Hand in Hand’s statement on the ban on women NGO workers in Afghanistan

Following a letter issued by the Taliban’s Ministry of Economy on Saturday 24 December 2022, all national and international non-governmental organisations working in Afghanistan were instructed to immediately stop women from working. The Ministry has warned that they will revoke the operating licenses of any organisations that do not comply with these new restrictions.

Women staff play an essential role in NGO activities, providing humanitarian and development services, in order to respect traditional and religious customs. This exclusion of women will impact on communities in emergency food distribution, health services, basic education, livelihood training, protection services, and disability services.

Our response

In the immediate term, Hand in Hand Afghanistan, like many other Afghan NGOs, will be suspending its regular field activities and requesting only male members of staff work from the offices, with female members of staff working from home.

Hand in Hand Afghanistan is working with the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief and Development (ACBAR), which represents 183 National and International Humanitarian and Development Organisations. Collectively, we are in urgent discussions with the Ministry of Economy to withdraw their suspension letter and engage in open discussions to find a constructive and durable way forward.

We will keep you updated as the situation changes. If you have any questions please contact Amalia Johnsson, Director of Programmes at Hand in Hand International on ajohnsson@hihinternational.org.


Boeing launches new project to fight poverty and tackle the stereotypes that hold women back

Boeing and Hand in Hand are launching a new project in Arusha Region, Tanzania to support women to beat the odds and succeed as entrepreneurs, lifting 600 families above the poverty line. The project will work closely with women, men and with the wider community to challenge traditional attitudes towards women’s roles that prevent women from earning and controlling their own incomes, and from having a say at home or in their communities.

Arusha Region has some of the highest levels of poverty in the country. Record droughts in the country have resulted in increased food insecurity, which is particularly acute in rural areas like Arusha where most people depend on what they can grow to feed their families. Tanzanian women earn, on average, a third of what men do. They are also expected to be solely responsible for domestic work and childcare, leaving little time to earn an income.

This project will give women the skills and confidence to start their own businesses, as well as working with their husbands, fathers, brothers and male community leaders to shift cultural expectations around what a woman’s role should be.

The project is just a part of Boeing’s commitment to transforming the lives of women and young people in rural Tanzania. Working with Hand in Hand, they expect to create 4,000 jobs for women and young people by 2025, lifting 10,000 people out of poverty.

Jane Sabuni, CEO at Hand in Hand Tanzania, said: “Women can play a crucial role in helping households escape poverty but many are constrained from earning an income by longstanding cultural norms. By working with men, we show them that when women are able to work outside the home they can contribute to the family finances and everyone benefits.”

Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President of Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), said: “We know when women are given the skills and confidence they need to become leaders, whole communities benefit. Boeing’s partnership with Hand in Hand is just one of the ways we are working to tackle gender inequality and help women reach their full potential.”

Hand in Hand CEO, Dorothea Arndt, said: “By investing in women’s skills and potential, Boeing is transforming the lives of thousands of Tanzanian families, and we are enormously grateful for their ongoing support.”

Giving women the confidence to lead: Boeing project transforms lives in rural Tanzania  

A two-year project in Arusha Region, Tanzania that gives women the skills and confidence they need to launch their own enterprises has lifted more than 1,600 people out of poverty, as well as giving 542 women vital leadership skills.

The scheme was delivered by Hand in Hand East Africa and funded by Boeing.

In rural Arusha, the majority of the women we work with live below the poverty line. Because of the training, women participants’ average monthly wage increased from USD 1.53 to USD 45.20.

One of the most important parts of the programme is the leadership skills component, which gives women the confidence to speak up and make their voices heard. After the training, 86 percent of the women we asked said they are now able to make decisions for themselves both at home and within their businesses, an increase of almost 30 percent. Many of these women are now also stepping up to take on leadership roles within their communities.

The project is just a part of Boeing’s commitment to transforming the lives of women and young people in rural Tanzania. Working with Hand in Hand, they expect to train more than 4,000 women and young people by 2025 creating 4,000 jobs and lifting 10,000 people out of poverty.

Jane Sabuni, Tanzania Country Manager for Hand in Hand Eastern Africa, said: “As literacy in the area is low, our trainers use oral storytelling techniques to teach leadership skills. These skills don’t just help women succeed in business, they give them the confidence to make have their say when it comes to household spending, their children’s education, and the issues in the community that matter to them.”

Hand in Hand CEO, Dorothea Arndt, said: “When women earn and control their own incomes we see a reduction in household poverty and vulnerability to financial shocks. By investing in women’s skills and potential Boeing is transforming the lives of thousands of Tanzanian families, and we are enormously grateful for their ongoing support.”

Kuljit Ghata-Aura, President of Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META), said: “At Boeing, we are committed to building better communities worldwide through focused investment that help break poverty cycles. Empowering women can bring paradigm shifts towards economic growth. We’re proud of our five year old partnership with Hand in Hand.”

Hand in Hand and The Coca Cola Foundation partner for cleaner Nairobi streets

The project will help create 525 micro recycling businesses over two years

Hand in Hand International is excited to announce The Coca-Cola Foundation has committed US $150,000 toward ‘Women in Waste’ a two-year project to help solve the plastic waste crisis and economically empower women in Nairobi, Kenya. The initiative will help create 525 micro-recycling businesses that will clear and recycle tonnes of plastic rubbish left on the streets of Nairobi’s informal settlements.

Hand in Hand will give 750 people (who, on average live on US $2 per day) the business and technical training they need to create or, in some cases, enhance their recycling businesses. With Hand in Hand’s help these waste entrepreneurs will have access to the credit they need to begin collecting, sorting as well as compressing and baling plastic waste to sell on to private and government waste contractors.

Importantly, 80 percent of those 750 people will be women. But, it’s not just about economic equality. We know that when women earn – and decide how they spend it – it reduces poverty for everyone. More children in school, and more families with access to healthcare.

Dorothea Arndt, Hand in Hand International CEO, said, “Programs that improve the world we live in and empower wonderful and inspiring women are the lifeblood of what we do. Like The Coca-Cola Foundation, we hold empowering women at our core.”

The Coca-Cola Foundation’s partnership with Hand in Hand is just one of the ways the Foundation is working to empower women across the globe. By the time the project completes in September 2024, the 525 waste enterprises will support hundreds of jobs which, based on similar programs operated by Hand in Hand in Nairobi, could increase daily incomes by 30 percent.

Saadia Madsbjerg, President of The Coca-Cola Foundation, said, “We are proud to use our resources to fund these types of programs. Since 1984, The Coca-Cola Foundation has committed itself to supporting sustainable community programs. With this particular program, 80% of the beneficiaries of this grant will be women, who will have a better chance at improving their livelihoods. As such, we will not only have a cleaner Nairobi, but we will also have a more economically empowered one, with more women actively making a positive difference in their settlements and communities.”

Nairobi’s informal settlements are home to some 2.5 million people (60% of the city’s population). Because these are informal settlements there is no infrastructure and rubbish from all over the city is dumped on their streets.
Nicole, Hand in Hand graduate and plastic recycling entrepreneur, Nairobi, said: “We realized there was no garbage holding site…and the garbage collectors were not doing their work. We decided to do something (about the garbage) that will also benefit the community.”


Visa’s project to fight poverty through job creation boosts small business owners’ profits by 45 percentage points 

A project in Kenya that tackles poverty by supporting people to set up and run their own businesses has delivered unprecedented results – with businesses enrolled in the ‘acceleration’ component of the scheme typically increasing profits by 45 percentage points. 

The three-year project, Kenya Micro-Enterprise Success Programme (KMES), delivered by Hand in Hand and funded by Visa Inc., is reaching 10,200 people, mainly women, in some of the world’s most deprived areas.  When women can earn their own incomes and decide how to spend it, whole communities flourish – with more children in school and more families with access to healthcare. 

During the life of the project, Hand in Hand is providing provide mentoring, specialist support and training to 8,600 people in Kwangware, Kiambu, Kitengala and Kasarani to start their own micro-enterprises from scratch – as part of the ‘start up’ cohort. 

A further 1,600 existing small businesses owners are taking part in the ‘acceleration’ component of the programme – helping people scale up their businesses to reach larger markets. This creates more strong, resilient, local businesses, with the potential to create jobs within the community.

But, just months after the project began, Kenya was hit by its first wave of coronavirus cases, and the country locked down. For Kenyans, the pandemic wasn’t just a health crisis, it was an economic crisis as well – devastating livelihoods and plunging millions below the poverty line.   

Despite this – the project has already achieved remarkable success, particularly for the ‘accelerator’ cohort of the scheme. 

During the Covid-19 crisis, most of the small business owners’ takings fell. However, thanks to the business and financial efficiency training they’d received from Hand in Hand, programme members were able to act quickly to reduce their operating costs during lockdown. These cost-saving initiatives proved to be sustainable over the longer term as well. On average, members in this group saw their profits increase by an incredible 45 percentage points  in just six months. 

Programme members in both groups also learned how to use social media and e-commerce – selling goods and services on Facebook and online marketplaces like Jumia. They were supported to access new value chains.

For businesses to expand, loans are crucial. However, it can be difficult for people to obtain credit from traditional financial institutions, such as banks, if they don’t have any credit history or have never held a bank account. To overcome these barriers, Hand in Hand is working closely with local banks to help project members gain access to loans and credit, so they can invest in staff, equipment and stock. 

Corine Mbiaketcham, Visa’s Vice President and General Manager for East Africa said, “At Visa, we are committed to empowering and supporting women entrepreneurs, because it impacts our community as a whole. We partner to create a brighter future for generations to come. Our partnership with Hand in Hand is one of the crucial ones for us to achieve this. We are pleased with the impact that the program has had on the women-owned business in Kawangware, Kiambu, Kitengela and Kasarani.

Dorothea Arndt, CEO at Hand in Hand International, said: “When Covid hit, no one knew what to expect – our hope was simply that members didn’t lose money. Instead, the ‘survival tactics’ people employed to reduce their overheads during the long months of lockdown led to long-term, sustainable reductions in business costs –  and, in the case of the more established businesses, an incredible 45 percentage points average rise in profits. 

“During the pandemic many small entrepreneurs in East Africa experienced a credit crunch – thanks to our partnership with Visa, many of our members were able to expand their access to credit instead.”

Learn more about accelerators

Behind the headlines in Afghanistan with Dr. Kamran Hekmati, Director of Programmes, Hand in Hand Afghanistan

Dr. Kamran Hekmati,
Director of Programmes, Hand in Hand Afghanistan


How has life changed in Mazar-i-Sharif since the Taliban arrived?

At first everyone was frightened and everything closed. But then, life carries on. The shops, markets and businesses, private schools and private universities reopened. For us in Mazar life is OK but it varies across the country. 

 What’s life like for women?

It is more difficult for women now. If we want to employ a woman we have to get special permission to do so and the working conditions are governed by strict rules limiting their interaction with men and their travel, unless accompanied by a male member of the family.  

Are you and the team able to travel freely – especially to visit our members?

Now the Taliban have given us our license, we can operate almost normally.  

In some ways things, especially travel, are easier. Now the Taliban are in control the armed roadside checkpoints have gone. 

The new regime has actually opened up the countryside. For example in Chimtal district, just south of Mazar, previously it was only safe for us to operate in the 10 government controlled villages – the other 70 were ‘no go’ areas under Taliban control. Now the Taliban control the whole area we can go to all 80 villages. All we need is the funding to do so. 

What about the economy? 

You used not to see many people begging on the streets, but now you do.   

So many people have lost their jobs – the 350,000 employed by the army are now unemployed. Although the private businesses, schools etc are open, the government operations are not. And, everything is smaller because no one has any money to spend. 

But, what about the rural economy in northern Afghanistan, where you are? 

The farmers aren’t affected by what’s happening in the cities. They rely on the land, livestock and weather for food and living.  

They are much more worried about how they and their families will survive the winter – the drought meant the wheat and barley died in the fields this summer, as did much of the livestock. 

Everywhere families are hungry.  

What are we doing to help our members as famine looms this winter? 

People are so hungry they cannot join our programmes until they have had something to eat, so we give every member a food package. 


Hand in Hand partners with FINCA in Tanzania

Hand in Hand is teaming up with FINCA, one of the world’s leading microfinance providers, to help hundreds of women micro-entrepreneurs in Tanzania beat the odds and succeed as entrepreneurs.

Launched last month, the partnership will see FINCA provide financial training and small loans to Hand in Hand’s members in Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions. The loans, which will be offered via tailored Self-Help Group accounts, are crucial to helping members launch and scale up their businesses. Coming from a reputable provider, they could also act as a bridge to bigger loans from more traditional financial institutions.

For more information about the partnership, please email Programme Development Manager Isabel Creixell.

Statement on Afghanistan

Hand in Hand International has been deeply concerned at events in Afghanistan in recent months and, of course, days. With so much hanging in the balance, we will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Our colleagues in Afghanistan are safe and accounted for – cautious but not cowed, and already planning ahead. Whatever happens in the coming days and weeks, there will always be a place for the tireless efforts of Afghans dedicated to making Afghanistan a better place for everyone, women and men.

In the immediate term, in accordance with contingency plans, our colleagues will shelter in place and await the formation of a new government. Once this new government is formed, they will apply to continue working, helping to support the people of Afghanistan at this most crucial time. For our part, Hand in Hand International in London will redouble our efforts, and call on the NGO and donor community to do the same. 

In almost 15 years of working in Afghanistan, we have been humbled time and time again by the strength and resilience of the members we serve. Today, that strength and resilience are at the forefront of our thinking, even as we send our hopes, prayers and wishes to a people that have already suffered so much.

-Dorothea Arndt, CEO, Hand in Hand International

‘They helped me to be so courageous’: Hand in Hand partnership with CARE boosts confidence, incomes

Members who completed Hand in Hand’s joint-programme with CARE in Afghanistan say they have higher incomes, more confidence, increased mobility and greater decision-making power inside and outside of the home.

The findings, reported during a series of focus groups conducted in December 2020, come as part of a wider evaluation of the project, designed to test what happens with programmes that target members’ social empowerment, courtesy of CARE, are blended with programmes that target their economic empowerment, courtesy of Hand in Hand. Launched in 2018, the 22-month project concluded in November last year.

Economic empowerment

All the project’s members – a greater number than expected – completed Hand in Hand’s business and skills training. Those who needed it also received extra training literacy and numeracy. With their training complete, members received start-up toolkits to help launch their businesses (think sewing machines and thread for tailors or chickens, coops and feed for poultry farmers). The rest was up to them.

By the time the project concluded, 1,101 enterprises had been launched, 11 percent more than the target of 990. What’s more, members had hired 117 of their neighbours as employees, bringing the total number of jobs created to 1,218.

Monthly net incomes rose to an average of AFN 2,152 (US $28), in most cases starting from zero. It was enough to lift the average member above the national poverty line.

Social empowerment

The benefits of the programme weren’t only economic, however. Speaking to Hand in Hand Afghanistan evaluators during a series of post-project workshops, members reported improvements in a number of key areas. Here’s just some of what they had to say.

On mobility: “I can feel positive changes in both my household and in my community. Indeed, this project changed in my life. For example, I did not go outside much before my participation in this project but after my participation I become a well-known person in my area. I also became a social person by regularly attending group meetings and vocational training classes. Now I’ve started going to my relative’s houses and participating in their events, and I’m going to the market to buy raw materials for my enterprise too.” – Participant 6, Dehmiskin focus group

On decision-making and confidence: “I can decide on health issues in my family, on my enterprise, on buying food, buying cloths, registering children in school and more… During the two years of the project I received several trainings and they helped me to be so courageous. Before, it was our men who sold our eggs and milk at the market, but now I can decide where to sell them, how much to sell them for and how should I spend my money.” Participant 4, Dehmiskin focus group

On involving husbands in training: “[Before the project] we could not raise their voices and when we wanted to go out. People had negative thoughts about us. That’s changed since men and women both started attending meetings.” – Participant 7, Khulm focus group


Evaluators – and focus group members – made a wide range of recommendations for improving future programmes. Prioritising enterprises that maximise returns while minimising labour was one of them, with members pointing to poultry farming as one example. Caring for chickens only takes two or three hours a day, they said, and chickens lay eggs all year regardless of season. In a context when most men down tools during the harsh winter months, this was seen as especially valuable.

Evaluators also recommended involving more men in future programmes in order to change their attitudes about their wives’ work.

For more information about the programme, please click the link below or contact Hand in Hand International Programme Development Manager Isabel Creixell.

Read more

By the numbers

1,101 enterprises


1,218 jobs

Average income: AFN 2,152 (US$28)

Hand in Hand joins calls for people-, planet-driven recovery at C7 Summit

“We, the representatives of over 200 civil society organisations from around the world have come together at this crucial moment in history to call on the leaders of the G7 to agree a bold and ambitious policy agenda that puts people and planet at the centre of the world’s recovery.”

So begins the communique from Hand in Hand Afghanistan Chair Seema Ghani and other leaders who gathered this month at the Civil Society (7) Summit. The two-day meeting, hosted by industry group Bond, aimed to help shape the agenda at this year’s G7 meeting in Cornwall.

Among other recommendations, the communique calls for governments to “Build Forward” from the pandemic sustainably and inclusively based a new, green economic model. It also calls for the G7 to close the global gap in funding for vaccines and build an early detection system for future pandemics.

To read the full communique, click here.