In Badakhshan Province, which borders Tajikistan, Pakistan and China in north-eastern Afghanistan, Simin Walid leads fifty-four permanent employees as well as over one thousand temporary project-employees at the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee’s office.
– During my time at other organisations, I often applied for other job opportunities. However, during the past 10 years of working for NAC, I have never applied anywhere else. When I came to NAC in 2012, I had a short background in the medical field. Since that time, I have become very familiar with many other areas such as natural resource management (NRM), education and dialogue- and conflict transformation and so on, Walid explains.
Simin was born in Kunduz Province in northern Afghanistan. At Kabul University she studied at the pharmacy faculty, before working for the government, Médecins Sans Frontiers, Medair and other health-related organisations. She later moved to Fayzabad, Badakhshan, where she now holds the position as Northern Head of Office.
– I started with NAC as an officer for community health. Now I am head of NACs northern regional office here in Badakhshan, one of the biggest programme areas for the organisation. This gives me a lot of motivation – precisely growing my skills and knowledge to improve Afghanistan and myself. This organisation is also well recognised within the community here in Badakhshan, because of its background and history in the province – another motivating factor for me.
A usual day at the office
The Badakhshan office is located in the city of Fayzabad, in the centre of the province. Out of its 28 districts, NAC is actively working in 15 of them, with the aim of implementing solid long-term solutions in accordance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
– My usual routine is quite varied. Most days I am closely coordinating and evaluating our activities at the district- and provincial level, as well as coordinating with other organisations and agencies. Overall, I manage all the issues at the provincial level through the office here in Fayzabad, which includes some field missions. I also have meetings with the staff.
NAC projects and activities in Badakhshan
The Badakhshan office is working within several primary areas these days. The first main area includes natural resource management (NRM), food security, disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change. Another area in focus is education. Here they work at the primary, secondary, and tertiary class levels. These are the biggest focus areas in Badakhshan right now, in addition to short-term funded initiatives with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
– In 2021 we were in the final year of implementing ERA (Empowering Rural Afghanistan), a development project from 2019-2021 funded by NORAD. However, since 2021 was full of conflict, political changes, and the COVID-19 pandemic, we are in the phase of getting an extension of the program (ERA+) for 2022 as well, to fully achieve its original goals, she explains hopefully.
In education, NAC has multiple projects. The organisation has almost completed the first year of a programme for the Global Partnership for Education, which is set for three years. Another one is EEQAP, which is an educational research programme funded by both NORAD and the Washington University of St. Louis. The Badakhshan office also arranges pre-school playgroups, where the children learn through playing games.
– Integrated into all our programmes are crosscutting issues such as sustainable development and dialogue- and conflict transformation. We have had dialogue- and conflict transformation training multiples times already in 2022, with help from the Nansen Centre for Peace and Dialogue in Norway.
The current challenges
Walid explains that at this moment the office and their work is not faced with as many obstacles and challenges in contrast to recent years.
– But many challenges still exist here, throughout all of Afghanistan! If there were no challenges, then we would not be here to work. Because of the changes in the political situation, we do have some social obstacles. Due to the impact of certain international political decisions, we lack funding from actors such as the World Bank for some of our social development programmes throughout the country, Walid explains.
Hopeful in a challenging situation
Since August, there has been a big increase in the poverty levels as well as in unemployment. Many Afghan families, across the entire country, face starvation and hopelessness. There is also an ongoing banking crisis, which makes matters worse. However, Simin remains hopeful for the future of Afghanistan.
– I think, and I hope everything will slowly get better. We still have many organisations here that are working for the Afghan people, and which provide us with much needed humanitarian assistance. I try to remain hopeful. Many people are suffering from poverty, joblessness, have become refugees, lost family members, or have emigrated to neighbouring countries. Last year, the school doors were shut in the face of Afghan girls. Hopefully the new government opens the schools and the universities this spring, as they have promised.