The Female Face of Peacekeepers
17 August 2016: Sakina Issah is quick to put on her deep blue uniform and other necessary gear to start her daily duty which will start at 4:00pm at the gate of Bentiu Protection of Civilian (PoC) site.
August 17, 2017 was special for her and her other collogues in Bentiu. Before noon, she was part of an imposing event. Sakina received UN medal for the peacekeeping service she rendered with UNMISS.
Born in Kumasi, Ashanti region in Ghana, Sakina attended her training enabling to be a qualified police at Winneba Training School and she graduated in 2013.
It is the first of its kind for her and other 166 members of Ghana Formed Police Unit to be deployed in Bentiu South Sudan, in August 2016. She is also one of the 32 women members of the unit from the total deployed .
Sakina said being a female and member of Ghanaian Formed Police Unit and deployed in South Sudan with UNMISS always makes her proud.
She sees that her service will help local women to be inspired by women peacekeepers for their empowerment.
“I am also happy to be a female peacekeeper in South Sudan because almost the IDPs are female and children”, the police officer noted.
In this regard, UN well acknowledges that female peacekeepers act as role models in the context they serve, motivating women and girls to push for their own rights and for participation in peace processes.
Sakina and her fellow female police managed to discharge effectively the role of ensuring safety and security of people seeking protection in UN camp in a formidable circumstances.
“When we were coming, people were saying that Bentiu is hard… Bentiu is the most dangerous place in South Sudan. But we are able to protect the IDPs from any harm and danger”, she said.
UNMISS Special Representative of the Secretary General, Ellen Margrethe Loej , delivering her message to recipients of the medal through Police Commissioner Bruce Munyambo said the contingent has demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism and commitment .
Ms. Ellen mentioned that crime rate in the PoC has also declined tremendously in recent times as compared to the past with contribution of the Formed Police Unit.
Bentiu POC Advisor, Francis Yiribaare also compares the situation a year ago with that of now: “Up to August, 2015, there was gradual emergence of violent crime in the form of armed robbery of shops in the market and gangster clashes”.
The situation saw a dramatic down turn after the arrival of the Ghana Formed Police Unit with turnaround of criminal incidents as a result of the unit’s involvement and the active collaboration of partners, the advisor noted .
SRSG emphasized the role women peacekeepers play in approaching those who are most vulnerable in the scenario of conflict.
“The women through their active duty, have shown the female face of peacekeepers, enhancing security and safety for local communities and in doing so, perhaps they have made us, as a mission, more approachable to the most vulnerable groups of society” , Ms. Ellen further noted.
Sakina searches those entering to PoC by staying out during the day mostly to collect firewood or those arriving for protection.
“We are doing this to make sure that they don’t send any harmful or prohibited weapons that endanger the safety in PoC”.
Other than securing the gates of the PoC site that accommodates close to 100,000 people , Sakina and other female members of the unit with civilian UN Police counterpart are actively involving among others in protecting the people from physical violence and create an environment free from criminal activity.
The SRSG noted, through their engagement in the PoC site, Ghanaian Formed Police Unit have made a valuable contribution to the critical functions of the Mission and the implementation of the UNMISS mandate.
“Females in uniform are critical to any peacekeeping mission, but your contribution is especially important in a place like South Sudan, where protection of civilians is one of our most important tasks”, the SRSG added.
Ms. Ellen in her message calls on both men and women serving in the mission to encourage female officers to join the mission so as to invigorate the female face of the peacekeepers.