Female UN Police officers meeting with the UN Police Advisor in Juba, 12 December 2019
Thousands of women and children sought sanctuary in United Nations protection sites when civil war broke out in South Sudan. Six years later, many remain in the camps, watching and waiting for the right time to leave as peace descends on the country.
These families are protected by UN police officers from a multitude of countries. Many are female officers motivated to keep the most vulnerable safe and to support efforts to build peace. They have built strong bonds with women living in the communities they serve.
“If a woman is victimized sexually, she will be reluctant to open up to a man. But for me, as a female, they will be more comfortable because they see me as one of their own,” says United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) police advisor on human rights, Orowo Regina Omuyeh. “So, my work here is very relevant because the people mostly affected are the women and children. They see me as a female officer, as a mother, a sister, and everything to them.”
UN Police Advisor Luis Carrilho is visiting the mission in South Sudan which has the highest percentage of female police officers among all 16 UN peace operations. Twenty-seven percent of all independent police officers and 17 percent of all formed police units are women. One Rwandan unit has achieved a 50 percent ratio of female officers.
“Police deal with all sectors of society but particularly the ones more in need,” says UN Police Advisor, Luis Carrilho. “We are talking about victims; victims of crime. We are talking about internally displaced people. We are talking about refugees, women, children, the elderly and there is no one better than female police officers to gain the trust and confidence and to give help to the people that are in need.”
The officers are also working closely with their counterparts in South Sudan’s police service to increase capability and improve action taken against sexual and gender-based violence.
“We are making a difference because, just a few weeks’ ago, the national police of South Sudan signed a work plan on how to eradicate [and] handle cases that are related to conflict-related sexual offences. So, with our own input, we have also helped to tell them to make such a plan to deter people from committing such offences,” says officer, Orowo Regina Omuyeh.
“Before, it wasn’t like that. Before, rape and violence against women and children were the order of the day. But now that we have made them realize that there is a need to put in place an action plan to stop and to prescribe punishment for offenders, it has reduced drastically.”
Boosting the number of women working to secure international peace and security is a key goal of the United Nations Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative and an inspiration for these police officers protecting civilians and building durable peace in South Sudan.