20150306 Womens applications to police force surge by 400 ContentCoffey is celebrating International Women’s Day by looking at some of our projects and the women who are forging new ground in their communities.

Applications by women for positions with the police department in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan, more than quadrupled in 2014. Last year, over 250 women applied to join the department, compared to 50 or less in previous years. The change can be attributed in part to the efforts of the Coffey-managed Aitebaar program, which is using communications campaigns to increase recruitment of female police officers.The recruitment drive is a response to the lack of women in the police department - fewer than 1% of police officers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are female. This disparity affects how women are treated by the police and how they interact with the police, with detrimental consequences for their security.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s highly patriarchal society, women are often uncomfortable talking to male police officers about the issues they face. This is particularly true of sensitive issues such as sexual assault and domestic abuse. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the police are rarely trained in how to handle these cases.

The UK government-funded Aitebaar program is working to change this. By increasing the number of female police officers, Aitebaar hopes to make it easier for women to approach the police for help. To increase recruitment, Aitebaar is reaching out to men and women through the media and engaging the public in dialogue through face-to-face events.

One of its activities has been the production of a radio drama called The Promise, which focuses on getting men to understand why women should join the police. The Promise directly addressed a key constraint preventing women from joining the law enforcement profession – their husbands’, fathers’ and brothers’ objections.

Aitebaar has also produced live radio programs aimed at women. The program sees female police officers speak to young women at various events and encourage them to join the department. These events were aired on radio stations across the province.
Aitebaar hopes to match the higher recruitment with higher retention, and undertakes activities to improve the work conditions for female police officers. For example, it has trained police officers on how to conduct themselves in a mixed gender environment and has ensured female police officers participate in professional training that will help them advance in their careers.

Bringing women into the police force not only improves women’s ability to get police support for their issues, but also empowers women as they begin to play a greater role in a male dominated field. As a female police officer explained, “In this day and age, even in a traditionally male dominated society like Peshawar, women are becoming doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, businesswomen and even joining the police force. Things are beginning to change. They are breaking the mould and stepping out of their traditional roles. They are now making their presence felt in society. I have seen that even society begins to accept women who are dedicated in their professions, and they also begin to assist them.”