Women in UNIFIL: Making a difference
Pliers, wrenches, screws, tires, jacks and other mechanical tools line the walls of the room. A queue of armoured personnel carriers (APCs), heavy vehicles and cars is building outside the metal-roofed structure, waiting for maintenance. Welcome to the auto mechanic workshop of UNIFIL’s Sector East headquarters, the Miguel de Cervantes base, located in the plains of the Ibl Al-Saqi town in Lebanon’s Marjayoun district.
Sergeant Nadia Campo, a Spanish mechanic currently serving as a UNIFIL peacekeeper, inspects a patrol car, checks the engine oil and changes the oil filter. She and two other colleagues under her command work tirelessly to ensure timely completion of assigned tasks.
“We are 49 people in my work group, and I am the only woman in the team,” said Sergeant Nadia Campo, confidently. “The jobs assigned to me are just the same tasks assigned to my colleagues.”
This is only one example of a peacekeeping environment in south Lebanon, where both female and male peacekeepers are equally challenged to complete a wide range of tasks with integrity and professionalism. Women and men carry out the various tasks based on each person’s qualifications, specialization, and the areas of their expertise.
There are other female peacekeepers, just like Sgt. Campo, who work hard every day to help the Mission fulfil its mandate and make a difference in the local communities. Major Nirupama Suman is one of them. A medical doctor with UNIFIL’s Indian Battalion, Major Suman says female peacekeepers play a nuanced role as “women and children can express and better share their concerns and health problems with a female doctor.”
UNIFIL’s female peacekeepers are also active in the sea. A member of the German Navy team in the Mission’s Maritime Task Force (MTF), Medical Chief Petty Officer Maike, recalled her experience of rescuing survivors from a drowning boat a few years ago. “We picked the people and helped them with medical assistance, and the women were glad that they were examined by another woman instead of a man,” she recalls.
The UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) stresses the importance of women’s equal and full participation as active agents in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace-building and peacekeeping. It calls on member states to ensure women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security, and urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspective in all areas of peace building.
“Why did I choose this job?” Raifa Khneifes, a Lebanese civilian peacekeeper with UNIFIL’s Fire and Safety Unit says, “First because it's very challenging. I like to do anything that is really challenging. Second, because I wanted to show people that the perception that women do only admin work is not true.” She is in charge of fire and safety training for UNIFIL personnel and Lebanese Civil Defence personnel. “Peacekeeping without women is not possible; we see things in a different way to men, and that’s why women and men complement each other,” she affirms.
Jihann Shaheen, another Lebanese civilian peacekeeper is a trained architect and green building specialist. She works as an environmental officer with UNIFIL. Ms. Shaheen concludes, "Female peacekeepers can act as a role model in society, and can encourage women to participate in the peace process."
Article: Hiba Monzer and Tilak Pokharel
Camera: Mohamad Hamze and Aoibheann O’Sullivan
Editor: Aoibheann O’Sullivan & Mohamad Hamze
Stills: Pascual Goriz