A crowd of women are queuing at the entrance to the department of women’s affairs in Panjshir province, on their way to attend a workshop on gender violence.
Before they can enter, 32-year-old policewoman Zarmina checks each one. She conducts a painstaking search, even down to looking inside each woman’s shoes. Zarmina has been with the Panjshir police department for the past three years. "At first, my husband did not allow me,” she said. “He said if I became a policewoman, he would lose his honor. Later, when our [financial situation] became worse, he brought me to the police headquarters himself and enrolled me in the police." Now, she earns more than 200 US dollars a month and finds her job extremely satisfying, even helping in investigate a number of criminal cases. Zarmina explained that women played a vital role in security work, not least because of Afghanistan’s strict separation of the sexes. "In one case, a woman involved in a murder refused to surrender herself to the policemen,” she said. “When I approached her, she surrendered very easily." Officials at Panjshir police headquarters report a steady rise in the number of female officers applying to work with the force. Panjshir police Chief Abdul Aziz Ghairat said that there were 13 policewomen now working in various fields. Two years ago, there were only two policewomen in the whole of the province. "We cannot use men to search women in our traditional society,” he said.