Network Member Responds to New York Times Article on Afghan Policewomen
On Sunday, March 1, The New York Times published “Afghan Policewomen Struggle Against Culture.” Women Waging Peace Network member Wazhma Frogh, who does public outreach, education, and youth engagement in support of female police in Afghanistan, wrote the following response:
Greetings from snowy and chilly Afghanistan. Avalanches covered nearly 20 provinces in the past few weeks, taking many precious lives. People went to sleep at night, but didn’t wake up the next day; many still lie beneath the snow.
Natural disasters alone don’t sum up Afghanistan these days. We have a new National Unity Government that is trying its best to address the needs of the people through a long to-do list of reforms: electoral processes, anti-corruption mechanisms, and a peace process that is a never-ending drama.
But that doesn’t sum up Afghanistan either. We have a nation that is resilient and continues to fight to survive. No matter how difficult the circumstances, Afghans are living a normal life. I can’t define Afghan normalcy in New York terms. We don’t have the metro stations, the tall buildings where half of the world’s decisions are made, nor the commonplace luxuries. But we are normal in the sense that we wake up every day with zeal, go to work and school despite the IEDs and bad roads, and continue to challenge injustice, even as some lose their lives in the course of this struggle.
The same goes for Parveena, the brave female police officer from Nangrahar province who was assassinated in a Malala-style ambush on her car, shot in the face after she identified herself to the attackers. But Nangrahar still has many other incredible female police officers who continue on the same path as Parveena, Malalai Kakar, Negar, Lal Bibi, and hundreds of other women who took the risk, lost their lives, but opened the door for others. That is the resilience and strength of the Afghan woman that the New York Times article missed.
While Afghan women are the first to identify the dangers of their work, they still choose to continue the fight. Don’t you think they deserve to be supported and for the world to stand with them?
I have been working with female police for the past eight years. There was a time when the guards would be shocked by a woman’s presence each time I entered the Ministry of Interior. But today, the same guards wave hands and say “Salaam” to me and the many other women who are working in a building that is considered a stronghold of men with guns. Many of the same men with guns had to pay respect to a woman more senior than them when I was the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Minister. The face of the police has changed over the last 13 years, and that change needs to be appreciated and promoted.
The organization I currently run in Afghanistan does public outreach, public education, and youth engagement in support of female police. We implement social media campaigns that reach over 12,000 young men and women in the universities and cities of Afghanistan, encouraging them to stand in support of the women who are serving their country.
While the challenges that are listed by the New York Times articles are one side of the story, the other completing side tells a different tale. Despite the cultural barriers, lack of services, and inadequate facilities, we still have over 3,000 women serving in the police force and Ministry of Interior. These women chose to become police officers despite the risks that this job entails. Women’s organizations, activists, and civil society have pushed for reforms and support mechanisms for the female police. The Ministry of Interior has its first Female Police Integration Strategy accompanied by a five-year implementation plan. We were behind the creation and development of the Strategy, and now we’re monitoring the implementation so that the challenges of female police are addressed at the highest level.
I want to thank the US Congress for allocating $50 million dollars to support the women in our country’s security forces. That financial support, together with continuous backing from the European Police Advisory Mission and international mentors, will take the Afghan National Police to a new level of competence.
Female police will continue to be at the heart of our struggles and advocacy campaigns. Afghan women have taken the risk, are actively engaged in the security sector, and they need to be acknowledged for that, in spite of it all.
Wazhma Frogh “Zulfiqar”
Founder & President | LLM in International Development Law and Human Rights (Chevening Alumni)
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