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Study of the causes and consequences of chronic poverty among women in Afghanistan
March - December 2007

With the aim of reducing chronic poverty among women in Afghanistan, the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs, JICA and GTZ (two donors who are very involved in gender-related activities in Afghanistan) chose Groupe URD to carry out a piece of research on the causes and consequences of this phenomenon. Field studies took place in Herat, Badakhshan, Bamiyan, Nangahar and Kabul.

 The question of gender in Afghanistan

Since the fall of the Taliban, the international community has invested a great deal of time and resources on the question of gender, making it one of the pillars of the country’s reconstruction. The Afghan National Development Strategy (ANDS) covers several sectors, one of which is social protection. One of its objectives is to reduce extreme poverty, which still affects a large part of the Afghan population.
The ANDS stipulates that reducing extreme poverty is a priority: “The government’s goal is to increase the capacities, opportunities and security of extremely poor and vulnerable Afghans through a process of economic empowerment in order to reduce poverty and increase self-reliance”.
The Afghanistan Compact, which fixes and quantifies objectives for 2010, states the following : “By end-2010, the number of female-headed households that are chronically poor will be reduced by 20%, and their employment rates will be increased by 20%”.

 Understanding of the factors which push women into situations of chronic poverty

The Afghan government (via the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the MOHA), JICA and GTZ (two donors who are very involved in gender-related activities in Afghanistan) chose Groupe URD to carry out a piece of research in order to gain better understanding of the factors which push women into situations of chronic poverty.

A series of individual and collective interviews were carried out with women and men in several provinces in Afghanistan, with the aim of making recommendations for programmes to combat chronic poverty among Afghan women.

Among the questions which were analysed in detail were: How is chronic poverty among women in Afghanistan defined?; and Who are the female heads of household and are they all chronically poor?
The study also established a typology of forms of poverty among women based on criteria of age, social status and access to resources. Suggestions are made for programmes which are adapted to this typology.

In order to make the conclusions as operational as possible, the study used the same definition of poverty used in the Millenium Goals: an individual who earns less than 1 dollar per day.
Poverty is considered to be “chronic” when it lasts for more than 5 consecutive years. Chronic poverty is often inter-generational (transmitted from generation to generation) and multi-dimensional. The most obvious factors are food insecurity, poor health, low skill levels due to a lack of education and a lack of economic opportunities.