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Afghan, ISAF leaders discuss gender integration into ANSF

By By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, ISAF

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Representatives from the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Afghan Women’s Network and International Security Assistance Force gathered together to discuss gender integration into the Afghan National Security Forces at the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters in Kabul, Sept. 18.

“Your collective presence here today from a variety of facets of the Afghan government and society speaks volumes to the importance of men and women serving together in Afghanistan’s military and police,” said Lt. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, deputy commander, ISAF, who spoke alongside the panel of coalition and Afghan military and civil society experts.

Brig. Gen. Gordana Garasic, gender advisor at ISAF HQ, spearheaded the roundtable discussion reflecting on the importance of an equal society for the betterment of both men and women.

“As you know, it is very important that every member of society has an equal opportunity to participate and be active in securing the society,” said Garasic, who discussed her own country’s integration of women into their military.

“We have 9.5 percent of women in the Croatian military, so it took us some time to get there,” said Garasic. “I’m also the first general officer; it also took us time to get there.”

Garasic, who provided perspective on how change does take time, honed in on the importance of being qualified for the job, but also having access to training and education to perform that job. “You need to have quotas at the beginning in order to open up the door,” the general added.

Masood Azizi, deputy minister of Ministry of Interior for Policy and Strategy attended the roundtable and reflected on how his Ministry is leaning forward to recruit more women into the Afghan National Police.

“I think to some extent this is a big challenge that we are facing,” said Azizi. “We are trying to facilitate and help to encourage females [to join].”

Despite these challenges, Azizi did reference the recent completion of separate female toilets and dressing rooms in the First District police compound, which was the first to do so throughout Afghanistan.

“We are planning to provide the same facilities for the female police officers in all districts and provinces of Afghanistan,” said Azizi. “Not only to provide facilities at the work place, but we [are] also planning to provide them living accommodations for their families.”

Currently, more than 2,000 women serve in the ANP, and Azizi hopes that number will grow by more than 2,000 by the end of the Afghan year.

“The problem we have is that we haven’t been able to provide the facilities which they need at the work place as it has been provided in the developed countries for the female police officers,” said Azizi.

While change is occurring in Afghanistan, Jacobson added that it “will not happen today, tomorrow or next year, but it will happen, and we all have to work hard to accomplish those changes for the future of Afghanistan.”

Maj. Gen. Ghulam Sakhi Asifi, chief of Education at the Ministry of Defense appreciated the opportunity to discuss the integration of females into the ANSF and referenced it as a “vital issue” for all Afghan citizens.

“I invite all our sisters to join our security forces to work shoulder by shoulder with their brothers to serve, defense and bring security to this country and defense their rights,” said Asifi.

In her closing statement of the roundtable, Rahima Zarifi, director of Policy and Planning for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, may have said it best when she gave a direct call to her female counterparts by encouraging them to join their military and police to provide for a secure Afghanistan today and tomorrow.

“I have a message to my sisters,” said Zarifi. “If we need security then we need to join the security forces to know about the security challenges. As you know bringing security needs sacrifices; we should be ready to sacrifice for our security.”