Mariama Barry

2018 Fellowship Alumna, The Gambia

Empowering Women in Peace and Security

In honor of United Nations Day, which commemorates the organization’s founding in 1945, we’re proud to feature the work of 2018 Alumna Mariama Barry of The Gambia. During her career, Mariama has demonstrated a commitment to peace and security through her interactions and work with various UN agencies. This year, United Nations Day celebrates 76 years of working for peace.

A woman hands 2 men in uniform a certificate
Mariama represents UNITAMS leadership, presenting certificates to instructors in Sudan.

In 2005, Mariama Barry, 2018 Fellowship Alumna, joined The Gambia Police Force with hopes of maintaining peace and security in her country. Quickly scaling the ranks in a male-dominated industry, Mariama served in different capacities at the Gambia Police Force and the United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur. As a survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM), she also advocated against FGM by organizing awareness campaigns through community policing.

Mariama sought out the Mandela Washington Fellowship to gain more exposure in community engagement and broaden her understanding of the public sector. Today, she is applying her previous experiences and lessons she learned during the Fellowship as the police liaison officer with the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).

[It] is not just about making a difference, but how best can I contribute towards transforming lives and facilitating peace. The Fellowship built my capacity for the woman I want to be and the kinds of challenges that I am willing to take on.”

Mariama Barry, 2018 Fellowship Alumna, The Gambia
Woman and man shake hands amid a group of people under a tent
Mariama shakes hands with the Governor of South Darfur during a meeting.

From the USA to The Gambia: Changing Policing Structures

Upon Mariama’s return to The Gambia after her 2018 Fellowship, she felt empowered to apply the skills and lessons learned and initiated the Female Network of The Gambia Police Force. This network includes approximately 2,000 Female officers and serves as a support system and a way for women to collectively advocate for their concerns.

In 2019, Mariama Barry and Amy Barnes, the Director of Marketing at Bridgewater State University, the host of her Leadership in Public Management Institute, collaborated on a Reciprocal Exchange project. Amy traveled to The Gambia to collaborate with Mariama on supporting community policing efforts to end FGM in rural areas of the Gambia; Mariama actively learned how to replicate and contextualize community policing efforts in different settings. They worked with law enforcement and community organizers to raise awareness among police about FGM as a human rights violation. They also met with various stakeholders such as religious leaders, law enforcement, and victims to gain a broader perspective.

A large group of women in headscarves and traditional dress sit around a woman in a police uniform at a long table; they also line the walls
Mariama explains Resolution 1325 to the South Darfur Women Police during a meeting.

Mariama continued to find ways for women’s inclusion in peace and security. She designed a concept note, which captured the attention of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in The Gambia. She focused on an action plan, contextualizing the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 into the security aspect of women participating in peace and security in the Gambia.

“By breaking barriers and bridging the gender gap, it’s no longer about how business used to be done; it’s about the realities on the ground,” Mariama says. “Women’s participation should be visible, and we’re looking at fostering an environment accommodating to women.”

Gender Inclusive Efforts in Peacebuilding

Woman in police uniform, left, speaks with 3 other individuals
Mariama explains the data collection process to colleagues during a community meeting.

In response to Mariama’s concept note and hard work, in 2019 the UNDP awarded The Gambia Police Force Female Network US$20,000. As a result, the force created a Female Network Office, hosted more training sessions and sensitizations focused on gender-based violence (GBV), and is working on an official gender policy. The gender policy will have a broad focus, including cultivating a gender-sensitive environment, allowing women participation in the decision-making process in the police force, and creating equal opportunity in capacity building in training. Mariama says, “the focus is to mainstream gender perspectives within The Gambia Police Force.”

Mariama was one out of six nominated principals from the UN Police Division and is the youngest among the team to serve in UNITAMS. As the police liaison, Mariama participates in the reforms of the Sudanese police force with a focus on peacebuilding. She brings her previous experiences in community policing and FGM preventative measures to contextualize it in Sudan.

Never relent in whatever you’re doing. Keep pushing. The right moment will come.

Mariama Barry, 2018 Fellowship Alumna, The Gambia

Mariama hopes to work on the gender policy to continue informing police practices, sensitizing other police officers, and promoting women’s empowerment in the Gambian police. She also received a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Banjul to expand her work in implementing community policing to prevent FGMs.

Written by Danayt Abraham.

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