A Woman’s Perspective on Reducing Disaster Risk

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Fatima Akbary is a community organizer with Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) in Afghanistan. Her story offers a new perspective on how the Aga Khan Development Network reduces disaster risk, and one family’s investment in the future of their country.
 
As a social mobilizer for the Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction project, I work with communities to coordinate development. Disaster preparedness is a new idea for these communities. The project aims to help them to plan for disasters such as floods and landslides, and to minimize their damage. By mid-2012, for example, we had conducted detailed village assessments and seminars in 90 villages and managed 120 trainings in search and rescue and first aid, for communities and school groups. I know that these precautions save lives and homes.
 
With Focus Humanitarian Assistance I am involved in rapid and detailed assessments of all aspects of the community: social, cultural, economic, and disaster vulnerability. I travel four times to each participating village, where we:

  1. Conduct rapid assessment
  2. Conduct a detailed assessment
  3. Hold village seminars
  4. Facilitate the monitoring and evaluation process

We spend one day on a typical rapid assessment for a community. For each step of our activities, we aim for gender balance, but the mode of participation varies depending on the village. In some villages both men and women can meet together in one place; in other villages local custom dictates that they meet separately. When we form a Community Emergency Response Team at the community level, we ensure that the team includes both male and female members.
 

Fatima Akbary (with pen) engages a women’s group in community mapping as part of a community assessment.

I was born in Shutor Jangal village, in Afghanistan’s northern Baghlan province, and graduated from high school in the city of Pul-i-Khumri in 2007. But I could not afford to start university, so after graduation I began looking for a job. In 2009 I found a temporary job with the Aga Khan Foundation as a health hygiene promoter. After three months in that position, I moved into my current job as a social mobilizer.
 
The job allowed me to continue my higher education at Baghlan University. I started classes in 2010 in the department of English language literature and have successfully completed my fourth semester, but I am not sure whether I can continue my studies.
 
I have five sisters living with me in Pul-i-Khumri city. When I get home from work, my sisters are busy with their studies. My older sister is a teacher studying economics at a private institution. My three youngest sisters take classes at private learning centers. We are in debt so my elder sister’s earnings get paid to the bank, and all household expenses and tuition for my younger sisters come from my earnings. If I stopped working, my sisters could not continue their schooling.
 
So I am a social mobilizer in more ways than one.
 
Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction (CBDRR) is a project of the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. and Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), funded by the United States Agency for International Development, Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA).

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