WomenAid International

the Silk Road programme


"If I have any regret, it is that I did not emphasise sufficiently the difficulty which parents face. I saw my task to be the advocate of the child. But I believe now there is another important task - to be the advocate of the mother."
Bruno Bettleheim -  after a lifetime working for disadvantaged children.


The Great Silk Road is the most historic and probably most well known trading routes in the world with a history stretching back several thousand years.From Japan through China, Central Asia, Northern India, the Parthians- to the present day countries of Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, - mention of the ‘Great Silk Road’ conjures up for many a romantic vision of exotic sights and sounds of countries rich in contrasting traditions.For the Women of the Silk Road however, there is little romance.For many women life is a daily struggle for survival.


The WomenAid Silk Road Stategy is designed to support disadvantaged women and children in Silk Road countries through projects that facilitate networking and information exchange and dissemination, promote women and child rights awareness, encourage action against violence of women and children, provide professional training and skills update and support civil society development initiatives.

WomenAid believes empowering women through training and capacity building is the most appropriate way to build sustainable developmentinitiatives.


Women under the subjugation of Taliban are deprived of any meaningful existence.  Since the Taliban regime took control over most of Afghanistan in September 1996 the human rights of girls and women have been denied.It is apartheid based on gender in which Afghan women are deprived of their rights to choose how to live.Banned from work, barred from receiving any education, they are not allowed to leave the home unaccompanied or to speak in public and are forced to wear the all-enveloping burqa.Health care is almost non-existent. Thousands of widows are deprived of the right to earn any livelihood for their families, their children forced to scavenge in the streets. Women are virtually under house arrest. There has been a dramatic increase in suicides of women who cannot cope with their virtual 'imprisonment' by Taliban decrees. 

In the past, Afghan women, especially those living in the main cities, were widely involved in public life, be it as students, teachers, midwives, doctors, civil servants and even members of parliament. Schools and universities which were well attended by girls and female students in the past, are now closed to them. Cut off from the media - music and television are also banned - their sense of isolation and despair is deepened as they live under the impression that the world is not aware of their plight. They are voiceless living shadows - victims of gender apartheid. By 1998 the women of Afghanistan felt the world had forgotten them.

WomenAid International launched Living Shadows, a Solidarity Campaign in support of the Women of Afghanistan and in the first year collected almost 40,000 petition signatures from individuals and organizations urging all member governments of the United Nations to withhold recognition of any regime in Afghanistan until women's rights are restored, and to work towards the restoration of fundamental human rights.The work of Afghan refugee groups has also been supported.


Following the collapse of the Soviet Union there has been enormous economic dislocation in all the newly independent states and whole populations have suffered great hardship, none more so than women and children.  Governments have faced difficulties in making payments of salaries and pensions, and have been unable to deliver services, leading to the disintegration of social infrastructures. 

WomenAid International, has worked in Silk Road countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus since 1994, implementing humanitarian, development and reconstruction programmes during the years of great need – commonly refered to by local populations as ‘the hardships’. Although the emergency period is now considered to be over, the period of hardship continues in most countries and WomenAid has remained in the region to undertake development and civil society programmes which deliver benefits to vulnerable women and children.


Health and social services had been seriously affected by the economic crisis and led to a dramatic deterioration in the nutritional status of all vulnerable groups, but expectant and lactating mothers were especially vulnerable.European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) funding of 1.6 million ECU enabled WomenAid to provide 2500 tonnes of emergency food assistance to 86,000 poor pregnant women.'Baby kits' containing essential items for the care of a new born baby were given to 20,000 of the poorest mothers in the country.Maternity hospitals struggling to provide basic services also received desperately needed vital supplies.


WomenAid played an important role as a major partner of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) distributing over 8000 MT of food to 140,000 refugees and 100,000 vulnerable people throughout Armenia.Also in partnership with WFP in Georgia WomenAid delivered over 1200MT emergency food supplies to vulnerable women and their families in the remote mountainous regions of Kodory Vally (Apkhazeti) and Svaneti.


Programme activities of Health and Gender Equity Centre, currently being implemented by WomenAid International together with our established Caucasus Gateway partner, WomenAid Georgia, include Be Safe! Be Smart, a multi-media Anti-Trafficking Campaign, and the formation of a regional Coalition Against Violence.Child well-being and women’s health programmes are under development.

Advancement of women is one of the main goals which the global community pursues in its efforts to strengthen capacity for sustainable human development.Yet the importance of public awareness of gender issues and women's rights does not receive adequate attention - especially when States are hard-pressed to find funds to run the country's infrastructure.

Most women in the CIS remain unaware of the important role the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action document, adopted on the 15th of September 1995 by the Fourth World Conference on Women, has in global efforts to ensure women's human rights.Despite the considerable input of international organizations and the activities of the emerging women's groups and NGO's, women evidence low levels of knowledge about women's rights and protection, or indeed threats to those rights. Rights awareness activities are an essential part of the Health & Gender Equity Centre activities.


Violence affects the lives of millions of women world-wide, in all socio-economic classes and cultures, impeding the right of women to participate fully in society.The incidents of domestic violence against women have been increasing world-wide and it is now considered to be a global epidemic.Governments play a pivotal role in efforts to eradicate domestic violence and a number of countries have made the elimination of domestic violence against women a national priority.The Caucasus Coalition Against Violence aims to support government initiatives and promote initiatives to combat violence of all forms.

Combating violence against women requires challenging the very way that gender roles and power relations are articulated in society.Rights are worth very little to women where there are no corresponding duties on the part of governments, organisations and individuals to respect those rights.Violations of women's rights will go unrecognised and unremedied where there is no understanding of those rights or no legal services to advocate for remedies.Action to combat violence therefore needs to occur across all sectors, requires collaboration at all levels and needs to address factors at the individual, interpersonal and institutional levels.


Regarded by the United Nations as the fastest growing and third largest criminal activity in the world, trafficking of young women and girls has exploded in recent years.With the collapse of state economies the young desperately seek jobs as waitresses, au pairs, etc., abroad - only to fall victim to the trickery of traffickers.The WomenAid Campaign aims to support Georgian civil society and human rights development by encouraging and maintaining a productive dialogue between government, women’s groups, NGOs, civil law enforcement agencies, media, education and healthcare sectors, and promoting the UN, Georgian Government and local initiatives to reduce threats posed by irregular migration and the trafficking of women, youth and children in and through Georgia.

Through its Silk Road Strategy, WomenAid continues to work supportively in the region and is seeking funds for its programme of assistance to women and children of the Silk Road - from China and Afghanistan to Palestine and the Balkans.

WomenAid International is helping to meet their needs.  Please help!

Silk Road Strategy   Children of the Silk Road   Silk Road Internet Initiative  


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