Lesotho: Women breaking the brass ceiling

Lesotho: Women breaking the brass ceiling

Date: January 10, 2012
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Historically issues of peace and security have been a male preserve. Since its inception in 1872, men have led the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS). ln 2005, the appointment of a female Commissioner, Malejaka Evelyn Letooane shattered the brass ceiling. She is Lesotho’s best example of attempts to achieve SADC Protocol provisions in the peace and security sector.

Motivated by the suffering she witnessed policewomen go through as she watched from her home within the police compound where her father worked, Letooane vowed she would one day change things. She eventually competed with eight counterparts for the position of Commissioner and succeeded after serving 27 years in the police service.

The appointment of a woman to the highest ranking position is a tangible measure in compliance with Article 28 of the Protocol to “ensure that women have equal representation and participation in key decision-making positions in conflict resolution and peace building processes, in accordance with UN Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.”

Actions being taken in Lesotho include:

  • Recruiting selecting and training of officers to enable policewomen to help the organisation to achieve its main goals.
  • Deploying staff in Peacekeeping Operations.
  • Driving the Women Police Network in LMPS to empower and protect policewomen at work, help them learn about law, human rights, and leadership, as well as confidence building and the role of women in policing; and
  • Mentoring other women inside and outside the police service.

Some of the challenges are:

  • Inadequate organisational support systems, e.g. stringent budgets. Budgetary outcomes not being always aligned with needs on the ground.
  • Bridging the gap between inadequate resources and efficient delivery of police services as a mitigating factor.
  • Use of technology and scientific tools to assist the work of the police.
  • Attitudes within the context of a male-dominated environment; and
  • Women officers need to act in different roles: as police and security officers, as wives, mothers and community members.

During her time as Commissioner, Letooane is credited with the following:

  • Increased women’s presence in the police service from 15% when she took office to the current 29% across all levels including top brass leadership and management.
  • A woman police inspector sent on a peacemaking mission operation in Dafur, Sudan in 2007.
  • Helping to create the Phelang Support Group for women whose police spouses died in the line of duty, including private care support for police families.
  • Decentralisation of Child and Gender Police Unit within the police and the strengthening of its role and activities in partnership with UNICEF and other key stakeholders.
  • Institutional strategies and policies e.g. Strategic plan 2006-2009/2010-2013, and Annual Policing Plans.
  • Women’s middle management training (Regional and strategic leadership International). The outcome is that women have landed in strategic/senior leadership positions (one with a PhD) including as assistant commissioners, district commissioners, station commissioners, and as Head of Forensic Laboratory.
  • Serving as the first woman chair of the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Corporation Organisation (SARPCCO) in 2006, the first time it was hosted in Lesotho.
  • Developing a research partnership with The Centre for Violence and Research (CSUR) in South Africa, which resulted in an HIV/AIDS Policy Document in the LMPS, “A Mountain to Climb” and
  • Introducing partnerships with local communities to curb fierce armed fights between stock farmers.

Letooane’s tenure shows that women in this sector can make a difference. As a best practice for deepening democratic ethos and giving women “voice and face” this example can be replicated in Lesotho and other SADC countries and used to promote women in the peace and security sector.


0 thoughts on “Lesotho: Women breaking the brass ceiling”

Malineo says:

Marvellous! Some people are born to be leaders.How i wish i can be that strong!

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