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Afghanistan is often described as one of the most dangerous countries for women, yet the country only has 1551 female police officers—one for every 10,000 women.
Often shunned by their communities and even their families, the stigma facing Afghanistan’s policewomen has even led to women being killed because of their work. Recruiting more women into the police force—and eroding the current stigma associated with female policing—is critical for the safety of Afghan women and the increased stability of Afghanistan.
Nadia and Tuba are two of the 22 policewomen in Afghanistan’s remote province of Kunduz. Over 820,000 people live in Kunduz, and, while a force of 22 policewomen may seem small, the provinces of Panjshir and Nuristan, in the northeast of the country, have no policewomen at all.
“When I became a policewoman,” Nadia says, “I faced a lot of difficulties because our society does not accept women police. They haven’t realized the value of a policewoman and how she can be of importance in the society, especially towards other women. I have even heard educated people say that whoever works in the police is ‘loose’, I was crushed to hear this, but I am compelled to continue to work. The same way as a society needs women doctors, it needs women police.”
Tuba underlines the importance of women police to Afghan women.
“There is always a need for a female officer so that the respect and dignity of Afghan women is saved,” Tuba says. “The people’s level of awareness and education must be raised. People must learn the importance and role of policewomen in the society through the media.”
How Oxfam is helping
Alongside Afghan organization Research Institute of Women, Peace and Security (RIWPS), Oxfam is working on a national campaign highlighting the need and value of policewomen in the community. Aimed at combatting ingrained attitudes and perceptions and lessening the risks to female police, the campaign will highlight the work policewomen can do in the community.
“The most important way to bring female police closer to the community is to show that they are just as competent as a male police officer and that there are no moral challenges. They need to be made into role models,” says Wazhma Frogh, executive director of RIWPS.
In Kunduz, Tuba agrees. “We must have discussions about women police and more women must be encouraged to be policewomen. I want to be respected by society.”
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