Female police officers play an integral role in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Their contributions extend across the spectrum of functions alongside those of their male counterparts. Data collected from the United Nations Police (UNPol) Personnel Database, as well as thoughts by female officers, provide a snapshot of their contributions at this moment in time.
Currently there are 324 female officers serving in either United Nations Police (UNPol) assignments or Formed Police Units (FPU). In regards to UNPol officers, 62 out of 151 female UNPol officers serve within the Operations, HNP Development, and Police Commissioner’s Pillars of the UNPol component. These officers fill 12% of positions across a spectrum of 34 different assignments ranging from gender advocates, Reporting Officers, and close protection officers to name but a few. Female officers also occupy key supervisory positions such as the Team Leader of the Audit and Inspection Unit, as well as serving as the Executive Officers in the Chief of Staff and Police Commissioner’s office.
Female UNPol officers also serve throughout the different regions in Haiti. The highest concentrations of female UNPols serve in the West Region, composing 13% of total officers, including those working in IDP Camps. Outside the West Region, 8% of UNPol officers are female. Females serve in a variety of assignments ranging from Police Monitors to IDP Camp Officers and Support Officers. Female UNPol officers also serve in a variety of leadership positions such as Department Chief, Chief of Reporting, Mobile Teams Coordinator, and Permanent Camps Coordinator. Overall, female UNPols comprise 11% of the officers in all ten regions of Haiti.
Another area where female officers have made significant contributions to the MINUSTAH is the Formed Police Units (FPU). At this time, 173 female officers serving in Haiti work in an FPU assignment constituting 8% of total FPU officers. One FPU Unit, the Bangladesh FPU 2, is the only majority female unit, consisting of 68% women officers. The Bangladesh FPU 2 arrived in Haiti in May of 2010 and assisted in post-earthquake efforts. The tasks that the FPU 2 carry out include static and mobile security, coordination with other FPU units, and conducting checkpoint operations. Additionally, the unit has provided Haitians with free food, medicine, and medical treatment during this rotation. This assistance is part of an outreach by the government of Bangladesh.
The fact that the Bangladesh FPU 2 is composed of a majority of women has not been a problem according to Senior Captain Sultana Farman Mafi, Deputy Commander of the unit. One of the positive aspects of the number of women has been the approachability by Haitian women and children. “Ladies and children approach females easily,” Mafi stated. According to Captain Mafi and Senior Captain Masuma Akter, Liaison Relations Officer of the Bangladesh FPU, the unit has received positive reaction from other FPU units and the men and women of Haiti.
An interesting dynamic was observed between the women of the Bangladesh FPU and the UNPol FPU Coordinator, Darlene Jackson. Jackson, who has served 2 years now in Haiti, when asked previously about her experiences as a female in Haiti, drew particular attention to her relationship with the Bangladesh FPU 2 and her role as a mentor, both as a female and an officer. Jackson stated, “These women see me and believe if I (Jackson) can make it then they can.” When discussing this relationship with the two Bangladesh 2 FPU members, they opened up and became very effusive in their joy of working with Jackson. Both members stated that they knew of Jackson in Bangladesh before coming to Haiti.
Female officers are a vital component of the MINUSTAH UNPol mission, composing a sizable number of members. The relationships between female members of both UNPol and FPU mutually support, assist, and empower one another thereby serving as force multipliers for each other’s edification. All are to be commended for their efforts.
Author : Billy Young- MINUSTAH UNPol
Edited: Johnny Richards – Reporting Unit Chief