Before receiving the prestigious 2019 United Nations Female Police Officer of the Year award at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 5 November, Major Seynabou Diouf of the Senegal National Police sent a message to women, particularly African women: “You can achieve whatever you set your mind to. You just have to be dedicated and work hard.”
She hopes that the award will inspire African women and girls to join the police services in their own countries.
The award was established in 2011 to recognize the exceptional contributions of female police officers to UN peacekeeping and to promote the empowerment of women.
Winning the award is a high point of Major Diouf’s 33-year career in the police service, including deployments with the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) in Goma (North Kivu), the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in Sudan, and the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
Becoming a police officer was not Major Diouf’s first career choice. “I wanted to be a doctor. But I come from a family of more than 20 children. So, I needed to look for a fixed job to earn money,” she said in an interview. When the opportunity to join the police force came in 1985, she jumped at the opportunity.
More than three decades later, she has no regrets. “I must say I have absolute pride in what I do. I am very satisfied with my performance as a police officer.”
At MONUSCO, Major Diouf heads a task force that works to prevent and end Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA). “We insist that all UN personnel must accept the orthodoxy of UN rules, and that includes zero tolerance for SEA.
“We cannot tolerate even one case. We are committed to protecting and serving the people.”
While serving in Darfur, she helped form the first-ever Women’s Forum to raise awareness among women about how to report gender-based violence and to encourage them to send their boys and girls to school. The forum supported the local police force in “combating gender-based violence and all forms of violence and in preparing leadership and management training courses for police officers.”
In Mali, she helped establish the Police Women Network to support the establishment of gender units in the police force.
The award is an impetus. “I am going back and serve with my heart; I am going to do my best in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” she says.
Major Diouf, a mother of three, believes there is a need for more female police officers because women are well-suited for dealing with all kinds of people, including survivors of violence, particularly domestic and gender-based violence.
“Most people affected by conflict are women, youth and children. When a woman has suffered abuse, she can easily talk to a sister,” she says.
While there are currently about 1,400 female police officers serving in UN peace operations, the UN aims to deploy 30% women among individual police officers and 20% among formed police units by 2028.
Having served in conflict zones, Major Diouf has first-hand experience of the effects of violence in a society. She commends the African Union’s Silencing the Guns by 2020 initiative, which aims to end all wars, civil and violent conflicts, among others.
“The Africa we want is one where the guns are silent. When guns are silent, everyone can focus on development,” she concludes.