Female Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers walk during a training exercise in Kabul last October 17. ANA soldiers demonstrated their combat training to local and international journalists. [Shah Marai/AFP]
KABUL -- More Afghan women and girls are becoming interested in politics and joining the country's security forces, say government officials and lawmakers.
Sixty-seven of the 249 members of the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament) are women, a relatively high proportion compared to the legislatures of other countries in the region.
At the same time, the presence of women in provincial councils, government agencies and security forces is growing.
For example, a number of women were elected as presidents, deputies and secretaries in the elections for provincial council administrative boards last November, making up 37% of those who won, Pajhwok Afghan News reported, citing Afghanistan's Independent Directorate of Local Governance.
Such participation is a marked difference from the years of oppression by the Taliban (1996-2001), who restricted women's rights and have a grim track record of abusing women and children.
"The women's success is the result of their honest work, and it shows the [public's] trust in women," Wazhma Safi, a representative in the Wolesi Jirga from Kunar Province, told Salaam Times.
"With the rise in their level of literacy, awareness and understanding of their rights, women and young girls became interested in participating in political, social and cultural activities," she said.
The participation of women and girls in such activities, as well as their work in government departments and security agencies, is financially beneficial to them and their families and is a necessity, according to Safi.
"The presence of women in security institutions is obviously important," she said, adding that female police officers carry out body searches of women, check places where women are present and help women during incidents.
The presence of women in all sectors is essential and should be encouraged, agreed Rayhana Ahadi, a Kabul University student.
"Fortunately, Afghan women are now participating in every field," she told Salaam Times. "Women should work alongside their brothers in every field, and I feel happy to see more interest among women."
Interest among women in joining the police has been on the rise, Gen. Hekmat Shahi, director of the Interior Ministry's Human Rights, Women's Affairs and Children's Rights Department, told Salaam Times.
"Currently, 3,400 women are serving in various positions in the Ministry of Interior, and during the next ten years, their number is expected to reach 10,000," he said.
Meanwhile, more than 1,775 women are employed by the Ministry of Defence, according to Gen. Mohammad Radmanesh, a ministry spokesperson.
"The Ministry of Defence is using incentive programmes to attract women," he told Salaam Times. "[Such programmes include] paying them higher salaries than men, providing them with scholarships abroad, educating them at universities and local military academies, and paying their children's kindergarten expenses."
"We are going to broadcast TV commercials to encourage women to join the army," Radmanesh said. "According to the plans, in the next five years, 10% of the army's soldiers will be women."
So far, a number of female Afghan National Army troops have travelled to Turkey, Germany, the United States and other countries for training. Upon the completion of their courses, they have returned to Afghanistan and are serving in various sectors, he said.
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