The first female Brigadier in the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) Kestoria Kabia has said that there is place for women in the army.
She said this at the end of a two day seminar on Gender Awareness for Senior Management of the Ministry of Defence and the RSLAF organized by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces and the Women, Peace and Security Network –Africa (WIPSEN-Africa).
Brigadier Kabia stated that the army needs qualified women who can take strategic positions like hers.
She explained that she entered the army with a Higher Teachers Certificate (HTC) but now has a master’s degree.
Lieutenant Colonel Emiline Kalokoh said that women have been left behind due to culture in the army. She stated that with the education gained from the workshop it will help the army to develop a gender policy since the RSLAF does not have one.
Colonel John Milton reiterated that the Army does not have specific policy on gender, adding that with the knowledge gained from the workshop it will help them beef up their white paper on gender.
He expressed hope that what they have learnt has empowered them on gender issues and has exposed them to some issues they had neglected over the years.
Col Milton stressed that they are going to review their white paper and prepare a document that will tell the test of time.
He appealed to WIPSEN-Africa to monitor and evaluate them on what they been taught.
Moses B Miller, Navy Captain and Director of Training, Education and Recruitment stated that they have gained sufficiently and are going fully equipped on gender issues.
He said that knowledge gained will be passed to their subordinates. At the opening of the seminar, Minister of Defence Paolo Conteh reinforced the mandate of his ministry and RSLAF to develop and implement gender policies, and restated his personal commitment to integrate gender issues in the policies and practices of the Sierra Leonean defence institutions.
Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs Jenneh Kandeh and Chief of Defence Staff Major- General Nelson Williams, Director of Programmes WIPSEN-Africa Ecoma Alaga and Deputy Head, Special Programmes DCAF Daniel De Torres also made statements. During the seminar, based on DCAF’s Gender and Security Sector Reform Tool kit, participants learnt and exchanged views on the implications of gender in defence policy.
They discussed strategies to increase the recruitment, promotion, and retention of qualified women in the RSLAF and to ensure that the armed forces remain a trusted and respected institution, fully representative of the population they serve. Senior officers observed that gender mainstreaming enables defence institutions to become operationally effective and representative and to provide a healthy and non-discriminatory work place with full respect for equality and human rights Participants also underscored the importance of developing gender- sensitive policies in light of the upcoming deployment of a RSLAF contingent to the UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur, and drafted a Road map to develop such policies.
Accra- based WIPSEN-Africa and Geneva –based DCAF have since worked since 2008 with support from government of Norway and Sweden to assist the development of gender-sensitive security sector institutions in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Certificates were given to participants.
By Abibatu Kamara