Skiplink Navigation

Main Features

Swiss push gender equality among Afghan police

A female police officer speaks during a recruitment workshop in Kabul

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss foreign ministry says it has earmarked about SFr1.3 million ($1.05 million) to recruit hundreds of women for Afghanistan's police force.

Run by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), it is part of a larger project to restore law and order in the country.

"The biggest challenge is to find women who are ready to join the country's police forces and to make sure they are accepted and not harassed," Jean-Marc Clavel told swissinfo.

Clavel, head of the Afghan programme for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), said the funds were released at the beginning of this month for the project, which he described as the largest of its kind.

The money will be used to enlist policewomen across the country in places such as the capital, Kabul, as well as in Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad, Herat and Kandahar, where "gender units" will also be established.

The first group of women recruited for the Afghan police force - seven in total - were signed up for basic training two years ago. Women were banned from work of any kind or going to school between 1996 and 2001 when the strict Islamist Taliban movement ruled the nation.

The UNDP created the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (Lofta) in 2002 to re-establish a civilian police force. The aim is to train a professional corps loyal to the government and "widely visible to the public, creating a sense of comfort among the population".

Currently there are around 200 women serving in the Afghan police force. Female personnel receive the same salary as their male counterparts. The training programme teaches recruits about women's rights and constitutional and international conventions related to human rights.

Salary payments

Besides recruitment, Lofta focuses on the acquisition of non-lethal equipment, the rehabilitation of department facilities and the payment of salaries. The UNDP said the failure to improve the payment system would undermine the credibility of the police force.

The SDC made its first contribution to Lofta in 2004 when it spent SFr1.2 million to help develop an electronic payroll system. Now that the system is in the testing phase, Switzerland has reduced its funding to SFr50,000.

In 2005, the Swiss government through the SDC spent nearly SFr18 million on humanitarian aid and development cooperation in Afghanistan.

News of the police funding comes as Afghanistan is experiencing its bloodiest period of violence since the Taliban were overthrown in 2001.

More than 800 people, mostly militants, have been killed since May, mainly in the Taliban's former southern heartland. The violence has set back efforts to develop the impoverished region.

Nato troops are due to take over security operations in southern Afghanistan from the United States-led coalition at the end of the month in what will be the alliance's biggest ground mission in its history.

Ahead of the handover, the coalition has launched an offensive in the south against a resurgent Taliban and their allies. More than 60 foreign troops have been killed this year.

Nato already oversees operations in relatively secure areas in the north, west and in the capital Kabul.


In brief

The SDC practices what it preaches. Based on its 1997 Policy on the Advancement of Women, it aims to have among its staff "equal representation of women and men".

It wants to promote "vertical and horizontal development opportunities" as well as "making career and a family compatible" and a "corporate culture in which equal gender opportunity is practised".

end of infobox

Key facts

The SDC spent SFr17.82 million on Afghan aid projects in 2005.
They focused on a variety of areas relating to:
Good governance
Rural development
Co-ordinating assistance
Return of refugees and internally displaced persons
Food security
Water supply and sanitation programmes

end of infobox


Neuer Inhalt

Horizontal Line

Survey Swiss Abroad

Survey: Keyboard and Hand close-up

Dear Swiss Abroad, tell us what you think

Survey Swiss Abroad

subscription form

Form for signing up for free newsletter.

Sign up for our free newsletters and get the top stories delivered to your inbox.

Click here to see more newsletters