Mapping the landscape of DPOs in Afghanistan


In September-December 2018, CCD undertook a provincial mapping exercise as part of its joint project with BAAG, funded by UKAid Direct, entitled Enabling rights for persons with disability through effective awareness raising and advocacy.

The provincial mapping aimed to engage DPOs from across Afghanistan in order to better understand how many exist, where they are located, what types of services they are able to provide and with what reach. This has never been done before and the data collected would assist in establishing the first ever comprehensive database of DPOs in Afghanistan, provide information on the location and capacities of current DPOs, including their capacities in advocacy and potential for feeding into national initiatives on disability rights. As part of the review and re-launch of Disability Rights Watch Afghanistan (DRWA), they will be linked up with the new DPO database, evaluating the existing advocacy capacities, opportunities, and gaps in the provinces, with the view to expand and strengthen the coalition and its membership.  This will strengthen knowledge about DPOs in Afghanistan leading to improved coordination between themselves and with the DRWA.


Main objectives and outcomes


The main objectives of the mapping were to:

  1. Record general information about how many DPOs exist in Afghanistan, where they are located, what they do, what services they are able to provide, and with what reach.
  2. Evidence existing capacities and gaps of DPOs, particularly when it comes to advocacy.
  3. Share information about DRWA, its purpose, aims, and opportunities for engagement.
  4. Collect stories and case studies to evidence findings and inform future work.


The expected outcomes to be achieved were:

  1. Establish the first comprehensive DPO database for the country.
  2. Identify existing provincial-based advocacy efforts and capacities in 22 provinces.
  3. Establish a baseline for DPO advocacy capacities.
  4. Register interest for DRWA membership, including potential for charging an annual membership fee of Afs 100.


Key findings


  • Female-led DPOs are rarer than we thought. It was previously expected that female-led DPOs were likely to exist but are hard to find due to societal pressures, stigma, and the double discrimination faced by women with disabilities. However, findings from the mapping show that female-led DPOs generally do not exist as, historically, DPOs in Afghanistan developed out of unions run by men and often comprise war veterans. This is markedly different from other places in the world, such as in East Africa where DPOs are mainly women-led because they are often started by mothers who have a child or family member with a disability. This mapping identified only three women-led DPOs in Afghanistan. This poses a significant challenge in ensuring the needs and voices of women and girls with disabilities are heard. Other ways will therefore need to be found to try to fill this gap, for example by exploring what other women-led initiatives on disability exist within the country, such as through Women’s Institutes, civil society organisations, and individual activists. 


  • DPOs are concerned about the future of PWDs in their communities. As they try to raise the voices of PWDs who are unheard, and without support, they fear many would not survive. DPOs are working hard to provide support to PWDs in their communities, however minimal in scale, and 42% do so without any funding or facilities.


  • While DPOs may operate at a small-scale, they are very effective with the limited resources available. In many cases, they are ready to provide support but lack the funding and/or facilities to do so. The main issues DPOs try to address are around ensuring access to food, shelter/land, education, salaries and pensions, and jobs.


  • DPOs expect the government to take a more active role on these issues but the majority feel the government institutions they engage with are uncooperative and hard to convince. This is a major challenge for many DPOs who feel government support would greatly enhance the ability to address the needs of PWDs.