Yemeni Policewomen Dream of Building Peace and Protecting Yemenis

January 27, 2021

30 women police from Abyan, Aden, and Lahj received a 10-day training on GBV, child protection, human rights, and more. | Photo Credit: UNDPYemen/2020

“A policewoman is a peacemaker. Her work is important to society," explains Colonel Nadia. “I believe nowadays men have started to understand the importance of the presence of women in the security sector. They see that they are protecting them and their families too.” She explains that “A gender-based violence (GBV) survivor will not enter a police station to report a problem with no policewomen available. That’s why we are peacemakers; we prevent new crimes and protect the society.”

Colonel Nadia, a 1990 graduate of the Faculty of Police and activist with the Women Pact for Peace and Security, brings more than 30 years of work experience to the communities she serves. “I've worked in several senior positions including at the Aden Airport, Aden's Free Zone, and most recently in the Policewoman Section as Public Relations Director," says Nadia.

"Aden’s 2015 conflict was disruptive for policewomen. We were already few in numbers, but after the conflict many refused to work under the circumstances – particularly with the intermittent payment of salaries." So Nadia and her colleagues decided to lead the rebuilding efforts of Aden’s policewomen force. "We now have over 1,500 policewomen in the Ministry of Interior as a result of the advocacy and lobbying we conducted with the leadership.”

“Because Yemeni tradition does not allow a woman to be searched, except by another woman, there are some gangs using women to smuggle drugs and weapons,” describes Nadia. To help address these types of issues, policewomen are now deployed at many checkpoints and in police stations.

Late in 2020, Nadia was selected as one of 30 policewomen from Abyan, Aden, and Lahj to receive a 10-day training from the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Rule of Law team on issues such as GBV, child protection, and dealing with minors, human rights, investigations, and peace building.

With generous funding from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Netherlands, the training was designed to build the policewomen’s capacity to respond to situations in the community and to ultimately improve the safety and lives of all Yemenis. The training provided online lectures from international specialists on global policy trends, and support from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Human Rights, and Women’s Union ensured that the course was locally sensitive.

Colonel Nadia receives a certificate for the completion of the training | Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen/2020

Nadia dreams of being a member of the international peace-keeping forces one day. A strong and confident woman, becoming a policewoman has meant challenging her conservative roots. Having grown up in rural Yemen, she says “I achieved my dream despite the unapproving voices. But the journey of gender balance is still challenging and long.”

Etab, a junior policewoman with the Juvenile Police in Aden, faced challenges from her family when she expressed an interest in police work. “It was my dream since childhood to be a policewoman, but I come from a conservative family. So initially I was only allowed to join the Faculty of Education and become a teacher; the only acceptable profession for a woman in my family,” she explains.

Etab, a policewoman with the Juvenile Police in Aden. | Photo Credit: UNDP Yemen/2020

But in 2017, Etab found a way to achieve her dream when she was offered a job as a policewoman at the Aden Airport. She worked at the airport for several months before being transferred to the Juvenile Police. With new confidence, Etab now had the experience necessary to gain acceptance from her family and to demonstrate to them that she had the skills to protect them and their community.

“The presence of women in the police sector is very important. I believe women have good discipline for keeping law and order, and they can also access places that men cannot. Women can provide support and services to other women while keeping their privacy intact,” says Etab. “I am so happy to achieve my dream of being a policewoman, especially because I am providing protection to the children whom I love so much.”

In regards to her training experience, Etab says “We learned how to search, investigate, to deal with different incidents, human rights, international declarations about women and children and much more. To me, policing means discipline, ethics and respect to others. Without these human traits, no one should be in the police system.”

A participant receives her certificate of completion from UNDP’s Rule of Law Policy Specialist and a senior officer in the Yemeni Ministry of Interior. | Photo Credits: UNDPYemen/2020

These activities were implemented through the UNDP Rule of Law Programme (RoL), which aims to support local populations to create a functioning level of security and stability while preventing further deterioration, and laying foundations for future initiatives, when conditions allow. The programme works to support safety, security, protection and equitable access to justice at the local level.