UN Deputy Chief meets women peacekeepers in Ethiopia

United Nations Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, on Monday met with a number of women peacekeepers from Ethiopia to discuss the challenges they face in the field and come up with possible solutions.

Ms. Mohammed was accompanied by Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, and Bineta Diop, African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security; and Parfait Onanga, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa.

The meeting discussed a number of issues, including tackling sexual harassment in the field; increasing the number of women peacekeepers through bridging programmes; measuring success on the ground; support for women in patrol units; improving administrative processes that are not women-friendly when they want to report abuse or related issues; reproductive health; mediation; and building networks for women.

The Deputy Secretary-General said the meeting was important for it was through the sharing of experiences and through dialogue that the peacekeepers could open up in ways that she could learn about the issues that need to be addressed on the ground to make their lives and work easier.

“This has really been very helpful. You have given me energy to fight the good fight. Thank you is not good enough,” she told the officers, adding she hoped to brief the Security Council to see if some changes could be effected on some of the concerns raised by the peacekeepers. Ms. Mohammed said that women’s participation in peacekeeping had proven crucial to the success of peace and security interventions on the continent and said governments should encourage more women officers to join peacekeeping missions.

Mr. Onanga said he was ‘deeply wounded’ listening to the women peacekeepers sharing their experiences and commended them for the great job they are doing in conflict zones in the Horn of Africa, in particular, South Sudan.

“There probably are some things that we haven’t discussed like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after peacekeeping. It is very tough out there. It is something that we need to address,” he said.

He said countries were not encouraging women to go for peacekeeping despite the fact that ‘they do wonders on the field, they reduce violence against women and make a huge difference’.

The UN has for some time now been calling on government to increase the nomination of women officers to peacekeeping missions.