Women in uniform in the Central African Republic are counting on a newly launched Defence Forces Official Directory of Female Experts to help push for better representation of women in decision-making positions. The document, produced with MINUSCA support, was handed over to Prime Minister Firmin Ngrebada at a ceremony held in Bangui on 11 March 2020, just three days after the celebration of International Women’s Day.
Despite the fact that a woman is currently the Minister of Defence of the Central African Republic (CAR), very few women fill key leadership positions in the national security forces. The newly published directory seeks to change this.
“The document that is being presented to the government can be seen as the collective resume of the women in uniform in the national defence and security forces. It aims to push for more women in leadership roles at the decision-making level,” says Colonel Léa Yangolo, Director General of Human Resources in the Central African Armed Forces.
Presiding over the ceremony, Prime Minister Ngrébada emphasized that gender parity is a priority for the Central African leadership and stated that gender equality must not just be a philosophy but also a reality.
“The 21st Century is the century of the woman. Women have slowly conquered strongholds that they were previously excluded from. The directory presented to me today proves that women in the national security forces have the expertise needed to serve,” he said, while expressing his profound gratitude to MINUSCA for support in producing the document and securing the country.
Carole Baudoin, the Chief of the MINUSCA Security Sector Reform Section, saluted the government in advancing women’s leadership: “The Central African Republic was the first country to have a woman as a prime minister and a woman president and has, for years, feminized its security sector. The directory will serve as a management tool, an information tool, a tool for recognition and an advocacy tool in a country which shows the will to push for normalization of women in key posts.”
A highlight of the ceremony was compelling testimonies of women representatives from the armed forces, police, customs and prisons sectors, among others – sharing experiences of their professional journeys to date. They spoke of the challenges they have faced in male-dominated spheres while strongly encouraging other women to follow suit – the overarching message was that women are just as capable as men and should be equally represented at the decision-making level.
Colonel Yangolo stressed the importance of acquiring a solid education in her message to women and girls who wish to join and rise up in the ranks in CAR’s security forces, adding that having a woman as defence minister was significant in creating an environment where women in top leadership positions will, over time, be accepted as the norm rather than the exception.
In receiving the directory, Prime Minister Ngrebada stressed that women were crucial to national efforts to stabilize the country. “The Central African Republic has, for four years, been confronted with a multidimensional crisis especially affecting the security sector. There is therefore a strong need for concerted efforts – including women’s full involvement in the political, economic and social sectors – to assure the country’s development and to allow it to reclaim its dignity,” he said.