Women peacekeepers help dismantle patriarchal stereotypes in local communities

January 29, 2024

Between 1957 and 1989 there were only 20 uniformed women in peacekeeping. As of September 2023, there were 6,200. Progress has, however, been particularly slow among the military contingents where, out of the more than 70,000 uniformed peacekeepers (including over 62,000 troops), less than 10 percent are women.

With more than half of these women being from Africa, the Continent has earned a reputation as a leader in women's representation in the peacekeeping sector. Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia are amongst the Continent's largest contributors of uniformed women peacekeepers.

“Together, with all the other women pioneers, we have a responsibility to carry the torch and break down the gender stereotypes, prejudices and barriers against women in the field of corrections and security,” says Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana, a corrections officer from Burkina Faso who served in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). “In my professional environment, the field of security, women are often placed second or even ignored, because of stereotypical perceptions that men are better suited for the job. I had the courage and strength, and vocation, to break down barriers and assert myself confidently in this field,” Zoungrana elaborates.

Jackline Urujeni, responsible for commanding 160 Rwandan police officers, half of whom were women, in the UN Mission in South Sudan, has faced many questions about her work in a traditionally patriarchal security structure. According to Urujeni, women here in South Sudan often ask her a lot of questions, especially when they understand that she is the commanding officer of a big group of police officers. “How can you be a commander? Don’t you have men in your country?” they ask her, says Urujeni, who believes that women peacekeepers “play a big role in inspiring girls and women.”

“I noticed that girls and women here are gradually becoming aware of their rights to become who they want to be. They understood that girls don’t exist just to get married and have babies. We are opening their eyes to new possibilities, to new choices that they should be allowed to make,” Urujeni expands.

As more women join peacekeeping, military and policing forces across the globe, women and particularly girls will have more and more role models to turn to in the security sector – leading to a future in which SecurityWomen hopes there will be better and meaningful representation of women in the security sector and, in turn, improved overall security.

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