As the first anniversary of the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan approaches in August 2022, this book provides insights into efforts by the international community to increase women’s participation in the male-dominated security sector. Drawing on both face-to-face and online interviews, as well as previously unpublished data, Melissa Jardine, PhD. provides in-depth insights into why – despite considerable investment – there was relatively little success. Her research identifies how overall international police assistance was often detrimental to women-focused reforms, and that a lack of understanding of the Afghan context resulted in interventions that did not meet the needs of Afghan women who were recruited into the Afghan National Police.
Melissa Jardine, PhD. travelled to Afghanistan during the COVID19 pandemic to undertake the research in March 2021. The book consists of the report she prepared for the United Nations which was unpublished due to the advance of the Taliban. The findings are now being revealed for the first time to provide a record of gender-sensitive reforms within the Afghan National Police, and to serve as useful lessons for reforms in other contexts. Crucial guidance is offered in relation to the importance of South-to-South sharing of knowledge and practice and prioritising localised input into approaches funded or led by the international community – who are typically from the Global North.
The book will be useful for academics and practitioners with an interest in police reform and gender-responsive changes for police institutions, especially in the Global South, but also for people in ‘developed’ countries who are working towards increasing diversity among police to better understand the diversity of needs and aspirations among women with different ethnic, cultural or religious backgrounds.
Nowhere in the world have women been fully integrated into policing, as judged by their representation, roles they perform, and their career expectations and opportunities. While gender integration in policing is an agenda for many developed economies, it is nowhere a reality for some low-income countries because of their inherent local culture and politics amongst societal gender oppression. Considering global north-south variations, theoretical models have merged in testing the status of women in policing. This case study of women policing in Afghanistan is a vital subject for theory testing in ascertaining empirical evidence for women’s progress in the police force.
Mangai Natarajan Ph.D
Professor, Department of Criminal Justice John Jay College of Criminal Justice,
The City University of New York
This book is a valuable addition to the literature on security sector reform. It provides further evidence of how a lack of gender considerations within reform programming has a negative impact. Moreover, that a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to women’s inclusion does not work. This leads us to question “Who are we trying to benefit, the women themselves or their ‘assumed’ benefits as perceived by international organisations?” In 2014, the International Association of Women Police launched a campaign to raise awareness of the challenges faced by women in the Afghan National Police. Our stance then, and still remains, is that “If you cannot safeguard the women in the police, how can you possibly improve the situation for women in the community?” This book provides an important evaluation of what had changed between 2014 and 2021. Sadly, it demonstrates the underlying issues were not addressed and what women themselves wanted was largely ignored. Women officers need to be part of the discussion to identify solutions and the application of meaningful participation of women is critical if we really intend to achieve positive outcomes.
Jane Townsley, MSc.
International Association of Women Police (IAWP)