Spotlight: Going online with gender training for SADC women police


African police forces have not achieved gender equality and women struggle even to reach middle management ranks. They are often regarded as administrators rather than field officers. As part of its efforts to build gender equality in African policing, the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO) asked the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) for training support.

The ISS Training for Peace programme (TfP) developed and delivered three days of interactive online capacity building for the SARPCCO Women’s Network, a body for women police officers to connect and share experiences. Fifty-two senior women from 14 Southern African Development Community (SADC) police agencies joined the September 2020 sessions, with Angola and Mozambique providing Portuguese interpreter services for their delegates.

‘Many police members don’t understand what gender equality entails, which requires overcoming cultural and traditional barriers,’ says ISS Researcher Liezelle Kumalo. ‘By fostering a group of empowered women police who can work on gender issues together, we are starting to influence change. We gave delegates the skills to identify the causes of gender inequality, collaborate with male counterparts and function more effectively in a patriarchal working environment.’

The ISS TfP programme has for 25 years developed the capacity of African police through specialist in-person courses. In response to COVID-19 restrictions, ISS staff learned how to facilitate online training, which achieves the same results at reduced financial and logistical cost.

ISS gender training for police usually runs over two weeks, but was compressed into three days for the online environment. The aim was to make the virtual learning as realistic and effective as that conducted in a classroom setting, through the use of video, online whiteboards and digital facilitation.

‘[The ISS] is a vital core in our resolve to make Southern Africa a safe haven’

The training helped delegates understand gender across their police agencies and deal with sexual and gender-based violence in peace operations. ‘The knowledge and skills acquired will help make gender equality a lived reality for police in Southern Africa,’ Kumalo says.

SARPCCO has already asked the ISS TfP programme to deliver a second round of gender training in 2020. ‘The ISS is a prominent partner and it was exciting to see how it used a virtual space to empower participants,’ said Mubita Nawa, SARPCCO Coordinator and Head of Interpol’s regional bureau in Harare.

‘We are indebted to the professional training and support. You are a vital core in our resolve to make Southern Africa a safe haven and participants will take back the knowledge to empower their colleagues,’ Nawa said.

He urged delegates to use their positions to empower female colleagues, noting that UN Security Council Resolution 1325 affirmed that peace and security is sustainable when women are equal partners in preventing violent conflict. ‘Gender equality requires urgent action and police organisations have deepened their approaches to mitigating the effects of gender-based violence,’ Nawa said.

South African Police Service Deputy Director Fortune Modisakeng said the ISS training gave a better understanding of gender discrimination, gender analysis and gender mainstreaming. Gaolatlhe Ngayaya, a Superintendent from the Botswana Police Service said the three days had provided insights into what women police are subjected to daily. ‘Now we know how to intervene and work around sensitising our counterparts about how we all need to work together for the common goal,’ she said.

For more information contact:

Liezelle Kumalo, ISS: [email protected]; +27 83 292 3144 

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