The International Republican Institute (IRI) helped to establish the Afghanistan Youth National Social Organization (AYNSO), the first grassroots organization of its kind, dedicated to advancing youth issues and a pro-youth agenda.  It is part of a broader effort to encourage youth participation in the political process and complements the Youth Caucus in the National Assembly of Afghanistan.

As in most countries of the Middle East, Afghanistan is facing a growth in its demographics, with 65 percent of Afghans now under 25 years of age, greatly increasing pressure on the government for resources in higher education and entry level jobs.  The AYNSO brings hundreds of local youth networks and tens of thousands of activists together from across Afghanistan’s ethnic and sectarian lines.  It is worth noting that female members of the youth network have been elected to senior posts.  This is by all measures a significant gender achievement at the grassroots level. 

During a recent province-by-province campaign, AYNSO registered more than 5,500 members nationally, elected national officers, developed provincial executive bodies, including a special constituency for nomadic youth populations, and undertook a strategic review of its goals.  Of note was the election of many young women to senior posts, a significant achievement given the exclusion of women from all parts of public life under the Taliban.

Once national officers were elected, AYNSO held a joint press conference to announce their coalition with the Afghanistan Parliamentary Youth Caucus.  International and national newspaper, radio, and television broadcast media widely reported the announcement.  Prior to the press conference, Youth Caucus attendees held one-on-one sessions with AYNSO members, to discuss issues inhibiting youth development in Afghanistan such as the economy, education, dowry rules and corruption.

After the press conference, the government’s Deputy Minister of the Department of Youth, Mr. Zahir Ghaws, promised his continued support for both organizations and cooperation on all fronts to address issues confronting youth in Afghanistan.

With IRI’s assistance, AYNSO has distributed by-laws, developed through a transparent process, and membership forms across the country.  Additionally, AYNSO continues to expand and institutionalize its advocacy through IRI trainings and workshops, which served as an impetus for members to exchange views and discuss how to best meet the specific needs of the nation’s youth.

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