Women in Afghanistan are historically underrepresented in the government workforce. Although an increasing number of Afghan women are receiving university degrees, many lack the practical work experience and applicable skills they would need to work in the government. The resulting lack of female representation in government has given women little voice in shaping the programs and policies that directly affect them.
Bakht Mina* once struggled to be confident in herself and assertive in group settings. As an Afghan woman in a male-dominated country, she grew up knowing women had fewer opportunities than men to succeed. She felt this gender inequality in her family as well as at her university, causing her to become more introverted. However, during her internship with USAID’s Promote: Women in Government (WIG) project, she gained soft skills that boosted her self-confidence, along with knowledge and skills that prepared her for a career in government.
To ensure women are included in a new generation of Afghan political, business, and civil society leaders, the WIG project removes barriers that have historically prevented women from seeking professional government positions. WIG works with the Afghanistan Civil Service Commission and Afghan government ministries to train and provide hands-on experience to female high-school and university graduates and promote their entry into full-time decision-making positions in the government workforce.
The cornerstone of WIG is its internship program — a one-year, immersive capacity building initiative. The internship provides a direct path to civil service careers for young women by giving them practical experience in Afghanistan’s public sector. The project aims to empower 3,000 women between the ages of 18 and 30 to become leaders alongside their male counterparts. In addition to the internship program, the five-year project works to mitigate workplace obstacles for women, boost women’s participation in the economy, and increase local stakeholder support for women working outside of the home.
The Intern Experience
Bakht Mina began her internship with a six-month, classroom-based civil service training module, where she learned the five core functions of civil service. In addition to this module, interns take classes that cover a broad range of applicable topics, including financial management, project management, policy, strategy, procurement, human resources, administration, and the civil service code. Mandatory computer literacy classes give interns added expertise, and additional program elements — such as specialized courses and job fairs — transform them into more competitive candidates and give them otherwise inaccessible opportunities.