Why having more women in UN Police matters
By: Maya Kelly
“My grandfather used to tell me that a journey of a thousand miles always begins with a first step. So, throughout my career, I walked,” says Alizéta Kabore Kinda. “I was tired, but I did not stop. At times, I was discouraged, but I did not give up.”
Chief Warrant Officer Alizéta Kabore Kinda works with UN Police, striving to make life better for the women and girls of Menaka, Mali, and has just been named the 2022 United Nations Police Woman of the Year.
Serving as a gender focal point with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) since September 2020, Officer Kinda worked to empower the women of Menaka, so that they could gain financial independence and seek justice for the sexual and gender-based violence they had experienced.
“During my deployment, I observed that women in Mali are not always made to feel independent and empowered… so I made it my personal goal to change this,” she explains. “The project that I developed and implemented — to help 50 local women make and sell ecological bags — enabled them to pay for their children’s school fees and medical expenses.”
Further, Officer Kinda’s awareness-raising efforts led to more victims of gender-based violence coming forward to report their cases to local authorities and seek medical care. As many as three or more victims per month are now coming forward, as compared to none before her arrival.
“This is significant, given women are traditionally shunned from expressing themselves in the region,” adds Kinda.
Officer Kinda is among the more than 2,500 women UN Police (UNPOL) officers serving in nine peacekeeping operations and seven special political missions around the world. Evidence shows that deploying more women police officers makes for more effective policing.
Corrections Officers Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana and Béatrice Were are shining examples.
“In my professional environment, the field of security, women are often placed second or even ignored, because of stereotypical perceptions that men are better suited for the job. I had the courage and strength, and vocation, to break down barriers and assert myself confidently in this field,” shares Zoungrana.
Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana of Burkina Faso made her mark as a Corrections Officer serving with the UN Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), where she leads a team of 42 officers. Zoungrana coordinates the security teams at the Ngaragba Central Prison, which is the largest and most notorious detention centre in the Central African Republic (CAR), housing 1,335 inmates, which accounts for 69% of the entire prison population in the country.
In crisis situations, including riots and detainee escapes, Zoungrana led MINUSCA’s rapid intervention response. With her vast technical expertise in crisis intervention, she mentored United Nations colleagues and national prison staff, created a women-only rapid intervention team, and integrated rapid intervention training into the CAR national prison curriculum.
Her efforts were recognized as she was named the first-ever recipient of the UN Trailblazer Award for Women Justice and Corrections Officers in June 2022.
No stranger to the male-dominated environment of the justice and corrections system, Corrections Officer Béatrice Were made it her mission to improve conditions for vulnerable groups, mainly women and youth, in the prison systems in Goma while serving with the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
“In Goma, my efforts led to the separation of the minor girls from the juvenile boys, initiated basketry, bakery and literacy programmes to facilitate rehabilitation and social integration of women prisoners and minors in the facility,” shared Officer Were. With support of the Goma Field Level I clinic and contingents, she also set up a free medical outreach programme to manage the peculiar health care needs of women prisoners, accompanying infants and other vulnerable groups in prison.
The positive impact seen when more women police officers are deployed in peace operations is not an exception, it’s the norm.
The presence of women police officers in UN peace operations improves engagement with the host community, especially with women and girls, who often prefer interacting with women officers. It also helps challenge repressive gender norms and stereotypes about women and foster role models, inspiring women and girls in the communities to stand up for their own rights and embrace nontraditional paths.
The participation of women police officers in peace operations “directly impacts the sustainability of peace by helping to bring different perspectives to the table and making our work more inclusive,” says Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix.
Officer Alizéta Kabore Kinda, Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana, Béatrice Were, and the more than 2,500 women UNPOL officers, “embody a more representative, efficient police service that is better equipped to serve and protect the public.”