UNDP Supports Improved Workplace Safety for Afghan Policewomen
Until mid-2014, Sergeant Mastura and her 11 female colleagues based at a police station in Kabul had to cope with the fact that most police premises simply were not designed to cater for the needs of female employees.
“We did not have a separate place for ablutions so we had to use the same toilets as the policemen,” said First Sergeant Mastura, who has served with the national police force for six years.
Many female police officers cannot travel to work in their uniforms due to security threats from insurgents or those opposed to women joining the police force. With male and female police personnel forced to share changing rooms and toilets, there have been privacy issues, and policewomen around the country have been vulnerable to workplace abuse.
Female police officers are crucial to effective law enforcement and access to justice in Afghanistan. For example, they are needed to conduct body searches of women at checkpoints, public buildings and airports. Policewomen also have an important role during house searches and interrogation, and to receive reports of crime from women and girls.
Yet women currently comprise less than two percent of the national police force. The 10-Year Vision of Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoIA) emphasizes the importance of increasing the presence of women in the police. Addressing the workplace conditions of female personnel has been identified by the ministry as a major tactic to retain existing female employees and attract more.
- The Ministry of Interior Affairs, which is working to encourage more women to join the police force, is partnering with UNDP-LOTFA to improve workplace safety as a tactic to retain and attract more women.
- Through LOTFA, UNDP is supporting the design and construction of changing rooms and toilets for Afghan policewomen, and providing technical advice to other national and international agencies on gender responsive police stations.
- Around 150 policewomen based at 24 police premises in Kabul Province are due to benefit from improved workplace security and privacy with the completion of new facilities by the end of 2014.
Thanks to a construction project supported by the UNDP-administered Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), Sergeant Mastura and her female colleagues now have their own changing rooms. Their workplace is among 24 police premises in Kabul Province where female-only facilities are being built. Close to 150 female personnel are expected to benefit from greater privacy and safety after the completion of the facilities by the end of 2014. The construction project is funded by the Republic of Korea.
UNDP has worked with the MoIA to design changing rooms, nursing areas for mothers, as well as toilets and showers with a dedicated water supply and a septic tank in police stations. The new structures can be locked from the inside and are designed to withstand earthquakes.
“I am very happy that the construction of these facilities as they will improve the working environment of policewomen and encourage Afghan women to join the police force”, says Sergeant Mastura.
The Border Police headquarters in Kabul is another location where the construction women’s facilities has also recently started. “It will have a positive impact on the 28 women currently working here as we will have a private place for ablutions and praying. We will feel 100 percent safer”, said the Deputy Commander and Head of Gender of the Border Police, Colonel Wajia Ayobi.
According to Colonel Ayobi, this initiative can only have a positive impact on the number of women joining in the Afghan National Police. “Right now, compared to eight or nine years ago, we see more young women who want to work for the police because there is more trust. Here at the Border Police, no women have left the force.”
“This project is about more than bricks and concrete. It is about providing a safe working environment for police women in order that they can confidently deliver services to the community,” said the UNDP’s Programme Manager for LOTFA, Basil Massey.
There are plans to expand the initiative to other provinces so that policewomen can benefit from improved workplace security and privacy. UNDP-LOTFA and MoIA are assessing priority locations in Nangarhar, Balkh and Herat provinces for a new stage of the project.