at home. In this post-genocide context, the mindset of the culture still has ways to go to catch up with the system.  

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Despite the obstacles to achieving gender equity, there are bold Rwandan women taking risks and constantly challenging conventional thinking.  Catalystas associate Tiffany Sprague had the privilege to travel to Kigali with WAKE International last May to meet with some of these amazing changemakers. She along with women from Google and the US Navy made up the consulting team for social enterprise Starlight Rwanda whose mission is to inspire Rwandan youth to innovate through fun, engaging DIY kits powered by renewable energy sources.  Starlight Rwanda wanted advice on how to expand their services further into the EdTech space. After a thorough needs assessment was conducted, the advisors visited one of their pilot sites in Kigali to see the programs in action.  They interviewed students participating in a series of science, technology, engineering and math classes aimed to expose the children to different disciplines and careers through hands-on projects. In subsequent work sessions, through careful listening and understanding of their specific needs and cultural context, the advisors completed three tailor-made deliverables:  pitch deck for prospective investors, social media communications plan and strategy for collecting data to show impact.  

Integral to Catalystas values and beliefs, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  The goal is to utilize our expertise while representing the client’s needs, the local market and technological capabilities.  For more information on this case or about our methodologies, please contact Tiffany at [email protected].