Last week, news on Ghanaian policewoman Mrs Phyllis Ama Tebuah Osei, who is currently serving with the United Nations Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), ‘broke the internet’ for very good reasons.
Courtesy the UN Information Centre in Accra, Mrs Osei’s feat of winning the 2018 UN Female Police Officer of the Year Award was highly publicised on most online portals and in local newspapers.
A Superintendent of Police of the Ghana Police Service, she was awarded for her extraordinary work which directly and positively impacted the community and the host state police in Jubaland, Somalia.
Mrs Osei, who was deployed to the United Nations Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) in February this year, has within a short period initiated and implemented a number of useful reforms and interventions.
In a chat with The Mirror last Monday, she stated that she was pleased to have been shortlisted and subsequently rewarded with such a valued award, adding that it encouraged her to continue giving of her best.
“It was a pleasant surprise and an honour to be noticed for my contributions to the mission. It also indicated how appreciative people are of me and the work we do here. I am so grateful to the UNSOM and all other agencies that have supported our activities.
“When I arrived in Kisimayo, the welcome was overwhelming and I felt really humbled that the people recognise our contribution. The feedback is unbelievable, I have also received several congratulatory messages from family, friends and colleagues from Ghana,” she said.
Support on initiatives
Supt Osei with UN Secretary General, António Guterres
Supt Osei told The Mirror that most of the interventions would not have been successful without the support of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) as they embraced them and provided the needed support.
“When I got here, I detected some gaps in the delivery of services to the vulnerable, especially women and children. We realised that victims of sexual and gender-based violence were not willing to speak about their ordeals and this affected the delivery of service.
“We had to come up with ways of handling the situation and because of the work I had done with DOVVSU in Ghana, I was able to bring in practical initiatives we could undertake even without funding.
“One of such initiatives was starting a gender-focal point to be able to monitor and supervise the gender-related issues,” she said.
Supt Osei had to train most of the personnel on gender-related issues as they had no prior experience.
With time, four more gender-focal points were established; one in each of the police stations.
“Within 10 months, we have achieved so much in terms of handling issues related to sexual and domestic violence. Apparently some members of the community and some victims of abuse had a lot of issues with the police on human rights and how such cases were handled.
“We later partnered with some groups, engaged the community and this helped solve some of these issues and ensured that justice was delivered to victims of abuse,” she explained.
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Supt Osei inspecting police books at one of the police stations in Jubaland accompanied by the AMISOM team site leader
Adult literacy training
Another successful initiative is the adult literacy training for female police officers in Jubaland as the literacy level, especially amongst the women, was very low.
Supt Osei believes that improving the literacy of women in the service will enhance their skills, boost their confidence, make them more visible and also increase their chances for promotion.
“After consultation with the local police chief, he approved our proposal and with the help of the language assistants, we started with a cluster of 12 women at a time.
“Most of the materials we needed to start the class were provided by women in the AMISOM and with time, some men who realised the women were upgrading themselves requested to join.
“But we had to focus on the women because of lack of funding and unavailability of more language assistants. To get more people onto the training, the police commandant has agreed to include adult literacy into other training programmes they will do in future,” she explained.
Journey through the police
Though Mrs Osei has worked with various units, the department she worked longest with was the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU), that is between 2010 and 2018.
Mrs Osei graduated from the Police Academy in May 2007 as an Assistant Superintendent of Police after joining the service in January 2006.
From there, she was sent to the registry unit at the Ghana Police headquarters and later worked as an administrator at the international relations/peace keeping unit.
She has also supported many training programmes for the service, worked on projects aimed at restructuring the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU), and was also at the Ghana Police Command and Staff College as a directing staff.
Before joining the police, Mrs Osei worked as a teaching assistant at the University Ghana and also with two non-governmental agencies, Streetwise and Orphanaid Africa.