Training for Airport Policewomen: “First talk, communicate”


Kabul, February 2013. Kick, the high heels of Malalai show no mercy; stand against the wall and spread arms and legs. Malalai obviously enjoys this show of power. Aahh, squirms her female colleague who is the subject in this body search exercise, as the sharp pointy shoe kicks her. Trainer Henrica van de Zande calmly repeats her instruction: “First talk, communicate”. She continues to explain patiently why communicating is so important. “If you don’t have the right communication, you can’t control and demand. The ability to communicate well, which includes proper expression, is one of the most important skills for a police officer.”

EUPOL trainer Henrica van de Zande is strict when it concerns the use of force. “If a suspect is not willing to cooperate you are allowed to use “force” but you have to take into account the principles of Subsidiarity and Proportionality”, she emphasizes. The nine Border Policewomen have already a half day of work behind them, when they arrive at 9 o’clock in the morning at the training facility at Kabul Airport. Hugs, kisses and a small flower for each of the trainers mark the start of the day. It has become a custom in the four days the training course has been running.  Very emotional and intensive days EUPOL trainer Van de Zande explains. We spoke about the New Code of Conduct, the Based Policing Model (5 pillars), styles of communication, Human Rights and Gender and personal experiences. As life is not easy for women in Afghanistan the topics were diverse and sometimes difficult, like child marriage and beatings. Still these border policewomen make the most of it. “I was forced to marry when I was thirteen and now I am 34”, one of the students said.
The policewomen like to have the safety of their group but still have a lot to work on. “The most basic issues of communicating like listening to each other, or first divide tasks is a challenge for them”, EUPOL Trainer Henrica says. As it is proven when the women start the body search exercise.  “PFFF”, Henrica gets the attention that is needed as the women starts talking and giving out instructions to each other all at the same time. At the end of the day the policewomen evaluate the course. “We learned a lot and still have a lot to learn”, Malalai sums it up.