At a pivotal time in history when Afghanistan is emerging, its national security force is taking on primary responsibility for security and after 12 years of war, where women's rights issues are gaining attention, one brave, female Afghan National Police sergeant major finds herself at the forefront of all these changes - and at the age of 23.
Sgt. Maj. Maryam Tabish serves as the Ministry of Interior, senior enlisted adviser of Human Rights, Children and Gender Directorate. She is the adviser in security affairs, responsible for the education and discipline of female noncommissioned officers and soldiers.
She assists female ANP with issues such as getting the right size uniforms and boots, ensuring females have changing facilities, assignments and authorizations to the Tashkil, delayed pay and promotion issues said ISAF mentor, Sgt. Maj. Donna King, who serves as the deputy commander-support operations for J3.
"From childhood, I wanted to become an Afghan National Police officer and serve the people of Afghanistan through this way," Tabish said.
Tabish said she has aspirations of being an officer one day. But for now, she is hard at work as a senior enlisted leader in an organization that is the face of the Afghan government - the police force.
"I have to make sure that female NCOs and soldiers will get what they need like food, uniform and boots, and I have to make sure they wear proper Hejab. I make sure they have to obey the orders of their commander and follow the instructions that they receive," Tabish said.
"The significance of the mentorship program that we have been doing here in Afghanistan is two-fold. First, we are able to work very closely with our Afghan counterparts and share many lessons learned with them and provide insightful guidance to assist Afghan leaders, like Sgt. Maj. Tabish, who face gender integration and leadership issues. Secondly, I provide her assistance in establishing standards to aid in solving problems and challenges that female ANP face in their daily work environment," said King, who hails from Monticello, Ark.
King is hopeful the mentoring program will have a positive and lasting impact on the overall development of the Afghan National Security Forces.
As a mentor, King provides her assistance in establishing standards to aid in solving problems and challenges that female ANP face in their daily work environment. Many of the problems and challenges they are facing now are some of the same concerns she encountered nearly 30 years ago when King first joined the Army, during a period of transformation in the Army.
"I have a very good understanding of what they are going through and can provide input on how to overcome those concerns and issues," King said.
"From my perspective and from actively engaging with ANP leaders, I see ANP moving in the right direction in preparation for transition towards 2014," said King. "As Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) continue to improve with gender related issues and give women the opportunity to pursue an education and secure a job so they can contribute and become productive members of society, we can expect to see prosperity and progression within the ANP ranks as well as throughout Afghanistan."
In the past, under Taliban rule and up until recently, it had been impossible for most girls to attend school, and due to the conservative nature of the Islamic influences on Afghan society, only now are we seeing women start to increasingly take on roles of responsibility and authority.
There has routinely been many obstacles for females to overcome, but with the voices of moderate Islam becoming more pronounced, opportunities for women are becoming more commonplace.
Ten years ago, girls were not allowed to go to school but nowadays they go to schools, universities and join the Afghan army and Afghan National Police and can even perhaps become a member of parliament.
"The Afghans stress personal relationship before professional relationship. Therefore, cultural understanding is key to being an effective trainer or mentor. Understanding the facets of culture will have a considerable impact and make a lasting impression with the Afghans," King said.
"The mentoring program is a key aspect in effecting change and building a self-sustaining Afghanistan which is critical to the transition process and the security of Afghanistan. In order for senior coalition forces to be effective trainers and mentors, they must develop an understanding of the Afghans' culture," King said.