UNMISS Force HQ holds gender sensitivity seminar for women peacekeepers

19 Dec 2021

UNMISS Force HQ holds gender sensitivity seminar for women peacekeepers

To mark the end of the 16 Days of Activism campaign to end gender-based violence, a special seminar was held with women peacekeepers serving at the headquarters of the military component of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

A focus was on steps that can be taken to encourage more women to serve in peacekeeping missions to make operations to protect civilians and build peace more effective and efficient.

Women serving in all fields of peacekeeping have proven that they can perform the same roles, to the same standards and under the same difficult conditions, as their male counterparts.

There has been a slow but steady increase in women serving in the ranks of deployed military personnel from just 1 percent in 1993 to 4.8 percent today. The 2028 target is 15 percent for military contingents and 25 percent for military observers and staff officers.

Speaking at the seminar, UNMISS Force Commander, Lt. General Shailesh Tinaikar, described the invaluable contribution made by women peacekeepers serving in the challenging political and security situation in South Sudan.

“Our women peacekeepers consistently perform to an outstanding level to protect civilians and help the government and people of South Sudan secure durable peace and build a better future,” he said.  

“Progress towards transforming the Force to ensure gender equality is slow but steady and we must continue to work shoulder-to-shoulder to keep pushing towards this outcome.”

More than 35 women peacekeepers from UNMISS HQ and Field Offices participated in-person at the seminar while others joined virtually from remote locations across the country.

The discussion was led by the UNMISS Gender Affairs Unit with peacekeepers invited to share their experiences and what they had learned during their service.

Officers serving in Female Engagement Teams said they had initially found women in local communities reluctant to communicate with them but one way they had overcome this challenge was to ensure children were included in activities which helped build trust and confidence.

Others spoke about the difficulty of overcoming language barriers, particularly on patrols to remote areas where many dialects are spoken. They advised that this could be overcome by increasing the number of available language assistants.

There was a call for male peacekeepers to be more involved in an inclusive approach to tackling gender-based violence, particularly in raising awareness among men in local communities.

A suggestion was also made that gender sensitivity should be included in the curriculums of all local schools and universities and increased outreach on the same issue should be conducted with representatives of the South Sudan People’s Defence Force.