Senior Female Police Commanders preliminary course begins in Addis Ababa

4 Dec 2017

Senior Female Police Commanders preliminary course begins in Addis Ababa

Fifty senior female police officers met in Addis Ababa for a first of its kind preparatory course that would build a fast-track pipeline for the nominations of women to advance in policing at a leadership level. This course aimed at preparing the female commanders for recruitment processes in senior-level police positions in peace support operations at the United Nations and the African Union. 

The training took place in Addis Ababa from 4-8 December, 2017 and was jointly organized by the United Nations and the African Union with the support of the Government of Canada, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and other partners. GIZ provided financial support that enabled three AMISOM female commanders to participate in this training namely, Doreen Pamela Atukunda, Morenike Victoria Akindutire and Zipporah Gatiria Mboroki. 

Below is an interview with the Deputy Police Advisor for UN Police Division, Mr. ​Shaowen Yang who was also in Addis Ababa during the training. 

Why do we need women as Heads of Police components?

At UN Police (UNPOL), we have been promoting gender mainstreaming and gender strategy for a number of years, particularly in the process of implementing the UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security. We plan to reach 20% female representation by the year 2020. We have a lot of work to do to reach this target.

Gender is very important in policing. Gender matters in power structures in conflict and post-conflict environments, women police officers play very key roles, in fact, unique roles. In addition to regular policing, women police help prevent gender-based crimes and ensure the protection on children and displaced persons. Women police are the best suited officers to undertake community policing which requires establishing trust with community members. Overall, the main goal is to deploy women as Police Officers to help protect civilians.

In other areas, we support host state police and law enforcement authorities with women leaders’ capacities and sensitization to have more skilled female officers.  This is the first course of its kind, three similar additional courses are planned in other regions in 2018. The target is to train about 200 female senior leaders to prepare them to be fast-track and readily available for nominations for deployment to peacekeeping missions.

UNOAU also conducted an interview with Lea Biason, the Gender Affairs Officer at United Nations Police Division. 

How will this course contribute to the larger goal of the UN in regard to gender equality? What challenges do female Police Officers face to be nominated and deployed in peace operations?

The United Nations has been an important forum for the global community in developing international standards that include the advancement of women’s rights in all aspects of life. From the enshrinement of the equal rights of women in the Charter of the United Nations, to the organization of four world conferences on women and development to the global recognition of women’s equal role in international peace and security, we have come a long way.

To implement the Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, the Police Division launched a Global Effort initiative to reach a minimum representation of 20% female police officers in our peace operations. Since 2009, we have undertaken surveys with female police peacekeepers to identify challenges to the participation of women in police peacekeeping. These challenges include personal, social and cultural gender stereotypes where the role of women is generally considered to be in the home to take care of the children and the family. Therefore, there is a strong pressure from the family that discourage women police officers to leave and serve in international missions. Women themselves may lack confidence and feel that they do not have the necessary skills to do the job. Furthermore, national institutions tend to have deeply entrenched systemic and structural gender discriminatory criteria and processes that manifest in the pre-selection and recruitment of police officers deploying for international operations. For example, for so-called ‘individual police officers’ (IPOs), some Member States may require more than the UN’s minimum requirement of five years of police experience or a minimum rank despite this not being a formal requirement of the United Nations. These criteria have a negative impact on women who may have just entered the police service recently and may be concentrated in the lower ranks. In some, procedures for testing police officers for international service may be open to sexual harassment of women. We also need to take into account that women in general have a historical disadvantage compared to men with regards to access to education and career development, promotions and access to senior-level positions. For example, we have done an analytical study of 19 contracted professional posts where over 800 nominations were male compared to only over 100 female nominations. Similarly, during a campaign for our senior police leadership roster this year, there were 117 male against only 15 female nominations.

This course directly addresses these challenges. As a course that is dedicated solely to women, it provides tools to understand international police peacekeeping, the requirements of the United Nations for command positions, and shows how female candidates can assess their own skills and competencies and adequately translate their police experience into the requirements of international police service. It tackles the specific aspects of women’s leadership – challenges, and opportunities focusing on strategies to increase confidence and empower women leaders.

The female Commanders who have successfully completed the course will be considered for the UN Police Female Command Cadre as a talent pipeline to fast track nominations for senior-level police positions in our peace operations. By providing this enabling environment to women, we hope that this can lead to a significant transformational change towards the realization of a more inclusive and sustainable international peace and security.