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Afghanistan has been the center of discussions of global policy makers in the past 15 years. One of venues where Afghanistan’s sustainable peace and security, improvement of the security forces and allocation of more financial and technical support has been discussed is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summits. In 2012 Chicago NATO Summit, the head of states reaffirmed their commitment to support Afghanistan beyond 2014 security transition. In 2014 Wales NATO Summit, the heads of states agreed to provide more technical support to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) through financial and capacity support. The next NATO Summit is scheduled on 8 and 9 July, 2016 in Warsaw Poland. In this summit long term commitment to Afghanistan through enduring partnership will be of immense importance for Afghanistan.
Afghan Women’s Network, a leading advocacy platform for women’s rights in Afghanistan has been closely watching the progress of women in security sector, providing inputs and publishing research and consultation findings for improving women’s situation and contribution in the past 15 years. Similarly AWN has collaborated with ISAF/ NATO in Afghanistan to provide strategic recommendations on improving status of women in security sector. AWN’s approach to consult women across the country and bring their prospective is unique and inclusive. For 2016 Warsaw NOTO summit, AWN has consulted women ONLY in security sector. The fact that international community will reaffirm their financial commitments towards ANSF, AWN reached out to over 200 women in Ministry of Interior (MoI), Ministry of Defense (MoD) and National Directorate of Security in Kabul and 8 regional zones. The purposes of these consultations were to discuss with women in security sector on their progresses, current challenges and their own solutions.
Progresses Up to date
Ministry of Defense and Women Empowerment:
Ministry of Interior and Women Empowerment:
National Directorate of Security and Women Empowerment:
Constraints towards Women’s participation and engagement in Security Sector
The major challenge towards recruitment of women in ANSF (MoI, MoD, and NDS) has been weak recruitment campaigns. There has been almost no awareness raising initiatives to target communities at the district and villages on the need and role of women in security sector. This has resulted in continues negative perception of communities on the role of women in ANSF. Women who complete their term as trainees or return from abroad scholarships are hardly appointed in key roles within ANSF structure due to low political will and existing discrimination. Majority within ANSF believe women lack capacity to carry specific roles. Despite of existing positions within ANSF structures for women, these are occupied by men or are vacant with no interest to appoint women who are in waiting lists.
2. Promotion and Assignment:
Women believe they have been affected negatively within the ANSF due to male dominance and strong discrimination. Majority of women consulted believe that they have been waiting for over five years to get their promotion according to the policy and procedure within ANSF however there are no concrete steps and plans to put the promotion plans into actions. Majority of promotion is linked to personal or political references and contacts rather than merit based. Women promoted hardly play leadership role. These women are not part of consultations, design and implementation of national strategies and policies linked to security.
3. Equipment and Transportation:
Women have complains for not receiving weapons as men, despite being trained in how to use them. They report never receiving uniforms or being issued uniforms the same way made for men. Further, women officers in key directorates report having rare access to vehicles, limiting their ability to investigate crimes, respond to ongoing incidents, and conduct outreach to communities. Moreover women still lack access to changing rooms and ladies toilets. Women having children are unable to continue their work due to lack of childcare services in police districts.
4. Discrimination and Sexual Harassment:
There is an ongoing discrimination and negative perception within ANSF towards women. Majority of women in security sector believe that there is no culture of respect towards women. Women are mostly perceived as second citizens and vulnerable. Women face discrimination for their promotion, appointment to appropriate posts as per their experience and access facilities and training support as men. These all have resulted in women losing confidence and interest in their roles. Complaints of sexual harassment, assault, and coercion within the forces are widespread. Despite of a new policy on fighting against sexual harassment at work place and certain decrees issued by leadership, there has been no complaint and follow up mechanism to support women at risk of discrimination and harassment.
5. Capacity Shortcomings:
Women in ANSF still face literacy, technical and capacity deficiencies. It is believed that the women in security sector still have lower general knowledge as well as technical information about their role. Although, initiatives have been planned for the capacity building of women in security sector however this has not been long term, effective and enough. Women still believe they need to fully understand their role. Women have difficulties in getting study time through higher education or attend seminars and workshops relevant to their job. In most instances, their male supervisors do not give women permission to benefit from such initiatives.
A Path Forward
Despite of the fact that women’s contribution have improved in the ANSF, specific plans and strategies to further increase women participation in ANSF, improve their contribution, leadership and decision making role and turn ANSF structures to gender equality and equity models, AWN would like to pose the following recommendations:
Government of Afghanistan- MoI, MoD and NDS
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)
 Data provided by Gender Advisor, MoD
 Data provided by Department of Gender, Human Rights and Child Rights, Ministry of Interior
 Ibid 7
 Data provided by NDS Gender Focal point