Achievements and Concerns of a Working Woman in the Ministry of Interior Affairs

We made the needs of the ministry realistic

A woman and a working mother struggles for two generations simultaneously, both for hers and tomorrow’s generation which her children are a part of. Gulshan Musleh, the director of plans and programs of the Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoI), says the above and adds that a working mother has crucial responsibilities, and if necessary effort is not made in carrying out these responsibilities, both today’s and tomorrow’s generations will be affected.

Ms. Musleh says that although women suffer from many issues in this society, being a mother is another big challenge for working women. Ms. Musleh understands this well because five years ago she applied for a director’s position in the MoI, even though she successfully completed the recruitment process, she was not appointed in the position for a year and eventually was not allowed to work due to being a mother.

Eventually, Ms. Musleh was appointed as director of plans and programs in the civil sector of the MoI after succeeding in the competitive recruitment exam on September 2019. With a bachelor’s and master’s degree in sustainable development and several years of work experience, she has increased this directorate’s efficiency and effectiveness. The head of the Plans and Programs Directorate of the MoI says that when I took charge of this department, I realized that the plans and programs of this ministry were not developed in accordance with its actual needs. Thus, 11 budgetary units of the MoI were reviewed and after evaluations, the actual needs were identified and budgetary units were adjusted in accordance with those needs.

Effective work on development projects of the MoI, development of the 2020 annual plan, preparing and development of the reform of the justice sector plan for years 2021-2025, and coordination on the preparation of the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Plan II (ANPDF II) 2021 to 2025, are among many achievements of Ms. Musleh in the fields of budgeting, planning and organizing.

Challenges and Issues

Despite the common practice, which is a military order of management in the MoI, Ms. Musleh’s management style is based on teamwork and consultation. She believes that teamwork is more productive because on the one hand, it strengthens the sense of ownership in the employees, and on the other hand, it has a positive effect on improving the employees’ capacity and is permanently institutionalized in their minds. “I go about my work and management in participatory, consultative and supportive manners. This helps employees to participate and learn. If we impose things on the employees in an authoritarian way, they’d only work like machines, and so their organizational understandings will not be consistent and stable.”

However, this style of management is not easy to implement in a military and security institution where most employees are accustomed to obey orders in a male dominated environment. In terms of management and leadership, there is a difference between a man raising his powerful, high-pitched voice and a woman’s soft and gentle female voice. “When a man raises his voice, things get done immediately, but when a woman calls for something to be done, it is often ignored,” says Ms. Musleh.

Another problem that most women face in the MoI is that in most places they are not considered employees and officers of the MoI. Ms. Musleh says that whenever they are traveling in a MoI vehicle, everyone thinks that maybe they are relatives and family members of one of the officers. Women are not considered employees or officers who work in the MoI, and are sometimes treated contemptuously.

In addition the working women also face other serious challenges such as unequal treatment and lack of job security. Director of plans and programs of the MoI adds that changes and transfers in the leadership level of the ministry itself cause anxiety and concern. According to Ms. Musleh, not only she but all employees are concerned about the transfers and lack of job security.

Also, working woman face security threats which are another major risk and challenge they face in their day to day activities. In this regard, Ms. Musleh says: “at times when insecurity incidents increase, the family does not allow me to take my son with me to the ministry, saying that we cannot bear to lose one person, let alone two.”

Ms. Musleh recalls many other challenges, especially that women working in senior positions face a lot of pressure, and says: “sometimes I feel like I’m moving against the current, we can easily navigate if we are moving at the same direction with current. However moving against the flow of water, requires more energy and effort. Especially if you are a mother and you have the responsibility of the house, this pressure is doubled.”

Despite all the challenges and concerns, she has a great spirit. Answering the question on whether she is still happy to work in the MoI despite all the challenges? In way that shows how strongly motivated she is, she answers: “it is easy to walk on paved road, but it is extremely joyful to take on challenges,” she firmly continues, “I want to work in a place where the result of my work is tangible and leads to change. There are a lot of threats and challenges, but we will continue.”

She believes that other departments have their own duties and sepcific responsibilities, which are very valuable in their place, but when it comes to homeland, security, soldiers and sacrifice, she is happy to work in the MoI. A military and security department which deals with conflict and insecurity, working in such a place is more honorable and exciting.