Afghan police force recruits women to fight crime and stigma

women police officer
Lieutenant Colonel Latif Bayat and Captain Zohra Daulatzia discuss their experiences as police officers. (Photo: UNDP Afghanistan)

Kabul, Afghanistan — It was four years ago that Captain Zohra Daulatzia joined the Afghan National Police. But the mother of two girls still gets excited about that momentous day in her life when she achieved one of her life’s greatest ambitions.

Highlights

  • A programme in Afghanistan is recruiting and training women to join the national police force, which is only 1 percent female.
  • The police force added 1,000 women between 2007 and 2012, reaching a total of 1,445 female officers. The program hopes to recruit 5,000 women by June 2014.
  • The programme established 33 “family-response units” staffed by women trained in crime-scene investigation, handling evidence, taking statements and interviewing witnesses and victims.

“I was excited to wear the uniform and felt like I was in the sky and not on earth. I was full of joy,” she says.

Captain Daulatzia’s experience as a woman and a police officer is still a very rare one in Afghanistan, where only 1 percent of the Afghan National Police are female officers. In order for the national police force to deliver quality services to the entire population, the Ministry of Interior aims to increase this number.

“There are always big challenges in male-dominated societies,” explains Lieutenant Colonel Latifa Bayat, Deputy Director in the Ministry of Interior’s Gender Unit, a woman who joined the force 15 years ago. “Our customs do not allow women to work in the police force. Women, have no access to education … hence they end up having low capacity, even in terms of getting jobs in the police force.”

UNDP, through its Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan—with support from its development partners—is working closely with the Ministry of Interior, where the Fund is based, to make this happen.

Beginning in 2010, the Fund and the Ministry established a system for the national police force to begin recruiting women police officers. UNDP and the Ministry also initiated a series of multimedia campaigns on radio and television encouraging women to apply for police jobs.

In addition, the UNDP project is providing specialized three month-long training courses in leadership, management, accounting and information technology for women police officers. All police officers are now receiving training in a new code of conduct, in collaboration with the European Union’s Police Mission in Afghanistan, female officers who handle domestic violence cases are taking a course in crime-scene analysis.

The Trust Fund and the Ministry of Interior established 33 “family response units” across the country. As part of this expansion, additional women police officers who will staff these units are being trained in information technology, basic crime scene investigation and other skills.

Serious challenges remain, however, making the recruitment of women police officers a formidable task..

“The Afghan National Police around the country faces a big problem with their security in general,” says Marina Hamidzada, a gender specialist who works for the Law and Order Trust Fund. “For women police officers, the situation is worse. They cannot even patrol the streets wearing police uniforms,” as it can—and has—proven to be a death sentence for them.

The biggest challenge women police officers face is how they are viewed by their fellow officers, says Captain Daulatzia.

“Although they are powerful as women, and they can run departments by themselves, there is a strong perception in the police force that women police officers are weak,” she says. “This ignorance about the power and knowledge of women is something we are trying to change every day.”

In a 2011 UNDP-sponsored police perception survey, 53 percent of Afghans said they were in favor of having female police officers in their community. By August 2012 there were a total of 1,445 female police officers spread across various ranks in the national police force, an increase of 1,000 since 2007 when the recruitment programme began.


By Titus Moetsabi