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The women of the municipal police services of Lebanon are there to stay

A policewoman directs traffic in Al Mina.

A visitor might be surprised to see who is keeping the city safe: the women of Al Mina’s municipal police.

Al Mina in North Lebanon is a historical city that personifies Lebanon’s diversity and potential for peaceful coexistence. Its more than 100,000 residents live peacefully regardless of gender or religion. But that is not the only thing that makes Al Mina stand out. Indeed, a visitor might be surprised to see who is keeping the city safe: the women of Al Mina’s municipal police.

Six of the 21 most recent police agent recruits are women—that is almost one third. “This is something very new to the North,” explains Hussam Ibrahim, Al Mina Police Chief. The new recruits have received training supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that has prepared them for their integration into the municipal police. Through funding from the governments of Canada and the Netherlands, UNDP has been working in close collaboration with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces Academy to develop and deliver the training program. “Municipal police agents who took part in the UNDP-supported training were able to use better methods to deal with community members. Rather than the use of force, they have learned to engage people in dialogue. Their attitude today reflects the vision of the people-oriented municipal police we seek,” explains Ziad Hajjar, Head of the Union of Municipalities in Iqlim Al Kharoub, which is also part of the initiative.

The recruitment of female agents falls under a “new vision for Lebanon’s municipal police” developed by the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities with the support of UNDP and the UN Refugee Agency. The new vision sets the basis for the transformation of municipal policing in Lebanon into a service for the residents, one that is from and for the people.

Al Mina’s female police officers.Al Mina’s female police officers.

Al Mina is one of the first municipalities to ensure the inclusion of women in such initiatives. “Nothing in the municipal law prevents women from being part of its police divisions,” explains Abdel Kader Alameddine, Al Mina’s mayor. “I have long been keen on the inclusion of women; this was something I started working on back in 1998, but it didn’t work out before 2017.” In addition to having a police service that reflects the population it works for, research shows that security institutions become more effective when they include women. Women are often able to access different people and spaces, and in different ways than men. This makes women a valuable asset in acquiring good information, which is critical in preventing or solving a crime.

Stavrolla, one of Al Mina’s new police agents, tells us enthusiastically that “there is no difference between the duties of male and female police; we perform our duties equally.” Stavrolla can’t understand why there should be any difference between the tasks assigned based on gender. “This is just us women trying to achieve our dreams! Personally, I will not stop,” explains Fadila, who also joined the team recently. “I encourage every woman to apply; we have every right to be engaged at all levels in society,” continues Moyassar, Fadila’s colleague, when asked about the inclusion of women in Al Mina’s municipal police. The presence of women in the municipal police has made the lives of the citizens easier: policewomen are often seen as more approachable by residents than their male counterparts. “People come from outside and are surprised to see female police officers working on the streets,” says Mr. Alameddine with obvious pride. Al Mina’s mayor wants to inspire other municipalities across Lebanon to take the step of including women in their municipal police units. With UNDP’s support, he is serving as an advocate for the cause, sharing his expertise with other municipalities. “This project serves as a platform for peer-to-peer discussions, with the objective of creating a network of local stakeholders collaborating to create a people-oriented municipal police in Lebanon,” explains Martin Borgeaud, UNDP’s Project Chief Technical Adviser.

“My ambition is to do more,” says one of the new female police officers. “I want more. I aspire to get promoted. Currently, I control traffic. I can become more senior in the future. I want more.”

The women of the municipal police services of Lebanon are there to stay.

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External resources

To raise awareness on the transformation of municipal police in Lebanon and the efforts behind it, UNDP has produced a series of videos for dissemination on social media platforms:

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