Advancing Women peacekeepers role in UNIFIL

UNIFIL peacekeepers listen to a young student from Aytarun as she explains the dangers of approaching the Blue Line. 11 November 2017.

UNIFIL conducted its first all-female foot patrol with 10 women peacekeepers from six troop-contributing countries in Rumaysh. 13 December 2017.

UNIFIL peacekeeper Lt. Col Ella Van Den Heuvel embraces a member of the community during the first FAST all-women foot patrol in Rumaysh. 13 December 2017.

UNIFIL’s Spanish peacekeepers patrol near Halta, south Lebanon, despite the icy weather. 17 January 2018.

UN Head of Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Jean-Pierre Lacroix, walks to the Cenotaph chatting with a group of women peacekeepers at UNIFIL’s HQ in Naqoura. 27 February 2018.

A UNIFIL peacekeeper from El Salvador participates in a market walk in Souk Al Khan, south-east Lebanon. 20 February 2018

UNIFIL’s women peacekeepers from the French-led Force Commander’s Reserve (FCR), who are experts in their respective fields, pose for a group photo. 8 March 2018

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8 Mar 2018

Advancing Women peacekeepers role in UNIFIL

“UNIFIL will continue to do what it can to reaffirm the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflict, in peacebuilding and in peacekeeping.” UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Michael Beary

 

With a greater push for gender mainstreaming in United Nations peacekeeping, over the past years UNIFIL – backed by a slight increase in the number of women peacekeepers – has carried out a number of activities within the Mission’s area of operation by incorporating gender perspective while performing its mandated tasks.
 
As of 28 February 2018, UNIFIL has 494 women peacekeepers, accounting for 4.7 per cent of about 10,500 troops. The Mission’s women peacekeepers made up 3.66 per cent two years ago and 3.56 per cent five years ago. Among UNIFIL’s 41 troop contributing countries, Ghana has the highest number of women in uniform (131), followed by France (61), Indonesia (49), Greece (29), Spain (27), Italy (25), Malaysia and Nepal (24 each).
 
Adopting a landmark resolution on Women, Peace and Security in 2000, the UN Security Council called on all Member States to encourage female participation in UN peacekeeping missions focusing on participation, protection, relief and recovery. In the years following the passing of Resolution 1325, there has been an increased awareness on gendered impact of conflict and the importance of women in peacekeeping missions. This is crucial at the community engagement level, reaching out to women in the communities, giving them the chance to voice their concerns to the peacekeepers, and overcoming cultural barriers. Women’s participation in peacekeeping is also necessary at the political and operational level. Over the past years, women’s participation has increased in peace operations, however, the percentage remains low.

Among the UN’s seven major peacekeeping operations with more than 4,000 troops, UNIFIL ranks second in terms of the percentage of female peacekeepers. Only the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) has more percentage of female peacekeepers than UNIFIL.
 
UNIFIL’s Gender Advisor, Afaf Omer, says women’s participation in peacekeeping operations is important for many reasons that are often inextricably linked.
 
“The presence of women peacekeepers enables peacekeeping operations to better protect citizens, in particular women and children, as their presence brings greater awareness of and sensitivity to their particular needs and challenges and also because the presence of female peacekeepers is often less intimidating or provocative to the community they serve,” says Omer. “There are also practical advantages to the presence of women peacekeepers as they are able to interact with women at checkpoints, and can establish better relationships with local women’s groups.”
 
At UNIFIL, since the establishment of Female Assessment/Analysis and Support Team (FAST) in August 2016, there have been an increase in the number of community activities involving women and children. FAST is made up of both uniformed and civilian UNIFIL peacekeepers based across UNIFIL’s 1,060 square kilometre area of operation. Each member of the team is trained and on call for any operation where they are needed, particularly when a battalion does not have available women troops to participate in an operation.
 
FAST activities vary from operational to community outreach, including foot and market patrols, school visits, as well as other community engagements.
 
“Women peacekeepers can also serve as role models or even mentors for local women and girls, thus contributing to more equal gender relations in the local community they serve,” says Omer.
 
Each UNIFIL battalion has a military gender task force, which ensures that each of the Mission’s more than 450 daily activities is gender sensitive and in full compliance with the resolution 1325 and relevant UN policies.
 
In marking International Women’s Day today, UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Michael Beary says women peacekeepers’ contribution is valued in everything from community engagement to essential mission operations.
 
“UNIFIL will continue to do what it can to reaffirm the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflict, in peacebuilding and in peacekeeping,” he says. “The presence of more women as leaders, as decision makers, as military and police officers, and as soldiers in the field can only lead to better protection of communities, in particular the rights and safety of women and girls.”

 

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Article: Tilak Pokharel
Video camera: Mohamad Hamze & UNIFIL archive
Video editor: Suzane Badereddine
Video music:  Am-Trans by Podington Bear
English to Arabic Translator: Adib Al-Moussa
Stills: Pascual Gorriz and UNIFIL Sector East
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