Women Become Border Police in Central Asia and Afghanistan

Women are now able to serve as border police in Central Asia and Afghanistan. The actions of the trail blazing women that have taken on this role have been described as “breaking the vase,” as explained by an Afghan female border police officer:

In Afghanistan it is the tradition for women to stay home, take care of the house, cooking, cleaning, raise the children, and if they go outside the home they must be veiled. We have a saying, ‘women are the flowers and the home is their vase.’ We are breaking the vase.”

Inclusion of women in the border police has allowed for increased employment and professional opportunities for women. Female presence on the border is also an advantage to the state because it creates a less intimidating environment for women migrants and shuttle traders attempting to cross the border. This can serve as encouragement to take legal migration routes, meaning the state will have to devote fewer resources to detecting and preventing irregular border crossings.

In May 2014, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, held its first all-women staff course which covered topics such as management models, information-sharing, migration, human trafficking and smuggling, counter-terrorism, anti-corruption measures, conflict management, and leadership. As part of the course, participants also gave presentations highlighting the key issues faced by women in law enforcement.

Although including women in the border police is a major step toward both the increased protection of citizens and the implementation of practices that promote gender equality, the women’s presentations contained reoccurring themes that show equality is still a distant and slow-coming goal. Women continue to face deeply ingrained traditional patriarchal practices and prejudices, which are exacerbated by the failure to implement established equality laws and by a lack of public knowledge and awareness.

Despite these challenges, women are slowly but surely “breaking the vase” and taking major steps toward increased gender equality. Women who participated in the border management course now view it as their responsibility to advocate for change, increase public awareness, and recruit even more women to join the movement and break their own vases. 


Article based on “Breaking the Vase” by OSCE

Photo courtesy of dindora1.

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