Decades of civil war in Afghanistan have created interconnected problems of poverty, unemployment, shattered infrastructure and insecurity.
The Women’s Dormitory Restoration project, financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), represents a multi-faceted response to these complex difficulties. Project implementation methods were designed to develop local capacity and generate jobs and incomes. The completed dormitory buildings have allowed rural Afghan women to overcome grave security problems and promote their right to attend university.
To implement the rehabilitation project USAID turned to the UNOPS Afghanistan Operations Centre (AGOC) because of its track record managing complex infrastructure operations over many years. UNOPS technical staff were involved in all stages of the project cycle, providing high-quality engineering and management.
UNOPS handled the complicated issue of contracting – designing and compiling tender documents and conducting competitive tendering in accordance with highly transparent UNOPS project procedures. UNOPS monitored and evaluated work performed under the contracts, assessing achievements, quality and site productivity during construction.
UNOPS also trained staff and established mechanisms to ensure smooth and efficient operation of the residence in a fashion appropriate to the needs of the women students and the unique requirements of Afghan culture.
UNOPS sought local government and civil society contributions wherever appropriate and through the Ministry of Higher Education worked with other ministries. During construction and renovation UNOPS made maximum use of local materials, labour and equipment. Besides ensuring that most project money remained in-country, this helped build local ownership and determination to maintain the facility in the long term.
To supplement inadequate municipal infrastructure and energy networks, UNOPS managed the installation of an independent power supply and sewage treatment plant with energy efficient technology. Water is supplied by city mains and a series of deep wells on the compound.
The project places particular emphasis on developing the technical and managerial capacity of government and civil society. Toward that end UNOPS capacity and management staff have offices in the Women’s Dormitory itself.
Despite the troubled security situation, weak local capacity, and lack of transparency and accountability in the local business environment in 2004, UNOPS successfully completed the rehabilitation work in under six months.
As a result, more than 1,000 women now enjoy safe and secure accommodation, allowing them to attend classes of higher education at five faculties in Kabul. That gives students the chance to gain knowledge and skills that empower them, their families and Afghan society.
The Women’s Dormitory includes four wings in which the students have rooms and bathroom facilities. Each wing has a simple kitchen facility.
There is a central dining hall, a commercial kitchen serving three meals per day, recreation facilities, a resource centre and a health clinic. A training room offers daily English and computer classes and courses on issues such as hygiene and emergency preparedness. Additionally there are computers and a local area network for all students to access. Almost all staff are female.
The landscaping of the garden is a symbol of hope for the residents. After three years of operations the Women’s Dormitory is a symbol of the future and a new era for education and women in Afghanistan.