For the handful of women police in one of Afghanistan’s most volatile provinces, danger and disapproval are all in a day’s work. Not that it bothers them.

“I’m police — police should not be scared of anything,” one of them, Carmela, told AFP. “I’m doing my job like a man.”

There are just 16 women police out of a total force of several thousand in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. Across the war-torn country, the total is around 1,200 out of 126,000, or roughly one percent.

They mainly work at checkpoints, searching other women for weapons, suicide vests or any other signs of insurgent activity, although some have even lower grade jobs such as cleaning buildings at police headquarters.

While on duty, most of them cover their faces and wear sunglasses to avoid being recognised. All have had to secure permission from their families to join the force.

Police in Helmand are frequently targeted by the Taliban and other insurgents, who know that police will take on an increasing role in the run-up to the transition to Afghan control of security in 2014.

Source: Katherine Haddon for AFP.

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