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Women in Prisons: Nelson Mandela Rules

Hargeisa, Somaliland – Somaliland is situated on the southern coastline of the Gulf of Aden in the Horn of Africa. UNODC has supported this region for over a decade by strengthening the criminal justice and law enforcement responses to Organized Crime and Terrorism.  Recently the UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) delivered an all-female training activity for prison officers on international prison management rules for forty (40) female prison officers from across regions in Somaliland, including Aynabo; Baligubadle; Berbera; Borama; Burao; El Afweyne; Erigavo; Gabiley and Las Aanood.

The Female Prison Officer Training was held between 17-21 July 2022, including the International Mandela Day celebration on 18 July. This presented an opportunity to show the impact of the Nelson Mandela Rules and the importance of their successful application. The training also grew knowledge on effective prison administration, including searching the prison population for contraband, the prison code of conduct, humane treatment of prisoners, how to treat vulnerable groups and maintaining safety and security in the prisons.

During the programme evaluation exercise, Khadra, a Prison Officer with 20 years’ experience noted, “I work in a specialist department because of my background in health. Coming to this training session has given me an opportunity to gain insights into other aspects of prison work. Female inmates see me when they come to the medical clinic for treatment. Many are happy to see an educated woman helping them get better.” This was Khadra’s first training and the first time that most of the participants had attended any effective prison management training, especially compared to their male colleagues. This chimes with our experience of a significant gap between male and female prison officer skills and knowledge to effectively execute their duties.

UNODC will conduct more training to increase female representation within the security, justice and the rule of law sectors in Somaliland and promote gender equality. The need for this is clear. Canab, another Prison Officer stated, “I really enjoyed meeting other female officers from other prisons for the first time.”

Ayaan, another participant stated, “We would like to have more knowledge of the national prison law, the Nelson Mandela Rules and the Bangkok Rules. We also need more security-related training and exercises.”

The training was executed under the Joint Rule of Law Programme (JROL), funded by the EU and Sweden to support the Government of Somaliland improve its rule of law services by promoting access to justice and enhancing the rights of specific, vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Overall, the participants, as well as national counterparts, noted that the training was highly beneficial and presented a unique opportunity for female prison officers to increase their knowledge and skills whilst promoting a humane and human rights compliant corrections system in Somaliland.  


For more Information see the website of UNODC's Global Maritime Crime Programme