Failed Media & Gender Development Project in Afghanistan - A lesson in Management on the Ground
Situation: The project by the Vancouver-based NGO, the Institute for Media Policy and Civil Society (IMPACS), was designed to train Afghani women in journalism and law. Specific targets of the project included establishing six or more radio stations in rural areas to be run by women, to create a monthly media law bulletin, provide training for media coverage of elections, and to facilitate exchanges between media resources in South Asia and Afghani women. The project began in 2003 and has since used approximately $3million.
Flawed Approach: While the initial idea and intentions of IMPACS sound great, the implementation of the media project suffered from some very basic weaknesses. It seems the project’s managerial staff were shipped to Afghanistan from Canada with little previous international experience and an inadequate understanding of the realities on the ground.
Failed Outcome: Some important factors were overlooked in the project, resulting in little results and wasted funds. In 2004 the project launched a publication (now defunct) written and published by and targeting Afghani women. The publication was launched without questioning the sustainability of such a project when the UN estimates that 80% of Afghani women and girls are illiterate.
A Better Approach: It is clear that this project lacked key elements in its design and implementation. Because of the low literacy rates among women in Afghanistan, the project would have benefited from integrating an educational element. This would have made the publication a more relevant initiative. In terms of implementation, project officers working on the ground should have some experience and background information before arriving. A successful project/organization is flexible and able to adapt to various contexts and still maintain its basic functions (financial records, monitoring and evaluations). Monitoring and evaluation of project progress through indicators was necessary in a context where national institutions cannot be relied on. Similarly, alternative methods of keeping track of finances must be developed in the context of a cash-only local economy.
Source: Bailey, Sue. “Flawed Aid Program Funded Newspaper that most Afghans couldn’t read: Audit,” Canadian Press: Ottowa, March 6, 2007.