UNPOL's Female Senior Police Officer Command Development Courses

November 19, 2019

United Nations Police launched three Female Senior Police Officer Command Development Courses in Addis Ababa, Kuala Lumpur and Dakar.

UNPOL's Women Police for Peace

November 19, 2019

Why is working for the United Nations meaningful to you? - Testimonies of UN Female Police

South African Exemplar

April 5, 2019

South African Exemplar

Major Block with PM of Canada Justin Trudeau and Special Rep of the UN SG Juan-Pierre Lacroix

Major Seitebatso Pearl Block from the South African National Defence Force received the accolade of UN female Peacekeeper of the Year in 2017. She is interviewed by SecurityWomen:

  • What was the act that led to you being awarded the Peacekeeper of the Year accolade?

The second time I was deployed on a UN Peacekeeping mission to the DRC, I was based at the MONUSCO Force HQ in a Staff Officer role. The main task as Information Operations Planner was to distribute key messages to the local community as well as the Armed Groups in the area affected by conflict. Often local people were forcefully recruited to these groups and the pressure of GBV was huge. We wanted to communicate with the population and the armed groups with messages such as: surrender your weapons and recruitment of child soldiers is a crime. My suggestion was to use technology rather to supplement the leaflets to try and get our messages across especially in the remote areas of the Eastern DRC. The project was called the SMS Bundle Project. We found we could target a village through sending an SMS via a cell phone tower in the vicinity and thereby contain the communication to a specific area and targeted audience.

  • Describe your career path to reaching this award and what you did as a UN peacekeeper

I am grateful for the training I’ve received from basic training to being a Commissioned Officer. Having worked as a Team leader during exercises, deploying on borderline protection as well as deploying with a Contingent contributed immensely in my experience and thus boosting my confidence to carry out my duties effectively on my last tour of duty.  

  • What is your background?

I was brought up by a single Mother in a small village in Rustenburg called Magong in the North West Province. I am married to a Captain in the Infantry who currently works as an Instructor at the Peace Mission Training Centre in Pretoria. We have two girls aged 5 and 10. I acquired a National Diploma in Security Risk Management and now studying Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations (2nd Year).

How were you recruited, both initially into the SANDF, and as a peacekeeper?

I joined the SANDF in 2004. I found out about the SANDF from a family friend in Pretoria. After completing my Matric, I was unable to further my studies due to financial constraints at home, so I took a gap year. I was 18 years old when I joined the SANDF and I know this career is my calling. In 2015 there was an advertisement for a post to deploy in MONUSCO, DRC and I applied, went for through the Selection Board and interviews. My request was granted, I received mission-readiness training and deployed in 2016/17.

  • What is your current role?

I am Staff Officer for Land on Doctrine Development within the Joint Operations Division based in Pretoria. I am working at a level which I enjoy and bring my experience from the field to the table.

  • How have you managed to advance the cause of women’s greater participation in the military and Peacekeeping? And more generally, women’s empowerment?

In my current role, I am working to make the SANDF a more conducive working environment for women. There is a lot of sexist behaviour and women’s response to this is not always helpful to their cause. There is stigma as a woman about leaving one’s children and family to go on deployment. The criticism comes just as much from other women. I am working on gender sensitive training programmes for military personnel.

  • What plans for the future do you have?

I am very excited about the Elsie Initiative in cooperation with Global Affairs Canada and how much it will encourage young women that joins the SANDF to deploy in Peacekeeping operations and make a difference. We have started a campaign on Gender Based Violence and Anti-Femicide within the Department of Defence with an intention of raising awareness amongst our fellow colleagues. My main objective is to encourage young women in the SANDF to empower themselves by going on courses, exercises and Peacekeeping missions and gain as much experience as possible to be able to advance in our male dominated work environment.

Incorporating Gender into UN Senior Leadership Training

April 4, 2019

Comprehensive leadership training is necessary to ensure that peace operations are effective and that senior leaders are prepared for both the daily challenges and the inevitable crises of peacekeeping. A gender perspective is of central importance to such training. However, gender considerations—from gendered conflict analysis to recognition of who is in the room when decisions are made—remain poorly understood at a practical level, including among senior mission leaders.

This issue brief discusses what it means to apply a “gender perspective” and the importance of such a perspective for senior leaders to effectively implement mission mandates. It provides an overview of existing gender-related training and preparation techniques for senior leaders, including gaps. It concludes with a series of recommendations on how trainings and approaches to senior leadership training can better reflect these considerations:

  • The current status of gender training for senior leaders should be assessed.
  • Facilitators of trainings should ensure that their curricula address and respond to a peacekeeping workspace dominated by men.
  • Facilitators should be aware that leaders often think they do not need training.
  • Trainings for senior leaders should be designed to reflect the complexity of implementing women, peace, and security obligations in a mission.
  • Efforts to ensure gender parity in senior mission leadership should be strengthened.
  • Gender advisers should be included as formal members of a mission’s crisis management team and play an active role in decision-making bodies.
  • Facilitators should understand the gender dimensions of a given training scenario and be aware of the gender balance among participants.
  • The UN should develop resources for leaders, including key documents and guidance on understanding the gender dimensions of their mission.

To download the complete report go to: Incorporating Gender into UN Senior Leadership Training (International Peace Institute)

Gender training of Peacekeepers

February 1, 2019

Presented by Juliet Colman, Founder and Director of SecurityWomen, at a NAWO event on the occasion of the 18th Anniversary of UN SCR 1325 at the UN in New York

Just imagine if all peacekeepers were women… would there be a need for gender training?

Probably not, if we argue that gender training’s first objective is to prevent Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA).

This year’s commemoration of the anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 had as its main theme, ‘the meaningful participation of women at the centre of all efforts to prevent conflict and sustain peace’. The loudest voices focused on women’s roles as mediators and negotiators in peace processes. Women’s involvement in these roles according to the Council on Foreign Relations, was 2 and 8 percent respectively between 1990 and 2017. This was reported in the UN Secretary General’s (SG) report on Women Peace and Security (WPS) and echoed by many countries in the debate last Thursday.

Those statistics sound similar to the ones on peacekeeping. Currently, the stark figures are that female military peacekeepers make up just 4 percent of personnel, and female police peacekeepers just 10 percent. Successful peacekeeping involves women as well as men. The website of the Department for Peacekeeping Operations, DPKO, is full of information about the benefits of having female peacekeepers, ranging from making the peacekeeping force more approachable to the local community, in particular to women, especially when they may have suffered from acts of sexual violence, to helping reduce confrontation and conflict and empowering local women.

Other panel members may talk about the exponential rise of sexual and gender-based violence in the last year in countries conflict-ridden like the CAR. What training do peacekeepers receive to deal with this and how to prevent this kind of violence?

The DPKO has launched its Gender Parity Strategy following on from the SG’s system-wide gender parity strategy a year ago. There are more women in the SG’s Senior Management Group now than there are men; a woman has been appointed to head up the Department of Political Affairs; and women now comprise 41 percent of heads and deputy heads of missions led or co-led by DPKO; and, at director level positions, the percentage of women has gone up from 17 to 24 percent in the last year. This is all moving in the right direction and all the more encouraging in terms of getting women into decision-making positions. However, the target in the Gender Parity Strategy for large contingents of peacekeepers, which make up the vast number, is very low at 15 percent female peacekeepers by 2028, which brings me round to talking about the need for gender training.

UNSCR 1325 documents that all peacekeeping personnel should receive training on the ‘protection, rights and the particular needs of women, as well as on the importance of involving women in all peacekeeping and peacebuilding measures’.

And prior to this, the Namibia Plan of Action (2000) calls for gender issues to be ‘mainstreamed throughout all regional and national training curricula and courses for peace support operations, particularly those sponsored directly by the Training Unit of DPKO’.

UNSCR 1960 (2010) calls specifically for the training of all military and police personnel on sexual and gender based violence. It talks about the use of scenario-based training materials.

What do we mean by gender training? A full definition from INSTRAW, as was, goes like this:

‘A capacity-building activity that aims to increase awareness, knowledge and practical skills on gender issues by sharing information, experiences and techniques as well as by promoting reflection and debate.

The goal of gender training is to enable participants to understand the different roles and needs of both women and men in society,

to challenge gender-biased and discriminatory behaviours, structures and socially-constructed inequalities, and to apply this new knowledge to their day-to-day work.’

Awareness is the first step to change. But what if an individual doesn’t want to change or doesn’t see the need to change behaviour?

A problem that is echoed across the world, is around the poor treatment of women at the hands of men. We only have to think of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, which started initially as reaction to sexual harassment and rape in the entertainment industry, but this behaviour exists in every sector of society, and probably more so in the male dominated security sector and in militarised units.

Gender training is not without controversy. An article that appeared recently on, entitled, ‘Why your gender equality training won’t work [and what you should do instead], was looking at training to combat gender bias in a UK police force. The approach taken was to encourage perspective taking – ie putting yourself in someone else’s shoes – to increase empathy, and change attitudes and stereotypes, but it did not work.

The approach was to get to people’s belief and value systems, but it proved more difficult. The article refers to human nature that, ‘After being exposed to gender stereotypes for our entire lives, it's incredibly hard to root out the unconscious bias both men and women carry around in their heads.’

Critical reports have also been written in academic circles. Australian gender training has a ‘best practice’ reputation, and yet training with Federal Police and the Australian Defence force was found to be inadequate, mainly because it was not carried out for all peacekeeping personnel, despite international and national requirements to do so . In addition, the findings suggested that ‘gender’ is understood in a very limited way. It does not problematize power relations between the sexes and is only covered as a way of understanding the peacekeeping context, and not in relation to the attitudes and behaviours of peacekeepers themselves. We have to ask, what do other troop-contributing countries do? And to what standard?

Another article published in the Peace Review, entitled ‘The absence of Masculinity in Gender Training for UN Peacekeepers’  points to the underlying influences of militarised masculinity on peacekeeping personnel which is more highly valued than other forms, and can lead to a greater likelihood of gender-based crimes or biases with the context of peacekeeping operations. Does current gender training address the question of masculinity?

More extensive training may not deter a perpetrator of more violent forms of SEA, but this type of training surely encourages more team-working and responsibility around the reporting of rogue behaviour. It is apparent that the quality, message and methodology of gender training carried out varies enormously, but even if it were delivered in a uniform manner, it is still unclear whether behaviour would change as a result. As Christine Chinkin et al (2016)  concludes, ‘Because the definition of SEA places violent assault and commercial sex in the same category of offences, training on the topic explicitly teaches peacekeepers that consent is irrelevant when it comes to SEA. Some commentators note that this simultaneously deprives local people – especially women – of any claims to agency in their own lives and trivialises sexual assault’. The USIP’s Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding , which has been conducting training for peacekeepers since 2008, echoes that point, saying that the UN’s ambiguous language around SEA  creates confusion for peacekeepers and poses challenges to compliance. The UN takes a zero-tolerance approach to SEA. No sexual relations allowed with prostitutes or any persons under 18 and is strongly discouraged with beneficiaries of assistance. One could argue that that applies to all citizens in a conflict area. Whatever, it suggests that further training is required for peacekeepers around what constitutes SEA and how it damages individuals and societies.

It has been muted that the presence of women as trained and professional equals in peacekeeping missions will help contain the bad behaviour of rogue male peacekeepers. We cannot know this for sure. The issue is that the numbers of women in peacekeeping are so very low. Research by Sabrina Karim analysing mission-level information from 2009 to 2013 finds that including higher proportions of both female peacekeepers and personnel from countries with better records of gender equality is associated with lower levels of SEA allegations. The conclusion is that a cultivation of a value for gender equality among all peacekeepers is required, and improving the representation of women may help, but still stops short of addressing the root of the problem.

In looking to parallels in the business world, CNN Business last week , reported that when it comes to promoting more women, progress has stalled, and that what women experience is often they are the only woman. The ‘only’ issue is very striking in terms of its negative consequences – women in this position feel ‘under pressure’ or ‘on guard’ and more likely to be questioned about their judgment. It does not paint a rosy picture for prospective female employees or peacekeepers. As an interim measure, it is suggested that promoting groups of women at a time and creating cohorts or teams that allow women to work side-by-side is the best approach. The FET model is one way of overcoming the ‘onlyness’ of female peacekeepers. The DPKO Gender Parity Strategy talks about creating ‘an enabling environment’ which is described as ‘inclusive’ and ‘gender sensitive’.

The overwhelming majority of peacekeepers are from rank and file troops and tend to come from developing countries. Developed countries tend to contribute financially but not with personnel, although there are signs that this is starting to change, but it is highly politicised and looked at through the lens of ‘what’s in it for us?’

The top 10 troop contributing countries are:

Ethiopia, Bangladesh, India, Rwanda, Pakistan, Nepal, Egypt, Senegal, Indonesia, Ghana.

There are deep cultural differences as to the role and place of women in society in, for instance, Pakistan, as opposed to the UK. The USIP’s report on peacekeeper training (ibid) highlights the importance of cultural training which includes gender sensitisation.

South African contributes over 1,200 peacekeepers to the DRC of which women form 18 percent. However, they are seen as one of the worse behaved in terms of SEA. Within South Africa itself, there are very high levels of sexual and gender based violence. To quote one comment, ‘They don't change their behaviour just because they are in another country. Is anyone surprised?’ Reportedly, South African soldiers receive SEA guidance ahead of and during all SANDF deployments, and it is an integral component of training. Do senior personnel also receive this training? Inevitably, they are left out, and it is the leaders that need gender training most.

There has been a focus on the establishment of gender advisor roles or gender units within peacekeeping missions to promote gender equality. Gender Advisors are increasingly being adopted as a mechanism to help missions to implement commitments under the WPS agenda. Currently, only 9 out of 15 peacekeeping missions have gender units.

In conclusion, gender training is not uniform – it comes in different forms, messages and is not universally provided to all peacekeepers who deploy on peacekeeping missions. It may be seen as confrontational in that it challenges conventional gender norms, gender relations and dominant forms of masculinity. It is however an important element of peacekeeper training, not only at pre-deployment, not just as a one-off, but, I would argue, to be revisited at regular intervals for discussion, debate, interaction and an update to the individual’s work on the ground. Data is needed on the impact of gender training and its success or otherwise, and what resources are required to enable a sustained approach.

The ultimate is gender parity in peacekeeping operations, but failing that gender training for every peacekeeper is essential.

Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations: Baseline Study

November 5, 2018

The Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) recently reported the results of a study commission by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) on women's participation in police and military peacekeeping. The methods and objectives of the study are stated in its abstract:

The proportion of female police and military peacekeepers remains well below UN targets. Research suggests that the main reason behind the small numbers seems to be a variety of challenges and barriers to uniformed women deploying to PKOs. This baseline study compiles and analyses research published to date on the topic.

The study was commissioned by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) in the framework of the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations. The main objectives of this study are to describe the current situation as concerns women’s participation in military and police roles in United Nations peacekeeping operations, document international good practice to increase such participation, and identify challenges and barriers to the recruitment, training, retention, deployment and promotion of uniformed women in peacekeeping operations.

See the full study: Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations: Baseline Study

Agents of Change? Gender Advisors in NATO Militaries

September 3, 2018


This paper is about the experiences of Gender Advisors in NATO and partner militaries, and the question of whether militaries can contribute to a feminist vision of peace and security. Gender Advisors are increasingly being adopted as a mechanism to help militaries to implement commitments under the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Based on semi-structured interviews and a workshop with individuals working as Military Gender Advisors from 2009 to 2016 in Afghanistan, Kosovo and in NATO and national military commands and headquarters, this paper explores their own perceptions of their work, its goals, shortcomings and achievements. It highlights Military Gender Advisors’ strong commitment to Women, Peace and Security aims, but the resistance their work faces within their institutions, and challenges of inadequate resourcing, preparation and contextual knowledge. Military Gender Advisors’ experiences paint a picture of NATO and partner Militaries having in some places made progress in protection and empowerment of local women, but fragile and partial. These findings speak to wider debates within feminist security studies around whether and how militaries achieve human security in peacekeeping operations, and the risks of militarization of the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

Authors: Megan Bastick and Claire Duncanson

Journal of International Peacekeeping, Volume 25, 2018 - Issue 4

Communiqué Signatures on Women, Peace and Security during the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial, London September 2016

September 11, 2017

The Governments of Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Finland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Uganda, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, Vietnam and Zambia jointly declare their support for the following:

“We remain committed to increasing the participation of women in uniformed roles, and we want to see the integration of women’s needs and gender perspectives into all aspects of peacekeeping.

We urge the Secretary General to prioritise the appointment of more women in senior UN leadership positions and to double the numbers of women in military and police contingents of UN peacekeeping operations by 2020.

We call on all Member States to increase the number of women as individual police officers as part of specialised teams and formed police units, as well as in leadership positions and professional posts to reach the target of 20 percent launched through the Global Effort initiative in 2009. Member States should also prioritise the nomination of more female correction officers.

We further call on all Member States to develop and implement National Action Plans on Women, Peace, and Security, and to increase the number of women officers serving in missions as Staff Officers and Military Observers, and attending UN Staff Office and Military Observer Training Courses. We aim for 15% of such roles being filled by women by December 2017.

We also ask Member States to ensure all their training is gender-sensitive and where necessary includes training to advance specific skills of women officers in relation to the role of Military Observer. Every UN peacekeeping mission should have the ability to engage with women as well as men in UN mission areas. We urge the Secretary-General to work with Member States to increase the number of UN women mediators. We support Military Observer Team sites including Mixed Engagement Teams with multiple women officers and mixed Formed Police Units of at least one platoon of women officers. We call for Military and Police Gender Advisers in both Field Mission Headquarters and within each self-sustaining formed unit.

We encourage the Secretary-General to continue to take steps to strengthen the accountability of senior leaders for mainstreaming gender and improving gender balance in their respective missions and departments and welcome the introduction of gender targets as performance indicators in all compacts with senior managers at United Nations headquarters and in the field.

We call on all Member States to take substantive measures to increase gender balance in peacekeeping; there are a variety of ways to support this action, including appointing Gender Champions in their national systems, taking steps to increase the number of women in their national militaries, and providing the UN with information on what military roles are open to servicewomen alongside a breakdown of the proportion of male and female officers by rank.

These measures should act as a stepping stone to fulfilling the Security Council’s request in resolution 2242 to, as a minimum, double the number of women peacekeepers by 2020.”

UN Peacekeeping Summit 2016: How can peacekeeping contribute to peace?

September 11, 2017

International Alert has posted a comment on the outcome of the UN Defence Peacekeeping Ministerial 2016 in London in September 2016 and highlighted the need for changes in operational behaviour as the demands on peacekeeping operations grow. In seeking to maintain peace in areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), new ways of working are sought which include a specific focus on the participation of women. As stated, the UN’s High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations Report, which under the declaration coming out of the 2015 Summit, states acknowledge as an important road map for more effective peacekeeping operations.

See: International Alert article

UN Resolution on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Peacekeeping

September 11, 2017

A Resolution was adopted by the General Assembly on 10 March 2017:

71/278 United Nations action on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA)

The UN Sec Gen announced the comprehensive approach to tackling SEA in peacekeeping, noting that ‘exploitation was ….. deeply rooted in gender inequality and discrimination…. That promoting gender equality throughout the UN system, including its missions and peacekeeping forces, would help advance parity and at the same time decrease incidents of abuse.’

See Resolution:

Restoring Peace in Central African Republic

September 11, 2017

United Nations – For decades, the Central African Republic has been plagued by instability and conflict. But in the small Western town of Bouar, ex-combatants are handing over their weapons in favour of working on community projects. With support from the UN peacekeeping operation called MINUSCA, Multidimensional Integrated Stabilized Mission in the Central African Republic, these former fighters are now focused on peace and stability to advance their country.


See the latest events

View events