By: Ms. Charlene F. Rusnak
This Pashto word meaning long life was the fervent response made by Afghan National Policemen as the General presented them with their training certificate and offered congratulations. When their name was called, each graduate smartly goose-stepped down the line of fellow graduates. Once reaching the General, they executed a crisp salute (as shown in the picture) while reciting a declaration in support of the Afghan police forces. The culmination point was the response to the General’s congratulations – Zhuwand!!! Since the intent is for the word to be enthusiastically avowed, the statement is accompanied by a turn of the head to the side over the shoulder to ensure no “spittle” befall the recipient of the response.
The actions described in this graduation are somewhat typical of most Afghan police graduations. What makes this event stand out is that it takes place in Kandahar and is the celebration of the completion of instruction on their duties in support of the Afghanistan Law of Elimination of Violence Against Women. In accordance with the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the Afghanistan Constitution (specifically articles 24 and 54), this law addresses support to women who are victims of, or exposed to, violence. The law has provisions regarding the prevention of violence against women and includes consequences for the perpetrator.
Violence Against Women is a very culturally sensitive subject in Afghanistan, so I was surprised by the willingness of these men, most of whom appeared to be in their early twenties, to discuss this issue. When the trainer asked the students to identify possible reasons behind domestic violence, an overwhelming number identified forced marriages as a big contributor. Generally I have heard women speak of their concerns with this practice, but was surprised when many of the men had similar thoughts on this subject.
Although there were only about 30 students in this class, their participation was part of a “train the trainer” scenario. These graduates will train other police regarding their responsibilities supporting women who have been exposed to, or victims of, violence. This class is one of many small but significant steps being taken in Afghanistan on a daily basis towards a more secure and stable country. A recently published USAID report on stability indicators identified the number one indicator as being the violence against women. The more violence against women, the less stable and secure the country, highlighting the importance of working towards the elimination of such violence.
To a long and violent free life for the women and men of Afghanistan and all countries!
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