Tooba Mayel Born in Afghanistan, raised in the US, Ms. Mayel, as Humanitarian Development Aid expert returned to Afghanistan on various missions to serve the Afghan cause, during its most challenging years, totaling 13 years inside Afghanistan. She directly worked with cases of women and children residing in protection centers under a strict and controversial setting, battling various vulnerabilities, including domestic violence, child trafficking and mental health issues. She initiated her efforts for Afghanistan, prior to the 9-11 phase, as early as 1990s while still in school, organizing and participating in political and social protests in favor of peace and stability in Afghanistan. Currently, Ms. Mayel is leading several initiatives in support of women’s protection and empowerment in Afghanistan as well as globally in other regions that are currently under development in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia regions. She delivers talks on relevant issues pertaining to economic development, gender justice, microfinance, governance, vocational literacy and maternal health care in the hopes of obtaining resources, aid, and technical support for Afghanistan.
She co-founded an Afghan-American NGO, Afghans4tomorrow (A4T), which continues to support education and economic development projects inside Afghanistan. Founded in the US, and currently internationally registered, A4T is dedicated to build the capacity of Afghans for a sustainable future, through vocational and agricultural programs. The non-profit is based in Afghanistan, while various projects, to include supporting schools and teachers in the past in places like Paghman districts and Wardak province. Ms. Mayel laid the foundation of this organization among other pro-bono founders whom remain as dedicated honorable board members.
She continued her career with the World Bank Group (WB), with the country team of Afghanistan, within the South Asia region at its headquarters. Her work led to a major research case study, “Microfinance and Gender Roles,” supported through the World Bank and the Microfinance Investment Support Agency of Afghanistan. While at the WB focusing on Afghanistan, she managed a newly established online database for Afghan experts returning to aid in reconstruction efforts under the Afghanistan’s Task Force for Reconstruction, a platform drawing experts from all sectors to return to Afghanistan post the new transitional government. She contributed to an online knowledge management platform for experts to engage regionally through the Global Development Learning Network (GDLN). She has worked on gender issues pertaining to legislation in Afghanistan and Central Asia. She contributed to develop programs using e-learning education, monitoring and evaluation of projects, with a focus on participatory leadership, capacity building programs for local governance and microfinance initiatives. This work lead her to a mission within Afghanistan supporting and mentoring women parliamentary candidates on campaigning in various parts of Afghanistan, which resulted, in over 60% of the women elected into Parliament. She also served as the Program Director for Arzu, Inc., an economic driven program, focused on income generation, maternal health, literacy and access to markets, with special focus in the carpet making industry. Through this initiative, she supported over 3000 direct and indirect beneficiaries in rural parts of Afghanistan within the carpet making industry, with a focus to build capacity in income generation, providing education or literacy skills to the women as well as providing basic awareness on primary care and maternal health.
Ms. Mayel joined the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) in Afghanistan, as Sr. Gender Justice Advisor, establishing and leading institutional and organizational capacity building of Women’s Protection Centers at IDLO, particularly in support of enhancing skills for defense lawyers, prosecutors, management of implementing partner NGOs, and legal advisors on various legal issues and laws pertaining to women’s rights in Afghanistan. Under her leadership, legal trainings were implemented such as the Elimination of Violence against Women Law (EVAW), Family Law, General Criminal Law, Civil Procedures Code, among others delivered to legal professionals of WPCs. Other skills capacity development initiatives conducted include trainings on psycho-social trauma, media strategies & communication. Furthermore, she established the Afghan Shelter Network, a network of NGOs managing operations of women’s protection centers, collaborating on civil and legal cases of women and children introduced through a referral system within the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. She also established a Media Network for journalists, WPC leadership and Afghan government, to collaborate and censor properly cases of violence on national TV or radio. She intitated and contributed to a Confidentiality Policy and a Reintegration Policy, in favor of women and children survivors developed for Women’s Protection Centers and those at risk, with cooperation of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. Furthermore, assessments were conducted for WPCs such as the Capability Maturity Model, the development of the First WPCs Guidelines, to elevate a system of protection and justice for women and children. During this period, aside from the capital Kabul, Ms. Mayel has worked and traveled to Kapisa, Parwan, Balkh, Kunduz, Takhar, Baghlan, Faryab, Jowzjan, Badakhshan, and Herat provinces for IDLO.
Currently, Ms. Mayel is the Director for Gender Affaires’ Programme at the Colombo Plan, based in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Under the Colombo Plan, Gender Affaires Programme (CP), leading regional programs, heading several initiatives, with special focus in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, Vietnam as well as other programs currently under development. Irrespectively, she has also administered US funded programs in Afghanistan, particularly the Women’s Shelters (AWSF), and Afghanistan Children’s Support Centers Fund (ACSCF). As the Director of CP-GAP, Ms. Mayel takes overall leadership and strategic management responsibility on Gender Affaires for all CPs member nations.
GAP, under her leadership, was recognized and awarded by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) and the Ministry of Social and Labor Affairs Martyrs and the Disabled, (MOLSAMD). During the last two years, she has lead the development of a new CPGAP Gender strategy and a theory of change in compliance with current projects and initiatives at an international level Furthermore, she has worked collaboratively with member nations implementing strategies and methodologies to determine national priorities and competencies, ensuring the achievement of concrete and sustainable results for Afghanistan projects as well as other initiatives for other member countries. She remains committed to the cause and its people, therefore, continues to stay in close communication with Afghan governmental ministries at the national and provincial levels, considering real change and influence is twofold, at the grass roots level within communities, and through local and national governance. Through proactive advocacy efforts she has coordinated and participated in numerous protests, in resolve of Afghanistan’s political and social constraints at various times, including advocating in congress to better the situation of the Afghan cause and its people. Ms. Mayel joined the Afghanistan Regional Expertise Program, with Booz Allan Hamilton as an Instructor, contributing as a special matter expert on Afghanistan. She taught various subjects at the university, including aid and reconstruction efforts as well as the narco-economy, to include demographics, tribal make up of Afghanistan, including its culture and languages. As an Afghan expat, she has steered her efforts for Afghans within local communities, both at the grassroots level inside rural and urban communities of Afghanistan.
Residing and working as a development humanitarian expert she has dedicated 25 plus years overall working on Afghan related issues, of which 13 years was spent living inside war-torn Afghanistan during its most critical and insecure times. She sustained injuries in calamities and collisions attributed to the insecure environment during her years spent residing inside Afghanistan. She has worked in rural and insecure provinces of Afghanistan, to include, Kunduz, Takhar, Baghlan, Badakhshan, Bamiyan, Balkh, Painshir, Herat, Kapisa, Parwan, Kabul, Faryab, Maymana (Andkhoi) and Jowzjan among many others. Although she is grateful for this recognition, she will persist to remain committed to a lifelong humanitarian pursuit in support of her countrymen and women.