Hand in Hand ‘extremely useful… to women’s socioeconomic situation’: report

Hand in Hand Afghanistan’s programme in Samangan Province was “extremely useful to improving women’s socioeconomic situation”, receiving “overwhelmingly positive” reviews from beneficiaries, according to independent evaluators.

That’s thanks in part to its “deeply localised design and implementation methodology, which prioritised existing dynamics, limitations and opportunities instead of transplanting projects and ideologies into the districts,” they said.

Launched in February 2014 with US $1.16 million in funding from European Union, the programme aimed to create 5,400 small businesses and 8,100 jobs over 30 months. Perhaps most ambitiously, it targeted 70 percent female participation – significantly more than Afghanistan’s female labour participation rate of 16 percent, or the 35 percent target for aid programmes set by the Afghan government. (To learn more about the challenges faced by our female beneficiaries, click here.)

Those targets, along with most others, were “met or exceeded”, according to the Green Growth Consulting Services report.

By the numbers

info-white-business 5,518 enterprises vs target of 5,400
Infographic: Jobs created: 90,745 Our entrepreneurs make their own success, breaking the cycle of dependency 8,538 jobs vs target of 8,100
Infographic: 1.16 million members trained 76% female participation rate vs target of 70%

Women’s economic empowerment

Published in October 2015, an independent mid-term review of the programme said Hand in Hand’s work with women had been “highly effective [and] able to ensure a huge proportion of women in the project: 73 percent, which is incredible.” One year later, Green Growth’s end-term review discovered that number had increased, with women accounting for 76 percent of both businesses and jobs. Members of both sexes who owned enterprises before joining the programme saw their incomes increase by 44 percent, on average, while those without businesses went from earning nothing to earning 1,900 AFN (US $28.50) a month.

Women’s voices

Evaluators interviewed dozens of women, both individually and in groups. “The vast majority… indicated satisfaction with their new income-generating opportunities, and were optimistic about their group and individual efforts to continue their activities following the project’s completion,” they concluded. Most found their new incomes “particularly useful” for putting food on the table and paying children’s school fees. Sara, 47, was one of them.

“We learned how to save, and also learned bookkeeping and specific trades. I also underwent literacy training, and can now use all of these trainings for my business. I know how to read phone numbers and prices now, as well as do basic calculations which I use for my poultry business.”

Zainab, 25, agreed. “Before these trainings, we didn’t know how to even have or develop savings. We didn’t know bookkeeping or how to start a business. Hand in Hand helped us develop these enterprises and have an independent income for ourselves as well as skills in how to continue pursuing these trades.” That women would embrace their own economic empowerment is not in the least bit surprising. Perhaps even more encouraging, then, were the feelings of male respondents, accustomed to positions of relative agency and authority. “Men explained that the economic empowerment of women resulted in improving their overall household incomes,” said the report. “They expressed strong support for the continued economic empowerment of women and girls in their communities, believing such programming to be useful for communities as a whole – in addition to easing some pressure on them to be sole income earners for their families.”

Market linkages


5,518 members trained vs target of 4,300

‘Market linkage’ and ‘value addition’ training is the fourth and final step in Hand in Hand’s job creation model, provided only to those entrepreneurs who have proven their businesses are on solid footing and ready to grow. Hand in Hand Afghanistan targeted 4,300 members for market linkage training at the start of the programme and instead reached 5,518 – 73 percent of them women. That’s 28 percent above target. The training will help make sure their businesses continue to grow – merging into co-operatives, linking with international value chains or simply expanding into new territories – for years to come.


green growth reportBased in part on interviews with members and in part on their own conclusions, the report’s authors made a number of recommendations, including:

  • Continue to engage local communities with “more advanced” training, including courses to help interested members become trainers themselves.
  • Expand into new villages, particularly those that have “already attempted to begin their own savings groups, rewarding their initiative.”

Hand in Hand is actively fundraising to do just that. For more information about how you can make a difference, please email Major Donor and Corporate Fundraising Officer Joe Dyson.

  • Continue to monitor programme members in years to come.

Hand in Hand Afghanistan’s monitoring and evaluation framework was under review even as Green Growth completed its report. After-the-fact evaluation has been included as a central consideration.

  • Consider women’s low literacy rates at every level of programme design.

An astonishing 93 percent of rural Afghan women are illiterate. Hand in Hand has already taken steps to overcome this immense challenge, requiring every Savings Group to have at least one member with a basic level of literacy in charge of their group’s accounting. Lessons in literacy and numeracy are provided to all.