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Gender and Public Participation in Afghanistan
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Implications for Aid, Transparency and Accountability

The foreword of the book is written by Ms. Shinkai Karokhail, famous Afghan women rights activist and former member of the parliament who is currently Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada. Many observers wonder why billions of dollars in foreign aid spent in Afghanistan during the last 16 years has not made a considerable impact on good governance, poverty reduction, gender equality, and human rights. Still around 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, gender inequality is very high, and Afghanistan remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world. One of the reasons for this is that the responsible authorities have failed to establish an accountable and transparent government. There are strong arguments to blame the Afghan government or international donors/organizations providing aid for their policies resulting in such failures in security, infrastructure and economic development, however, the blame itself cannot take the Afghan nation anywhere rather than making all more depressed. It is important to look for the root cause of the problems. One of the key causes of these problems, I believe, is weak public participation in planning, budgeting, and delivery of services to the people. The Afghan government and its international financial supporters have failed to fulfill expectations of the Afghan people and spend billions of dollars in a transparent and effective way. This book discusses within the context of budgeting and planning the role of gender and participation, two very closely interconnected issues in these processes and explores how these could better promote accountability and transparency. The book includes examples of good practices in gender and participation from the international perspective and to what extent they could be applied in Afghanistan. The book is arranged into ten chapters. The first chapter introduces the concept of "e;gender"e; and "e;public participation."e; The second chapter introduces the budgeting process in Afghanistan today. The third and fourth chapters discuss the importance of access to information and mechanisms for public engagement. The fifth chapter discusses status of public participation in budgeting, planning, and oversight. The sixth chapter explores gender responsive budgeting. The next chapters elaborate the roles of key stakeholders (Executive, Legislature, and Civil Society Organizations) in gender and participation. The final chapter discusses corruption, how it could be eradicated through public engagement, and the role of women in combating corruption. In this book, the author makes an effort to discuss in a holistic manner the issues of gender, public participation, culture, foreign aid, accountability, and transparency versus corruption with a focus on Afghanistan. It is anticipated that readers would benefit from this book by learning more about: * The complex socioeconomic and cultural environment of fragile countries like Afghanistan. * The overall picture of interrelated issues of gender and participation, in relation to foreign aid, accountability, and transparency * The role of executives, legislatures, and civil society in mainstreaming gender into the budgeting and planning processes, and enhancing public participation. One could be an expert in a particular field, but working in aid dependent developing countries with a high level of gender inequality and corruption requires additional knowledge of issues in gender, public participation, accountability, and transparency -- regardless of whether working in the public sector or in a non-governmental organization (NGO). This book also supports a bottom up approach by encouraging social activists and citizens to work with responsible stakeholders whose policies have implications for women's empowerment, the eradication of corruption, and improved service delivery.

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