WPON Experience Shared as an Example of a Good Practice in Association Building

Sanja Sumonja, Executive Committee Chair of the Women Police Officers Network in South East Europe (WPON) and Inspector of the Ministry of Interior Republic of Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bojana Balon, Coordinator of the WPON Project, shared their experiences with the establishment of both WPON and the WPON supported Association of Women in the Ministry of Republika Srpska-RS at the workshop titled “Organising for change: Female staff associations and the security sector.” The workshop was organised by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) and the North-South Institute (NSI) in Brussels on 24 and 25 September 2012.

The objective of the workshop was to bring together female staff association members from a range of developing and developed countries to share, learn, and network with their counterparts as well as donor representatives and policymakers.

Ms. Sumonja and Ms. Balon were asked to speak at one of the workshop sessions focused on different types of resources a female staff association requires in order to carry out activities in pursuit of goals related to women’s empowerment and mainstreaming gender, particularly in the realm of internal governance, communication and fundraising.

In this context, Ms. Balon introduced the WPON history and structure to those present . Moreover, she shed some light on the dynamic of internal governance and leadership, as well as regional coordination.

Ms. Sumonja spoke in detail about the internal governance structure of the Association of Women in the Ministry of Republika Srpska-RS and its relation to the overall internal structure of the Ministry of Interior. Furthermore, Ms. Sumonja elaborated on the driving goals of the association, internal communication and coordination practices, and encountered challenges in encouraging active participation among the association members.

Women are underrepresented, under-serviced and under-supported in the security sector globally. Yet the meaningful inclusion of women at all levels of the security sector yields positive results, both for organizations and the people they serve. Staff associations of female security sector members are one avenue to improving conditions for women in the security sector that has great potential.