Women peacekeepers honored for their service to the people of South Sudan
Captain Rabina KC laughs when asked if it is difficult being a woman in uniform.
“You’ve heard of the Gurkhas, right?” she says. “We are tough. We are from Nepal - lots of women participate in the military.”
Captain Rabina is a member of the Nepalese military contingent serving with the United Nations in conflict-affected South Sudan.
Her experience is much different to fellow peacekeeper, Major Monira Mahjabeen Mowri, who overcame huge challenges to join the military in her home country of Bangladesh.
“Wearing a military uniform makes you distinct among many people. It gives you a feeling that this is one way I can prove myself, not only to the people around me, but to the whole world,” she says. “Now my dream has come true. I am serving as a United Nations peacekeeper and I hope that this will help me go even further in life.”
Despite their differences, the two peacekeepers share a sense of pride and duty as they work together under the UN flag to protect civilians and build peace in South Sudan.
Their efforts and the work of all peacekeepers was celebrated at a commemoration ceremony for the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers with Captain Rabina commanding an all-woman parade of fellow military and police officers from Ethiopia, China, Rwanda and Nepal.
“Through their own strong leadership and values, our women peacekeepers are role models to inspire and empower South Sudanese women to achieve their own dreams,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, David Shearer, speaking at the event. “Today, I thank all women peacekeepers for their dedication to duty, their passion for peace, and willingness to risk their own wellbeing to improve the lives of others. They are an inspiration to us all.”
The Head of UNMISS joined with the President of the National Staff Association to lay wreaths in honor of the 65 peacekeepers who have died in the line of duty since the inception of UNMISS, including 12 personnel who passed away in the last year.
“They left their homes and families in order to serve the people of South Sudan,” said National Staff Association President, Bennett Kenyi. “We commend their professionalism and dedication and honor the memory also of those who lost their lives in the cause of peace while in South Sudan.”
UNMISS has had to scale back some of its activities as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country. However, it is committed to continuing its lifesaving and life-changing work despite the threat posed by the virus.
“It is essential that this work continues. If it doesn’t, the ramifications of COVID-19 will be much worse,” said David Shearer.
“We must learn the lessons from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Eleven thousand people died from Ebola but many, many more died from completely curable conditions like hunger, cholera and malaria. We must not let that happen here.”
The Mission is making a strong contribution to the national COVID-19 prevention effort with its peacekeeping engineers renovating local hospitals around the country. It is providing 100 tents and 500 beds to increase the capacity of the local health system. New water tanks and boreholes are being installed as well as generators so that hospitals have electricity. Thousands of items of PPE as well as medicines and ambulances are also being donated.
The Mission has also been running a major COVID-19 awareness-raising campaign in the UN Protection of Civilians sites, encouraging displaced families to follow all prevention measures to keep themselves and others safe.
UN Police Officer, Corporal Kanyana Justin, is one of dozens of women peacekeepers from Rwanda providing protection in the POC camps. While her work is even more challenging during the COVID-19 crisis, she remains committed.
“As a woman, I feel proud to help displaced women in South Sudan to resolve their problems and feel secure,” she says. “As a woman from a country that has previously suffered from conflict, I feel proud to be working for peace here.”
For all the peacekeepers in South Sudan, today was a chance to celebrate their efforts to support the people of this country while also remembering their colleagues who have given their lives in the pursuit of peace.