By Francis Kagolo
WOMEN leaders in Police and the army have called for deliberate measures and policies to increase the number of women and promote gender equality in security forces.
Without adequate numbers, the officials said, women are poorly represented in key departments of the different security organs which also affects the quality of security work.
“There is a lot of awareness about human rights and gender in the country today. If you go for community policing and you are only men, the work will be compromised,” said Beata Chelimo, the acting Police commissioner for women affairs.
“Even during interrogation and searching, you need women to handle fellow women. Work delays when women are few.”
Chelimo said women are poorly represented in management, command and control departments of the Police. In total, women comprise 15% of the entire Police force, way below the 2007 Government policy which requires at least 30% representation of women in all sectors.
In the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF), women are only four per cent, according to Col. Rebecca Mpagi, the director for women affairs.
“This has affected our representation even in the higher ranks. We have only one brigadier and two colonels. Who will speak for us when there are only male bosses?” Mpagi wondered.
“We also need to be represented on policy committees so as to have a voice. We need more numbers of women in security.”
The duo was speaking at a workshop on gender and peace building for key decision makers in media, peace and security organisations.
The week-long training was organised by the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR), a pan-African organisation working to reduce violence on the continent.
Simon Okumba, one of CCR trainers, said organisations ought to enforce gender balance in workplaces so as to benefit from the skills and capabilities of each gender.
“When employers marginalise a specific gender, their organisations miss the opportunities that accrue from the specific qualities of that particular gender,” Okumba explained.
In 2009, women officers in Kampala complained to Police chief Kale Kayihuira that they are sexually harassed by their male bosses in order to be deployed or promoted.
Some of the women officers said they had been denied promotions for rejecting sexual advances from their superiors, with some stuck at the same rank for over 27 years.
Others sited failure by their supervisors to recognise their plight especially when pregnant, as well as lack of uniforms and missing salaries.
Declining to comment on allegations of sexual harassment, Chelimo attributed the inadequacy of women in security organs to the colonial mentality that security is a field for men only.
“It is only recently that women started showing up during Police recruitments. We need to do more to mainstream gender in all departments and directorates of the Police,” she said.
Col. Mpagi urged members of Parliament and civil society to sensitise the public to encourage disciplined girls to join security even as UPDF endeavours to increase their numbers.
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Women demand gender equality in security forces