UGANDA: Ugandan Women Military, Police Officers Demand Gender Equality

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Eastern Africa
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

Women leaders in the Ugandan police force and the military have called for deliberate measures and policies to increase the number of women and to promote gender equality in the country's security forces.

Without adequate numbers, they say, 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's Affairs.

"Even during interrogation and searching, you need women to handle fellow women. Work is delayed when women are few."

Chelimo said women were poorly represented in the management, command and control departments of the police force. In total, women comprised just 15 per cent of the entire force, way below the 2007 government policy which requires at least 30 per cent representation of women in all sectors.

In the Uganda Peoples' Defence Forces (UPDF), women only comprise four per cent of the total number, according to Colonel Rebecca Mpagi, the UPDF 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 two senior officers were speaking at a workshop on gender and peace building for key decision-makers in media, peace and security organizations here. The week-long training workshop was organized by the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR), a pan-African organization working to reduce violence on the continent.

Simon Okumba, one of CCR trainers, said organizations 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 organizations 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 27 years.

Others cited failure by their supervisors to recognize 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 was only recently that women started showing up during police recruitment. 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.