In the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan, a small group of men gather in a humble meeting room. It is their regular Self-Help Group meeting, and new ground is being broken as they talk about their desire to build a better life for their families, their community and their country.
The task ahead is challenging to say the least. Poverty and conflict have shaped their lives so far, but Tearfund’s partner Serve Afghanistan has seen the benefits of bringing men and women together to talk and find collective solutions to community issues.
As the weak winter sunlight streams into the room, the facilitator from Serve leads them into today’s discussion.
“What is health?” he begins. Their answers highlight the most prominent risks facing their community: avoiding drugs, eating healthy food, getting exercise. There is also mention of the health impact of violence. Being at peace with family, friends and neighbours through good practices of conflict resolution leads to health.
These men recognise that they are the ones to break the cycles of violence that have undermined the health of their families, their communities and their beloved land.
The Self-Help Group discussions, occurring in the 54 groups Serve runs for men and for women across the country, complement physical infrastructure initiatives and lead to excellent health outcomes.
A shining example of Self-Help Groups is the BLiSS health education program: Birth Life Saving Skills. It’s been run through many men’s and women’s groups, increasing knowledge of pregnancy, childbirth and caring for newborns. This includes how to keep a baby clean, what to feed a baby and what women should and shouldn’t eat during pregnancy.
— Men’s Self-Help Group member
BLiSS has resulted in a change in care practices and in some cases has seen lives saved. Importantly it has facilitated more visits to health clinics due to both increased awareness of the benefits and increased permission being given to women by men, in keeping with Afghani cultural norms. A key to BLiSS’s success has been encouraging participants to share their learning with others, and women often do at gatherings or parties. Men are not so likely to share what they’ve learnt, but the increased support for the women in their extended families is reaping benefits.
When Tearfund’s James Montgomery visited Kandahar recently, he was overwhelmed by the gratitude of the community towards Serve and Tearfund together, for the difference it has made to their lives. Your support means such gratitude will continue to flow for years to come.
My sister-in-law helped me save the life of my baby because of the things she learned in BLiSS, things we didn’t know before.
Your gifts help Tearfund Australia to support four partners in Afghanistan, each of whom operate with courage and faithfulness to serve their communities despite considerable challenge. Despite being impacted by decades of conflict, lack of basic services and the remoteness of their communities, many people are also experiencing hope and transformation.
Against the backdrop of incredible natural beauty, Tearfund's partners are active in empowering vulnerable women; providing access to clean water and sanitation; resourcing parents and providing mental health support for families; and training women in life-saving skills for pregnancy, delivery and infant care.