Afghans for Civil Society (ACS) was founded in 1998 by Baltimore businessman Qayum Karzai and other Afghans working with the international community to assist the people of Afghanistan in their struggle for freedom and developing a strong civil society.
For the past 30 years Afghanistan has endured many civil strives, from an invasion to internal struggles and civil wars, to a multi-year drought and tyrannical regimes with no concern or care for the human beings living in this nation. These many years of tyranny and violence has left the country destroyed of its infrastructure, institutions and depleted of its ability to feed, educate and maintain civility for its people.
ACS works in Afghanistan to address critical needs while simultaneously instilling community ownership of the reconstruction process; providing means for implementing a democratic society and building bridges between the Afghan people and donors from the international community. With assistance from ACS Field Director Rangina Hamidi, a woman born in Kandahar and educated in the U.S., volunteers, dedicated board members and support from individuals in the United States, Afghans for Civil Society has become one of the most successful and reputable organizations working within Afghanistan for the sole benefit of Afghans.
Since opening its Kandahar office in April 2002, ACS has had great accomplishments:
Creating a productive future for women and war widows in Kandahar
Our Women’s Income Generation Project now provides employment for over 400 Kandahar women—many of them widows—and their families. They produce garments and other handicrafts for sale in-country and abroad. Using traditional beadwork and embroidery work known as khamak, the women work in their homes, as ACS provides the materials and the network for picking up and marketing the completed products for the women.
The home-based network created by the Women’s Income Generation Project has enabled ACS to start home-based schooling for girls, vitamin disbursements, nutrition counseling and hygienic training and even as simple as sharing public information not available to them in their homes.
The aim of this project is to become a self sufficient women owned business so that even when funding is no longer available for the project, the profits of the women’s work will sustain them to continue proving work and opportunities for women in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
News and Information to Help Develop Civil Society
ACS created the first independent radio station in Kandahar - Afghan Azada Radio – FM 88.0 - and we are currently in the process of training and planning for expansion to an independent television. With an Afghan staff of journalists from the area and veterans of radio in Kabul and the BBC, the station offers news, public affairs, Afghan history and music and information on education, nutrition, health and drug awareness. The station also sponsors community fairs and events and features advertising to assist in rebuilding local businesses and services.
The Afghan Women’s Bill of Rights
In September 2003, the Kandahar headquarters of ACS hosted a conference on women’s rights with participants including members of all tribes and from every province of Afghanistan—co-sponsored with New York-based Women for Afghan Women. The resulting “Afghan Women’s Bill of Rights” was hailed in a New York Times editorial of September 23rd of that year as “an extraordinary document” and a groundbreaking moment in rebuilding Afghanistan.
Growing the Democratic Process at the Grassroots Level
In partnership with the National Endowment for Democracy, ACS convened a Men’s Shura, or Council, to conduct training for individuals participating in the development of the National Parliament. This took place in Uruzgon, the province directly north to Kandahar and known as the “Taliban Heartland.” Support provided by the National Endowment for Democracy, also assisted with training sessions for women in Kandahar to better understand their rights under traditional Islamic Sharia Law, as well as the new constitutional law. Most recently, we have implemented the Kandahar Women’s Shura program for female participating in local governance issues and leadership training.
On the Ground: Rebuilding and Relief
With funding from individuals in Massachusetts, ACS helped rebuild a small hamlet destroyed after the fall of the Taliban. We also helped rebuild Zarghona Middle School for girls. ACS has also facilitated numerous shipments of humanitarian aid, including shoes, medicine, clothing, toys, vitamins, handmade quilts, blankets, school supplies, books and hygienic supplies.
ACS is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, registered in the United States, and an Afghan NGO, registered in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Afghans for Civil Society gratefully acknowledges the generous support of countless private individuals, in the United States, Afghanistan and abroad. This includes ordinary citizens, teachers and students, members of the Afghan Diaspora, as well as the following private, governmental and non-governmental institutions:
Vitamin Relief, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, Delhi Crafts Council, Women’s Exchange- Baltimore, DACAAR, Asia Foundation, UNIFEM, CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency), PRT (Provisional Reconstruction Team), Working Assets, The Carr Foundation, USAID (The US Agency for International Development), DFID (Department for International Development), UNDCP (United Nations International Drug and Control Program), The Open Society Institute, the National Democratic Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, GTZ (German Technical Cooperation), International Organization for Migration
Collaboration: Formal & Informal
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, Internews, AINA (Afghan Independent Culture and Media Center), American Society of Afghan Architects and Engineers, The Helmand Restaurants in Maryland and Massachusetts, SARA (Afghan Support Organization), Women for Afghan Women (WAW), Women Waging Peace, Business Council for Peace, Kandahar University, Ten Thousand Villages, Aid to Artisans, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Thunderbird University