Tag: Janet Tinsley

Mar 9 2009

Indian women and the Liberian police force

By Janet Tinsley, Africa project director, international programs

As we were driving through Monrovia during a recent project visit to Liberia, a unit of U.N. soldiers caught my attention. United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) troops, or ìblue hatsî as they are commonly known, are a familiar sight around the city, and they eventually blend into the background after a day or so in the country. But this particular unit captured my attention because they were unique ñ they were all Indian women.

Immediately, I turned to our project coordinator who was sitting next to me in the taxi and asked her about them. She explained that they were a special unit of Indian police officers who had been sent to Liberia to serve as U.N. police officers. She said they were also meant to be an inspiration to Liberian women to join the Liberian police.

I was intrigued. The notion of an all-female U.N. peace-keeping unit was interesting enough, because I was not aware of any other. But the fact that they were from India, another country where CFCA works and one with its own unique issues around the status of women, was exciting to me.

When I got home, I did some digging, and I learned that the U.N. has so far sent three all-female Indian units since 2007 to serve in Liberia. The most recent unit was deployed in early February of this year. They are known as the Indian Formed Police Unit (FPU), and their official mission is to provide crowd and traffic control, anti-robbery patrols, and protection for UNMIL staff and assets. But the less tangible attributes they bring to the job may even be more important.

Research from around the world shows that women police officers are adept at resolving conflicts through non-violent means. In a war-weary country like Liberia, this is a very valuable skill, and this makes the FPUís mission very important. The Indian officers also spend time with schoolgirls teaching self-defense techniques, self-esteem and even Indian dance. The presence of the female officers has been an inspiration to young Liberian women and girls, and the nation has seen an increase of women applying to join the Liberian police force.

The Indian women are certainly an inspiration to me, and I hope their presence leaves a lasting impression on the Liberian people, especially the girls, for whom the sky is the limit.

Learn more

Liberia gets all-female peacekeeping force

Indian Women police inspire Liberian women to join Liberiaís police force

Liberian police graduate record number of women

Jan 12 2009

Kenyaís gradual return to peace

By Janet Tinsley, CFCA international project director for Africa

After the disputed presidential elections of December 2007 that were marred by allegations of corruption, the president-elect, Mwai Kibaki, and opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, formed the Grand Coalition Government in an attempt to quell the violence that erupted in January 2008. However, since its inception, the coalition has been tenuous at best, with many worrying that any disagreement between the parties could send Kenya into another violent tailspin.

During the year following the post-election violence, which resulted in more than 1,000 deaths and more than 350,000 internally displaced persons, people wishing to heal and move on have largely been forced to take reconciliation efforts into their own hands. In a demonstration of their perseverance, communities around the country have formed ad-hoc, cross-tribal support groups with the common goal of gradually bringing peace back to their community. Coming to terms with what happened last year is taking time, but gradually, people have returned to their communities and begun the arduous task of putting their lives and communities back together.

The government, however, has been relatively silent with regard to reconciliation and national healing following last yearís violence. It wasnít until November that legislation was passed to form a commission on election violence, and commissioners have yet to be appointed. As a result, very few of those who instigated the violence have been tried or prosecuted, and many Kenyans fear that the main perpetrators will go unpunished.

Post-election violence contributed to a significant slowdown in agricultural production and tourism during the first half of 2008, which had a major impact on Kenyaís already struggling economy. Kenya was also impacted by skyrocketing fuel and food costs as well as the global economic slowdown. Exceedingly high food prices, food shortages, and several thousands of internally displaced persons in the aftermath of the elections made 2008 a very difficult year for Kenyans.

Nevertheless, Kenyans are resilient and optimistic. The economy is already showing signs of starting to bounce back, and peace is returning for most of the population. While most were ready to put 2008 behind them, it seems that people are hopeful that 2009 will be a better year.

Read about how CFCA mothers groups are helping heal divisions in Kenya.