A ten day training for 40 RSLAF (the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces) officers drawn from all formations and units across the armed forces has commenced in Freetown on 4 May 2016. This training is meant to broaden the military personnel’s knowledge on the duties of gender focal point officers and the various national and international instruments relating to gender equality and women’s empowerment. As the Gender Office continue to mainstream gender across the RSLAF, focal point officers will assist commanders at all levels in the implementation and training of troops to integrate gender in RSLAF activities. The focal point training will provide the requisite knowledge, skills and attitude on gender mainstreaming, emphasizing the importance of sensitivity as an imperative for operational effectiveness and readiness.
In her opening statement Brigadier General Kestoria Kabia (the first female to hold this position in Sierra Leone) said that the gender and equal opportunity office is the youngest in the Ministry of Defense Chain Of Command. This unit which was created in 2010 to mainstreaming gender in the RSLAF. She added that the significant of incorporating gender perspective in the work of the RSLAF, could not be over emphasized. She went on to state that the full active participation of women and men at all levels of RSLAF underscores the fundamental principles of nondiscrimination, fair play and equity as elaborated in the Sierra Leonean constitution. She explained that the incorporation of gender perspective in RSLAF is aligned with the democratic imperative for increased participation of all members of society in the provision of security. A good understanding of gender and the application of this knowledge and perspective to the work of the RSLAF is crucial to ensuring responsiveness to the needs of women, men, girls and boys alike especially with the changing theater of war and is in line with UNSCR 1325, the Brigadier General said.
The Representative of UN Women, Dr. Mary Okumu said the training is predicated upon the universal declaration on human rights, adding that gender equality is a principle that is derived from the universal declaration on human right (UDHR) which was established in 1948. She told participants that the UDHR states that all human being are created equal, must be respected and are equal under the law with a plethora of many rights. ‘Girls continue to suffer gender based violence in many forms. We use culture in our African context to prime, form and inform some of our relationships she added explaining that culture tends to make people believe that a woman is inferior but in law women and men are equal,’ Dr. Okumu said. She pointed out that it is wrong to control power over women and girls, admonishing that women are not to be beaten and insulted. Access to universal education is a human right and therefore when a family has less funds the opportunity goes to the boys and the girls are sent for marriage without seeing the value of investing in girls. She urged the army officers to let their girls go to school and respect every women with an enthusiasm to be exemplary leaders.
The purpose of the training is to increase the output of gender and equal opportunities structures including focal points within the force, building the capacity of participants and establish a mechanism of monitoring and reporting all gender related issues with an intension to broaden their knowledge on gender issues for personnel under command and establish a system of monitoring and reporting. Participants will be capacitated to advise their commanders on gender issues.