Founded in 1996, PARSA (Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Services for Afghanistan) is a private non-governmental organization working directly with the disadvantaged people of Afghanistan. PARSA supports communities as they make their own development solutions, focusing on promoting social change and a healthy and fair society for all people but especially for women and children.
PARSA’s goal is to assist in Building Healthy Afghan Communities. We do this via three key branches:
Building Economies for Women focuses on women’s empowerment through economic means. Our main program under this branch is a product line called Trade Afghan, which markets quality products made and sold by Afghan women and also creates a national network of women’s businesses.
Building Healthy Families is the PARSA branch that focuses on psychosocial services. We offer training for social workers and caregivers for orphans, disabled people and battered women, as well as for other professionals working with the most vulnerable of Afghanistan’s citizens.
Building Youth Leadership is the branch under which PARSA’s Afghan Scouts was created. PARSA is working to revive the 80-year tradition of Scouting in Afghanistan. We focus on initiatives that hone leadership skills as well as programs such as “Peace through Rule of Law” which sees the Scouts partnering with local police to engage in community outreach and community service projects.
These branches are by no means exclusive and in order to Build Healthy Afghan Communities it is often necessary to include elements from more than one branch in a single community. For example, in the battered women’s shelters in which we work we often provide psychosocial training to the social workers and women running the shelter. Concurrently, we determine marketable products that we are able to train the resident women to produce for our Trade Afghan line. This provides the women with both the mental and social support they require, as well as a small income and a skill that can help them become economically independent when they leave the shelter. PARSA uses this multifaceted approach in the majority of the communities we work in.
Over the past 18 years PARSA has been supported by a wide community of small donors. This grassroots support has allowed us to be highly creative in program development and to focus on the issues that are most important to us. We do not need to stick to the often rigid limitations of large scale funding from governments and institutions. Some examples of our grassroots funding-enabled initiatives:
- During the Taliban regime PARSA was one of the only NGOs focused on supporting women and girls that remained in operation. We operated secret schools and economic programs for women especially for those who did not have support from husbands or families yet were forbidden to work to earn an income to survive.
- Taking the lead in the NGO community in advocating at different levels of government to initiate change in social protection programs that serve the disabled and destitute, women “head of households” and orphans. In particular PARSA earned recognition for our role in advocating the improvement of conditions in government orphanages across the country.
- Recognizing the need for the improved training of social workers in battered women’s shelters and running training programs to fill this need, as well as implementing economic programs in the shelters so that the women will have skills they can rely upon when they leave the shelters.
- Working with the Afghan Red Crescent Society to rehabilitate and modernize the Marastoons or “places to find help”, an Afghan cultural tradition of social protection for vulnerable people.
The work we do at PARSA is diverse and summarizing our large list of programs can be a difficult task, but we are proud to be able to act to support Afghans in the ways that we know to be best – and we have our community of grassroots donors to thank for allowing us to operate in this way. In the coming years we will continue to expand our programs and build on our extensive experience working at the community level across the county, always working in accordance with our PARSA motto, Building Healthy Afghan Communities.