Female peacekeepers needed

March 4, 2017

The AU wants member states to send more female peacekeepers on missions.
“The AU Mission in Somalia (Amisom), has 20516 soldiers,” said Major Bupe Chanda, the gender officer at the mission headquarters in Mogadishu. “Of these only 693 are female. We need more female peacekeepers.”

The AU special envoy on women, peace and security, Bineta Diop, says a 3% representation of women in peacekeeping missions on the continent is too low.

“This is just like tokenism. Countries like Uganda and Ethiopia are deploying women, but we need more,” she says.

Her work has taken her to conflict areas like Central African Republic, Mali, South Sudan and Somalia where she has interacted with victims of conflict.

“When I visited some of those places, I asked what is the contribution of the women?” says Diop. “The women who have been victims of these wars and conflict told me they preferred to talk to female military and police rather than males. They are traumatised and would prefer sharing their experiences with females.”

Deployment of peacekeepers is often the decision of member states. Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia, Ethiopia, Burundi and Kenya have women in the Amisom.

As the AU is pushing for numbers, those in African-led missions are not happy about their working conditions.

In Somalia, peacekeepers contend with the hot sun, communication barriers, cultural barriers and uncertainty of enemy attack. However, as Chanda explains, some challenges are exclusive to women.

“In Somalia, we have asymmetric warfare and we are not in peacekeeping, but enforcement, so it is war,” she says. “Sometimes women have to go on long patrols without enough sanitary towels. That is the number one challenge for female peacekeepers.”