February 4, 2019 (Ezega.com) - President Sahle-Work Zewde has said that Ethiopia is committed to enhancing the participation of women in the police, military and civilian divisions of the UN’s peacekeeping mission.
While speaking at the official opening of the 3rd UN Peacekeeping Ministerial Preparatory held at the UNECA conference hall in the capital, she emphasized that any mission must give priority to the protection of women and the vulnerable.
She further said that the mainstreaming of women participation in the UN peacekeeping mission necessitate proper organization among the parties involved.
The President, however, appreciated that more needs to be done to enhance women participation in the peace and security agenda, saying “Ethiopia welcomes the progress made in mainstreaming the agenda perspective in the works of the United Nations.”
Women in Peacekeeping:
In the UN peacekeeping operation, women are deployed in all areas; the military, police and civilians- and they’ve made significant contributions on peacekeeping environs by supporting the role of women in the peace process and upholding the rights of women.
In all these departments, women have demonstrated they can perform the same roles, at the same level, and under the challenging conditions just like their male colleagues. That is why it’s the UN’s imperative to recruit and retain female peacekeepers.
Increasing Number of Women in the UN Missions:
By 1993, women serving in the UN’s peacekeeping mission comprised 1%. This was the percentage of the uniformed personnel. But by the year 2014, the peacekeeping mission had approximately 125,000 personnel globally and women comprised of 3% of the military and 10% of police.
While the United Nations is encouraging the deployment of women in the uniformed functions of its operations, the responsibility lies with the member states. Individual countries like Ethiopia have the responsibility to contribute more women to serve in the peacekeeping missions.
The president challenged the AU and UN collaboration to ensure women and women’s groups play a part in the peace process, in conflict prevention and peacebuilding activities.
Ethiopia has approximately 7,500 peacekeepers serving under the UN’s Blue Helmet and it’s proud to be among the leading contributors of women peacekeepers with more than 600 deployed in various capacities.
Likewise, Ethiopia’s State Minister of Defense Ambassador Lelaalem Gebreyohannes said the country had deployed thousands of troops to the eight UN peacekeeping missions. “This record reflects Ethiopia’s sustained commitment to supporting the idea that women can truly make a difference in successful peacekeeping.”
Why are women influential in the peacekeeping process?
Female peacekeepers are role models in their areas of deployment. They inspire young girls and women especially in male-dominated communities to fight for their rights and to participate in the peace process.
Strengthening women’s participation in the UN’s peacekeeping mission is critical for:
- Empowering women in the host country,
- Addressing distinct needs of ex-female fighters during rehabilitation and reintegration into the society,
- Making the peacekeepers approachable to women,
- Cross-examining victims of gender-based violence,
- Mentoring female recruits in the military and police academies,
- Interacting with women in communities that prohibit them from speaking to men.
Furthermore, the presence of women in peacekeeping operations can also help achieve the following;
- They can access venues and populations that are not open to men, hence improving intelligence gathering about any potential threats.
- They help improve dispute resolution. Female officers are less likely to use excessive force compared to their male counterparts and they can de-escalate rising tensions and build trust among communities. For instance, in South Africa, Namibia and Rwanda the locals perceived female police peacekeepers to be effective in de-escalating the rising political temperatures.
Women and children are directly affected by conflict and President Zewde stressed the need to expand the role of women in the peacekeeping process to reflect this reality.
The country co-hosted the two-day convention in collaboration with the United Nations and Canada.
Larisa Galadza, the Director-General of Peace and Stabilization of Canada’s Global Affairs commended Ethiopia’s extraordinary effort in regard to enhancing and enabling the participation of women in different areas, including the peace process.
“Ethiopia is showing some exceptional leadership at this time, at the United Nations, it’s a leading contributor of troops and it’s also the country that is deploying the highest number of women in uniform to peace operations,” said Larisa Galadza.
She also commended Ethiopia's contributions both abroad and at home in leading in terms of gender equality under the leadership of the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.