African Women on the Thin Blue Line: Gender-Sensitive Police Reform in Liberia and Southern Sudan

Thursday, September 6, 2012
North South Institute: Edited by Jennifer Erin Salahub

The concept of security sector reform (SSR) — transforming security institutions into accountable, rights-respecting organizations subordinate to a civilian authority, often in post-conflict situations — has coalesced over the past ten years. The process of turning that concept into action has also been evolving as efforts at holistic SSR have yielded varied results and stakeholders have worked to identify lessons learned and create new tools to assist both practitioners and policymakers. Traditionally, security institutions and debates around security, stabilization and law enforcement have been the purview of a select few, the vast majority of whom are elite adult men. In the last several years, significant progress has been made to improve SSR processes, making them more inclusive of the diversity of populations they serve. Innovations such as the Gender and Security Sector Reform Toolkit, edited by Megan Bastick and Kristin Valasek, and contributions from authors such as Laurie Nathan, Marina Caparini and Vanessa Farr have helped to draw in the perspectives and experiences of many more of the security sector institutions' end users than previously. However, the experiences and perspectives of some large recognizable groups continue to be under-represented in security sector institutions such as the police, in the development of national security sector policy and programming and in international debates about SSR, which are held largely among developed countries. Notably, women — and in particular women in developing countries — are poorly represented in all three levels of analysis; despite improvements, a paucity of their perspectives and experiences endures at all levels of decision-making. This serious gap in creating better, more effective, more representative security institutions is only beginning to be addressed through work such as the research presented here. Not only do women in conflict-affected and developing countries have valuable contributions to make in terms of framing debates and interventions that affect their daily lives — contributions which often shed light on the differential impact of programs on men and women — but many of these women are also keen to participate in the security sector. This makes the police and other organizations more operationally effective in addition to helping to secure their communities and participate in the development of sustainable peace in their countries.

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African Women on the Thin Blue Line: Gender-Sensitive Police Reform in Liberia and Southern Sudan (2011)