KABUL – The war-torn Afghanistan appointed on Monday its first woman deputy minister of defense.
Munera Yousufzada, 33, will take on the key job of training and personnel affairs of the ministry, a defense ministry statement said.
“In history of the Afghan armed forces, this is the first time that a woman is being appointed in the leadership of the army,” the statement said.
Yousufzada, who has masters in public relations and has worked in various government and non-government organizations, was officially introduced to the staff by the acting Defense Minister Asadullah Khalid in the ministry complex in Kabul.
The well-known woman rights activist started working with the government in 2010 and has previously held the position of deputy governor of Kabul province and spokesperson of the Independent Directorate of the Local Governance.
“There are several women working in the ministry and ranks of the army and special forces but this is the first time a woman is being appointed in a position of the leadership,” the acting defense minster said in his remarks to the staff.
Khalid said her appointment was “positive step” and expressed his confidence “in the ability and capacity of Munera Yousufzada, who will identify the problems of the army personnel and will find solutions for them.”
Yousufzada thanked President Ashraf Ghani and the defense minister for trusting her and vowed to work on plans and policies that would “reduce casualties, particularly the number of injuries and disabilities in the army.”
Gender can’t hinder women from working in ranks of the army, she said.
Yousufzada’s appointment in the defense ministry comes after years of efforts to increase the number of female staff in the ranks of the Afghan army and police.
The number of women working with the armed and police forces still remain low in the conservative country, mainly due to social and traditional problems and lack of interests by families to send their daughters to work with security forces.
As of January 2019, the Afghan army and police had 4,984 female personnel, which is 650 more than compared to previous year.
However, this makes only 1.6 percent of the total 306,807 of the Afghan national and defense security forces, according to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).
President Ghani’s government has in recent years appointed a large number of women in various ministries as deputy ministers and directors as part of his election promises to empower them and increase their share in the government and its decision making process.
The country has tens of women as ministers, deputy ministers, directors, and ambassadors to foreign countries.
The positions of Afghanistan’s permanent representative to UN and its ambassador to the United States – the two important diplomatic missions of the country – are also held by women.
This has been a huge jump from the Taliban regime in 2001 when there were no women working in the government.
The percentage of female employees in the civil services has also gone up by 27.3 percent in 2018.
Women occupy 14 percent of positions in justice department, 33 percent in education and 24 percent in health in the country, according to government data.