Montenegro hosts the Gender World Congress of Women Police Officers

Pablo Andrés Rivero/Flickr
April 17, 2024

From 25 to 28 March, 2024, the International Police Association and the Women’s Police Association of Montenegro, together with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, hosted the Gender World Congress of Women Police Officers. The conference, held in Budva, Montenegro, focused on the implementation of gender equality measures in police forces.

Representatives from 24 countries (Albania, Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Tajikistan and the United Kingdom), including a number of regional and international law enforcement and security organizations, were in attendance.

The conference highlighted that, while countries’ legal and institutional frameworks for gender equality aim to ensure equal opportunities for men and women, implementation is lagging behind, particularly in the law enforcement and security sectors. To address these challenges and effectively combat organized crime, stakeholders throughout the Western Balkans have emphasized the need for international cooperation, knowledge exchange and networking among law enforcement agencies.

At the event, participants were also able to learn from the experiences and good practices of other countries, which can be later tailored to develop new national policies. Specific key take-aways from the conference include:

1. A significant issue flagged by participants as hindering gender equality in law enforcement is the existence of stereotypes that portray police work as physically demanding and more suited to men. Education is a key tool in challenging stereotypes and prejudices within law enforcement and society more broadly. Here, efforts need to target law enforcement personnel and ordinary citizens, with an emphasis on early intervention and strategic guidance.

2. Improving the selection and training of managerial staff was also identified as a way to drive change, as will promoting women’s participation in decision-making. Many solutions were presented at the conference, but continuity was identified as critical: intensive, year-round promotion of police work, highlighting the contribution of women, is essential to change societal perceptions and attract gender-diverse talent to careers in law enforcement.

3. Participants also recognized the role of civil society and collaborative initiatives in improving law enforcement policies, and underscored how important it is to build bridges for cooperation and mutual support.

4. Professional development and support programmes, including mentoring initiatives and association networks, were also highlighted as essential to empowering women officers and promoting inclusiveness within law enforcement.

5. Strengthening mechanisms for monitoring and reporting on progress is key to ensuring that gender equality policies are translated into concrete actions and do not remain theoretical concepts.

Ultimately, empowering women in law enforcement stands to enrich the sector with diverse perspectives and skills. Incorporating gender equality efforts into police-reform initiatives fosters inclusivity and enhances problem-solving capabilities by offering diverse perspectives and improving communication in conflict resolution. Notably, at the conference, retired senior police officers emphasized that gender inclusiveness promotes greater community trust, operational efficiency and overall effectiveness in policing.

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