Women National Park Rangers – a First for Afghanistan

Band-e-Amir’s four women rangers patrol park and lead way to new opportunities

NEW YORK (November 6, 2013)—
In a landmark event for Afghanistan, four women were recently hired as park rangers in Afghanistan’s Band-e-Amir National Park, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. These women are the first females ever employed as park rangers in Afghanistan.

In 2012, Afghanistan’s Band-e-Amir Protected Area Committee made the groundbreaking decision to hire women rangers for Band-e-Amir, Afghanistan’s only national park. Park managers, representatives from the 14 villages in the park, as well as provincial and district governments unanimously endorsed the concept. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL) took pioneering action to recruit and hire the women rangers in July 2013.

These four dedicated women represent a significant milestone for Afghanistan’s law enforcement and women’s employment as well. Less than 1% of Afghanistan National Police are female, according to NATO. The World Bank estimates that only 16% of Afghan women are employed in the formal economy.

“The new park rangers powerfully demonstrate that Afghan women can successfully step into professional positions where they are actively engaged in protecting Afghanistan’s wild life and wild places,” said Anne G. Williams, WCS Afghanistan Livelihoods and Gender Advisor.

WCS Afghanistan Country Program Director Richard Paley added: “The four new women rangers will make a great contribution to the effective management of Band-e-Amir. In helping to safeguard Afghanistan’s wildlife and natural wonders, these new employees, along with their male colleagues, can serve as role models for other equally qualified and conservation-minded men and women.”

Mr Haji Akhlaqi, a village elder, and Head of the council that represents the 14 villages in Band-e Amir National Park remarked, “The community appreciates the employment of the woman rangers. They greatly assist many woman tourists who come to visit the park and utilize the ‘sensitive’ activities such as bathing in the spiritual waters. They are a good addition to the present park rangers and park management in general.”

Equipment and training for the new women rangers was provided by the USAID-funded Improving Livelihoods and Governance through Natural Resource Management Project, implemented by WCS. They received the same training as their male colleagues.

“Our new park rangers represent the growing employment opportunities for all Afghanistan’s citizens as well as the preservation of the country’s natural heritage,” said Dr. Habiba Sarabi, Governor of Bamyan Province and Afghanistan’s first woman governor.

Established in 2009 with the help of WCS, Band-e-Amir National Park is one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, and has been nominated as a World Heritage site. The Park’s six deep-blue, crystal clear lakes are a surprising tourist draw in the country, with over 4,000 tourists a month visiting the park during the summer season – and with some summer holidays seeing that many just on a weekend. The Park is particularly popular among women from all over Afghanistan as a recreational area and for the reputed therapeutic properties of the water. The park is also home to a number of rare and endangered species.

With support from USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), WCS has played a lead role in helping Afghan men and women protect Afghanistan’s natural resources since 2006. WCS, along with its community and government partners, works to promote conservation and sustainable management of natural resources using an integrated, community-based approach of scientific research; technical support to conservation and park management staff; establishment of local community conservation institutions; environmental education; management planning for protected areas; and identifying sustainable income generating opportunities for local people.

JOHN DELANEY: (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)
STEPHEN SAUTNER: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit www.wcs.org.

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