By Foday Moriba Conteh
During a well-attended ceremony held on Thursday 27th July, 2023 at the Sierra Palm Hotel on Lumley Beach Road in Freetown, the UN Women Sierra Leone Country Office, in partnership with the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) and with support from the Elsie Initiative Fund has launched a report titled: ‘2023 Report on Results of the Measuring Opportunities for Women in Peace Operations (MOWIP)’Assessment. The report, which was completed in partnership with UN Women Sierra Leone, the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance and Cornell University’s Gender and Security Sector Laboratory, with funds from the Elsie Initiative Fund, presents the Sierra Leone Police’s ability to deploy women and to ensure their meaningful participation in United Nations (UN) peace operations.
In her welcome address, the UN Women Head of Office, Setcheme Mongbo, said Serra Leone has made remarkable strides, with especially the passing of the GEWE Act 2022 that ensures that women are represented at every level maintaining the view that UN Women is proud to be part of this continued progress.
She said that in recent years, numerous researches and assessments have been conducted proposing several ways and actions to promote the women peace security agenda in the country, the National Action Plan 1325 and 1820 of which UN Women, the Government of Sierra Leone and Civil Society groups had been working together to develop.
Setcheme Mongbo maintained that the SLP has also proven their commitment towards polices and scheme that are geared towards making the institution more gender-responsive. These include the adoption of the 2008 gender mainstreaming and sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment polices (Known as the twin polices), the accelerated promotion scheme targeting female officers and many more.
“Although women from the Sierra Leone Police are participating in peacekeeping missions, there is still a great disparity in terms of representation. Currently, there are two hundred and thirty-two (232) personnel deployed in the various missions worldwide where one hundred and seventy-nine are male representing 78.4% and fifty (50) are female representing 21.5%. (UN and UNISOM),” she noted.
“As UN Women, we will continue to work with partners and across the UN System especially the Elsie Initiative Fund and other donors to strengthen and promote women participation in peace operations around the globe. Thanks to the Sierra Leone Police once again for their commitment throughout the entire process. UN Women looks forward to expanding our support in promoting our women in the Police,” she concluded.
Speaking on behalf of the UN Resident Coordinator, the UNAIDS Representative Coordinator ad Interim, Issac Ahemesah, said that peacekeeping forces that were sent by United Nations over years were 98% male dominated and to address this huge challenge and enhance women meaningful participation in Peacekeeping operations, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 in 2000, adding that the resolution emphasized the importance of women’s participation and of taking the gender dimension into account in peace negotiations, peacekeeping operations, and peacebuilding of which the resolution states that women are not solely victims of armed conflicts, but also actors and must therefore be more involved in conflict resolution.
He said that the document will certainly make a basis for future engagements to do things differently to achieve increased women’s participation and representation in all levels of peace operations.
“I believe this assessment report will be given adequate time, resourcefulness to analyse the recommendations included and come up with a comprehensive strategy for its implementation and which will form the basis for all stakeholder’s engagement in contributing towards the achievement of SDG Goal 5 before 2030 deadline. I would like to assure you the support of United Nations in the follow-up interventions of this assessment,” Issac Ahemesah assured.
Commenting on behalf of the Sierra Leone Police, the Director of Gender and Community Affairs, AIG Mustapha Kamara, said that for security institutions like the Sierra Leone Police, mainstreaming gender has become not only a global, regional and national call, but also it has become a standard used by development partners to assess the effectiveness and efficiency in discharging their constitutional mandate which he said is evident in the passing into law of the recently promulgated 30% Quota Act of 2022, which among other things requires MDAs to ensure at least 30% involvement of women into all operations hence creating the space required for these women to thrive.
He said that the launch of the report indicates the Sierra Leone Police’s commitment to creating the enabling environment that will place women at an advantage and feel involved in management issues bordering on their recruitment, transfers, promotions, placements and most importantly, UN deployments.
AIG Mustapha Kamara pointed out that at the beginning of this process, members of the SLP actively participated in the assessment and that the SLP gave UN Women a technical team that supported them in all activities as planned
“We are here today lunching this report as a result of these commitments we have made; we are here today as a result of my organization’s decision to work on challenges we face around the ten issue areas highlighted in this report and we are here today to express our utmost priority given to the outcome of this assessment. I will state here that my organization will take the findings and see how best we could work on them in improving on the challenges that have been discovered,” he maintained.
Giving the keynote address, the Director of Police Affairs at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Elizabeth Turay (Mrs) commended the Sierra Leone Police for their commitment and participation in the assessment process, adding that the participation of female officers especially those who have served in the Peace Keeping operations and key decision makers within the SLP underscoring the importance the SLP attaches to gender issues and their sound commitment in increasing women participation.
She said that the Ministry has been working assiduously over the years to capacitate and support the deployment of female officers in these operations, adding that the SLP can boast of having deployed a good number of female officers due to the strong foundation laid by the past and present SLP leaders.
Elizabeth Turay described the launch of the ‘2023 Report on Results of the Measuring Opportunities for Women in Peace Operations (MOWIP)’Assessment as a historical event, stating that the assessment report is very timely for the Sierra Leone and the country as whole.
She said that while individual countries are making effort towards improving the participation of these female officers in these operations many barriers still exist allowing them to participate meaningfully in these operations, noting that she is with the strong conviction that the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations project will change the narrative.
The Director of Police Affairs stated that the Report highlights the Sierra Leone Police good practices, challenges and recommendations aimed at improving female participation in peace operations, noting that the findings and recommendations were not manufactured by a researcher but the true voices of their female officers and decision makers in the SLP.
She assured all that the Ministry of Internal Affairs will be collectively working with the SLP to enhance the capacitate of female officers in order to create a conducive atmosphere for future development.
Closing the ceremony was the official launching of the, ‘2023 Report on Results of the Measuring Opportunities for Women in Peace Operations (MOWIP) Assessment’ by the Director of Police Affairs at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Elizabeth Turay (Mrs).