KABUL, Afghanistan - New and veteran policewomen from districts throughout Afghanistan graduated from Basic Afghan Uniform Police course during a ceremony in Kabul on April 14, 2011.
Even though women make up half the population of Afghanistan, they represent a small portion of the police. As of March, 1,073 of the 122,000 personnel serving in the Afghan National Police are women. Many of the women who do choose to serve face a cultural stigma from a male dominated society. Their pool of talent is generally an untapped resource and more women are needed to meet manning requirements.
"During the war [against the Soviet Union], I was a refugee living in another country where I saw males and females working together to help their country,” said one policewoman who did not want to give her name. “So when I came back, I decided to join the police force and help my people as well as financially support my family.
I enjoy doing my job. I want to keep learning more, study more, receive more training and serve. I am assigned to provide security at the Indian embassy. My specific job is to search ladies coming into the embassy."
Women can serve in most specialties of the police; policewomen are in demand though for different reasons. Separation of men from women in Islamic tradition means that a sufficient number of policewomen are required throughout the police force to deal with female offenders, victims and other special sensitivities.
"Older and younger females always give me a positive response," she said. "They say thank god that now there is a female to search them."
During the course, the women learned about customer service, conducting patrols, manning checkpoints, common crimes, terrorism, and tactics including weapons handling. For many of them it was their first time shooting a gun or learning hand to hand combat. The class was taught by male Afghan police instructors alongside female NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan advisors.
"It was great, I like shooting and I wish we could do it for two more weeks," said Shafiqa Yousify, mother of three who works in the supply department of her police station. "I'm so happy, I've never handled guns before. If I get a pistol, I can now handle it and protect myself."
Yousify currently has a ninth grade education and hopes to continue her studies to become an officer. She encourages other women to join the police corps.
"Don't worry about people. Don't worry about society,” said Yousify. “If you want to make the decision to become a police officer then you have to do it. Don't worry about what people are saying.
The only issue is that you wear this uniform hand in hand with your brothers and help your society and your people. Don't worry about if people tell you are good or bad. Just do your job the right way."
All the women, with one exception, wore civilian clothes to and from the course at a guarded compound in Kabul. Most do this because of fear and to avoid confrontation.
"I love my uniform and I always want to be dressed in my uniform," said Hanifa Nayebeaba who openly wore her uniform while in transit to the class. "There are people that say bad things and there are those that say good things. Most of the people say god bless you, god keep you safe and keep doing what you are doing. I ignore those people that say bad thing and just keep going on my way."
Nayebeaba’s favorite part of the class was learning tactics including hand to hand combat, handcuffing, and baton techniques.
"Families let your daughters join the police force. Sisters step up to help and wear the uniform," advises Nayebeaba to women thing about joining the police.
The goal of the Ministry of Interior is to add 1,333 women to police ranks every year.
"If they want to do it they should join,” said Nadia Gultar about joining the police force. “All the fields are good. If you think it's good, do it. If you think it's bad, then it's not for you."
Gultar found the last two weeks of the course challenging. Her first time handling a gun, she was intimidated and scared until one of the advisors helped her.
"She came up to me and hugged me," said Gultar about the advisor who helped her overcome her fear. "After encouraging me, she helped me hold my gun and I pulled the trigger. I can do it now."
With their graduation complete, some of the women will return to the duty stations they left while others will go to their first duty station.
This work, Afghan Policewomen Share Experiences, by PO1 Ernesto Hernandez Fonte, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.