'This is my dream job’

August - November 2019

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'This is my dream job’

Ms. Bayan Abu Kaf, Police Officer serving in South Sudan (Photo: UNMISS/Nektarios Markogiannis)

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Bayan Abu Kaf. I am a 30-year-old police officer from Jordan. My main hobbies are reading, drawing and painting.

How long have you been a peacekeeper and what are your responsibilities?

I joined the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) in October 2018. This is my first UN peacekeeping mission. When I arrived here, I was doing more field work, like going on patrols both in the city and in the UN Protection of Civilians site. Sometimes I was overseeing procedures at the entrance gate to the protection site to make sure that everybody entering was properly identified and searched by the security guards.

Since January 2019, I am serving as an Operation and Reporting officer. My main responsibilities are to compile situation reports for all UN Police teams in Juba, and to prepare and coordinate operations like visits of senior officials and search operations (looking for weapons, drugs, alcohol and other prohibited items) in the protection site.

Why did you choose this career? How did you become a UN peacekeeper?

As a child, when I first saw female police officers in Jordan, I loved their beautiful uniforms. I always loved the way they carried themselves, how they interacted with people, and how they were treated with the respect that all women deserve. I thought it was a fantastic way of helping and serving one’s country, and I wanted to do that as well, but then my passion for drawing led me in another direction. I graduated from university as an architect. That’s when my father surprised me: he applied for me to join the police! He always knew about my police dreams, but he wanted to make sure that I first got a university diploma.

I have been a police officer for six years now. Back home I worked for the building department within our police force, designing police stations, reform and rehabilitation centres and other facilities.

It was my desire to help vulnerable people. Thousands of Syrian refugees in my country are facing hardship. That made me think of the suffering of displaced people in countries where nobody may be assisting them. I asked a supervisor what I could do to make a difference, I was told about the possibility of joining a UN peacekeeping mission. I took and passed the week-long exam [mandatory for any police officer aspiring to serve with the UN] and here I am!

Describe what a typical day is like for you.

I come to the office at 8.00am to prepare our morning briefing with the coordinator of the protection of civilians site and the team leaders of all different UN Police (UNPOL) units. I then collect daily situation reports from all the teams, ask for clarifications and missing information and then compile it into one summarized, integrated report. Then there is the second part of my work: coordinating searches, VIP visits and other operations. I normally work till at least 7.00pm, seven days a week.

What are some of the highlights of your service in UNMISS? What are the three things you like most about working in South Sudan?

What I enjoy most here is interacting with the people. Their kindness and the smiles on their faces when I talk to them in Arabic – it’s just fantastic! Those interactions are my highlights. When you miss your family, it does make you feel good to see others being happy that you are here, that you are both needed and liked.

I have also taken time off from my regular duties to teach South Sudanese police officers basic computer skills and how to apply them in their work. When 80 such students stand up and thank me in unison, and then ask my supervisors to let me teach them more, that’s a definite highlight!

I also like the weather here. Back in Jordan, rain means winter and cold, but here the temperatures remain same even when it rains.

What part of your job do you find most challenging and why?

Poor telephone and internet connections make it difficult to stay in touch with my family as much as I would like to. My other challenge is a positive and interesting one, and that is to observe, ask questions and try to understand how colleagues from many different countries think and work, and then find ways of interacting with them as well as possible and in a respectful way.

What does your family and friends back home think about your decision to leave your country and work for the UN peacekeeping mission?

It is obviously hard for me to be far away from my husband, my three-year-old son and other loved ones in Jordan, but my family is always encouraging me. My husband and my parents want me to show the world how professional and hardworking a female Jordanian police officer can be.

What do you do when you have some spare time?

I like drawing sketches which I transfer to my laptop and continue to paint and design, using a special software I have. I also enjoy reading, jogging and socialising with colleagues and friends.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

That’s a very short period of time! I do not feel it is enough to achieve something really special to be proud of, something that would make my son say “Look, my mum did that!”. So, if possible, I would like to continue to serve in a UN mission elsewhere, helping more and more vulnerable people around the world.

What would you say to young people considering a career in peacekeeping?

It is an honour to be a peacekeeper. If you have the opportunity and if you want to make a positive difference in the lives of people who need all kinds of support, serving with the UN as a peacekeeper is the best decision you can make.