UNODC Empowers Female Officers in Maritime Law Enforcement Across Eastern Africa


Vienna (Austria), 18 December 2020 — Today, maritime law enforcement remains a professional field where the majority of officers are males, and at the Tanzanian Marine Police, women make up less than 20 per cent of the workforce with 57 female officers out of a total of 324 officers.

“Men and women make up around 50-50 per cent of the total population, but if you look around you [at the Marine Police], you can see that we still have a long way to go,"

Ms. Safia A. Kongo, Assistant Commissioner Police Commissioner at with the Maritime Police of Mwanza, Tanzania points out.  "When you train a woman, you train a nation,” she says.

However, this doesn’t faze Ms. Kongo and she remains strongly committed to promoting women’s participation in maritime law enforcement; a passion she transmitted at the graduation ceremony of a UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) training organized earlier this year.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions, UNODC supports the establishment of effective, fair and humane criminal justice systems; while continuing to empower women to take part and actively contribute to greater efficiency across justice systems.

Having both men and women equally represented in maritime law enforcement is also essential for the attainment SDG 5: Gender Equality. Equal representation serves to further highlight women’s contributions to the maritime law enforcement field, which is highly beneficial to this and other male-dominated industries. 

“When searching a vessel, the boarding team may encounter women and children among the crew of the intercepted vessel. This is one of the examples of the importance of women on board, as the women will be able to search the women and children,” shares Able Seawoman Temoi Caroline Chepteek, from the Kenya Coast Guard Service in Mombasa.

Cultural norms in certain countries prohibit women from being touched by men who are not members of their families. If no female officers are part of the boarding team, then male officers would have to search these women; breaking with cultural norms and inducing undue stress.

Zena Shayo, Police Constable of the Marine Police in Mtwara (Tanzania) is among the officers who participated in the UNODC GMCP course held in October 2020. This training provided her with the opportunity to further enhance her skills alongside other officers from Kenya and Tanzania. All trainees also took part in the advanced Visit, Board, Search and Seizure Course, held jointly with Maldives Coast Guard officers in Hulhumale, Maldives.

UNODC’s Global Maritime Crime Programme is committed to gender mainstreaming and supports Member States in achieving gender-balance in maritime law enforcement across all levels, to both ensure diversity and improve efficiency. The role women play in the detection, investigation and prosecution of maritime crimes is often neglected, whether they act as facilitators, financiers, law enforcement officers, perpetrators or victims.

“Mentorship programs by other women in the field, will enable these women to see other opportunities, including leadership opportunities, that are available to them as there currently exists a lack of awareness about opportunities for women in the maritime law enforcement field,” says Claudia Sanchez, UNODC Maritime Domain Awareness Expert and mentor for female maritime law enforcement officers.

“Currently women are given an opportunity to participate in maritime law enforcement. We will be good ambassadors when we return to Tanzania and I encourage women to join the maritime force in the world!” invites Police Constable Zena Shayo.

Further information:

<p>Close up of a female maritime law enforcement officer during a training in Hulhumale, Maldives.</p>

Close up of a female maritime law enforcement officer during a training in Hulhumale, Maldives.

<p>A female maritime law enforcement officer at the UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) training held in Hulhumale, Maldives.</p>

A female maritime law enforcement officer at the UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) training held in Hulhumale, Maldives.