In November 2018,
That is a significant accomplishment in Afghanistan, which has among the world’s lowest rates of female literacy and labor participation:
The [Afghan ] government is committed to reducing the gender gap ... President Ghani has instructed all the government institutions to appoint women in leadership roles
The government is committed to reducing the gender gap and is taking active steps to do so. Among others, President Ghani has instructed all the government institutions to appoint women in leadership roles.
DABS’ impressive increase in female employees occurred alongside DABS’ joining the South Asia WePOWER Network as an institutional partner.
In addition to aggressively recruiting female engineering students for paid internships,
A World Bank-funded project, the DABS Planning and Capacity Support Project, which is funded by the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), complemented DABS efforts in implementing its gender activities.
At DABS, the transformative changes were spearheaded by two women employed in DABS’ human resources department. Both are DABS’ enthusiastic focal points of WePOWER.
The targets were announced in February 2019 when WePOWER was launched. WePOWER monitors institutional members’ actions to promote gender equality and shares achievements and progress on a quarterly basis.
DABS set an ambitious target of providing internship programs for 100 female college students in 2019 and 50 in 2020.
Altogether, 141 women benefited from challenging, high-quality internships.
To increase the number of interns in Kabul and other provinces, DABS set targets for internships in each province. These targets helped DABS consider female rights in internship programs, not only at DABS headquarter in Kabul but also in provincial offices.
Altogether, 141 women benefited from challenging, high-quality internships
Students were selected for 3 to 6 months’ internships in various technical or administrative departments. The women interns included engineering students. Each intern’s work was monitored by a DABS supervisor and by a university professor.
After the internship, some students returned to university to complete their studies while others were hired by DABS or found a job elsewhere.
29 DABS interns (in the 2019-20 period), who did or could not get DABS jobs but, obtained full-time jobs in government agencies (such as the Ministry of Finance), other utilities, and private companies based on the DABS Internship experience.
“My internship journey at DABS was awesome.” One of the female interns said. “I had the opportunity to meet the team, practice the theories, and gave me good experience that really helped me in having my dream job.”
DABS offers various kinds of training to all its employees, with a special focus on women employees
High-quality technical training
Technical training for engineers is offered in Afghanistan when DABS can find qualified instructors. However, training and field-based seminars are also often held in Dubai, India, or other countries where trainers are available to teach on more complex topics.
For example, in January 2020, DABS sent 10 female engineers to a seminar at the Tata Power DDL Learning Center in New Delhi to learn about demand-side management and response, renewable energy, local peak management, and related issues.
“Joining the international training was a good way of exchanging our knowledge, experiences, and skills,” a participating female engineer said. “It helped me to learn the new technical concepts, improve my work process, and have good accomplishments that were yesterday’s impossibilities.”
In 2019-20, the utility constructed kindergartens in two provinces, separate toilets for women in all provincial offices, and separate mosques for women in 6 provinces
Promoting and retaining female staff
DABS has internal job announcements for all staff, including for female staff who are seeking promotions or leadership positions. The power utility uses annual performance appraisals to help objectively determine yearly pay increases, including for women.
This system will help fulfill DABS’ commitment to gender equality on the job.
However, DABS has a relatively low turnover of only four percent for women employees, and most women work until they retire at age 65.
In 2019-20, the utility constructed kindergartens in two provinces, separate toilets for women in all provincial offices, and separate mosques for women in 6 provinces. DABS regularly publishes success stories about women employee role models and offers awards to its best employee.
DABS has made significant changes in its plants and offices to promote gender equality.
One of the enthusiastic DABS focal points of the WePOWER urges Afghan women to pursue their dreams and not be discouraged by setbacks. “You should not give up whatever you desire. You can make it happen when you believe in the words and yourself,” she said. Her words are good advice for all of us.
WePOWER is supported by the World Bank’s South Asia Gender and Energy Facility (SAGE) with funding from the Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) and South Asia Regional Trade Facilitation Program (SARTFP). Follow WePOWER by subscribing to its quarterly newsletter.