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First all-women contingent in peacekeeping force

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, July 20, 2010) - The first all-women Samoan police contingent to join the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) arrived in Dili, Timor-Leste, during the weekend.

Contingent Commander Inspector Kukuana Toga Fiu, Sergeant Va΄alele Tofa and Sergeant Deborah Pata-Ioane were selected by Samoan authorities to support UNMIT in order to underline the importance of gender equality in police work.

Sergeant Pata-Ioane said all three were very proud to be selected for the mission because it is "putting in place the gender equality policy."

For women in Timor-Leste the message is clear; according to the sergeant: "Have courage, be able to stand-up. You can do it. If men can do it, we can do it as well".

It is the first UN peacekeeping deployment for all three officers.

During an interview with the Samoa Observer before they left, they admitted that while they were excited, they will miss home during the next 12 months.

The youngest, Sergeant Miss Tofa, says the mission is her first and it has made her family proud.

"Nothing can stop me from being here…if men can do it so can we," she said.

For Inspector Fa΄agoto, 47, overseas training is not new.

After more than 20 years in the force, she feels confident to take the next step.

She sees the mission as an opportunity for women to be exposed to different fields.

"When I started it was hard to adjust to it but a lot changes when you get used to working here," she said.

There were fewer than ten females when she started.

Assistant Police Commissioner Leaupepe Fatu Pula said the mission encourages equality in the ministry. He said the number of female officers continue to grow. There are more than 40 employed under different divisions.

Leaupepe said there are a few women with high ranks in the force the number is growing.

Other respected females in the ministry include Inspector Rosalia Matamu, Inspector Sina Enoka Tafua in Domestic Violence, Tooa Samuelu IT Manager, Senior Officer Principal Policy Planning Shamilla Tiatia Leavai and Principal Finance Officer Vitilevu Simati.

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