By Busayo Onijala
CSP Catherine Ugorji, a Nigerian policewoman, has urged women, especially young girls, to take on roles that will allow them make a difference in their communities.
Ugorji, serving with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali ((MINUSMA), made the call while briefing newsmen.
She was nominated by the UN as one of two runners-up for the prestigious UN Woman Police Officer of the Year award for 2020.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the UN Woman Police Officer of the Year award was established in 2011 to recognise the exceptional contributions of female officers to UN peacekeeping and to promote the empowerment of women.
Ugorji, who expressed appreciation for the recognition, said she was grateful for the opportunity given her to participate in Mali’s peacekeeping operations.
“On my arrival to this mission in 2017, I was posted to a red zone but I accepted it as a challenge.
“Most people rejected the offer, but my passion for the job helped me deliver the best on it.
“It was also an opportunity to learn firsthand, how to support people in crisis areas,” she said.
According to her, leaving anglophone Nigeria for Francophone Mali is not an easy feat , considering the series of French exams to be written.
She said that in Mali, she tried to speak French in ways that the locals would understand.
This, she said, was made possible through the help of her team members who assisted her in all ways possible.
She said that the mantle of leadership might seem heavy, but teamwork and cooperation would do justice by making it less arduous.
Ugorji said that it was her responsibility to make sure that women recognized their mission, mandate and role in mission areas so that they would serve safely and with dignity.
“Women around the world need to be diligent because it pays at the end.
“To my uniformed colleagues in Nigeria, I encourage you to put the work in because it is our responsibility to make sure everyone is supported.
“Women and children in the local areas need protection from a violation of their rights and sexual gender-based violence in armed conflicts.
“Our presence in Mali helped to build confidence and trust with the local populace because we try to inspire them and become their role models.
“In 2017, there was no female police in my jurisdiction but we kept sensitizing them and right now, we have up to 20 women in training.
“It’s okay to make sacrifices in order to get expected results,” she said.
She added that managing armed groups in Mali was made easy with the help of negotiations and round tables .
“We disarmed, demobilized, incorporated and created chances for them to participate in the community.
“These armed groups were screened and integrated into the Malian forces and that has helped in reducing crime rates.
“Even though crisis has reduced, we still need to do more work,” she said.
Ugorji also said that she would use her personal experiences and innovation to help young girls in Nigeria participate adequately in peace processes.
“We need to contribute immensely to the development of young girls because they need all the help we can give,” she noted.
NAN recalls that while Ugorji was in Nigeria, she served as a Juvenile Welfare Officer by working with NGOs to support abused girls.