UN Women in India, in partnership with the Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping, develops a pilot training course for female military officers of major troop contributing countries
Lt. Gen. Maqsood Ahmed, Military Adviser, Office of Military Affairs, UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations presents his remarks at the closing ceremony. (On the dais, left to right) Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Patrick Cammaert, Course Mentor; Dr. Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Representative, UN Women; Lt. Gen. Philip Campose, Vice Chief of the Indian Army; and Munu Mahawar Joint Secretary, UN Political, Ministry of External Affairs.
Date: 02 April 2015
New Delhi – In a first of its kind initiative, UN Women in India, in partnership with the Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping (CUNPK), developed and conducted a special technical course for female military officers from 19 March to 1 April in New Delhi. Female military officers from 24 troop contributing countries participated in the Special Female Military Officers Course which provided cutting edge knowledge on peacekeeping as well as the skills required to address sexual and gender based violence in armed conflict.
The course is expected to be used as a model for national peacekeeping training centres in all countries that contribute troops to United Nations peace missions across the world.
Women’s participation in the security sector has been recognized as essential for the success of UN peacekeeping missions. However, the number of female military personnel deployed in current peacekeeping missions and military operations is very low. On an average, only three percent of the military personnel in UN missions are women, most of whom are employed as support staff rather than in protection tasks. The pilot course is therefore timely and seeks to create a critical mass of women military officers ready to be deployed in UN missions.
“Courses like these will bring more women forward and upward in the ranks to challenge the stereotypes and biases that have kept their numbers small and their roles limited,” said Dr. Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Representative, UN Women Multi Country Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka. Dr. Tavares also called upon the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations to make effective use of these trained women officers “who are a valuable resource for UN peace operations.”
Military Advisor to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (UN-DPKO) Lt. Gen Maqsood Ahmed said: “UN mandates include the critical responsibility of protection of civilians. An approach that does not involve women when 50 percent of the civilian population is female cannot be called a comprehensive approach.”
The 10-day technical course included training on a range of skills such as communication techniques for interacting with victims, warning signs of conflict-related sexual violence, information/intelligence gathering to identify risks, threats, and vulnerabilities, knowledge of child protection, and knowledge of gender-responsive peacekeeping.
“All of the militaries in the world are male dominated; the majority of the leadership is male dominated. So a young women thinking of this career, may be put off because there doesn’t seem to be an infrastructure in place to support her,” observed Major Rachel Grimes from the British Army who participated in the course. “However,” she added, “being in the military is a very rewarding job and serving in the United Nations is one of the high points of my military career.” Maj. Grimes served in the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) as an Intelligence Planning Officer. Her role was later extended as the UN Force Commander’s Child Protection and Gender Field Advisor.
Major Ivana Mara Ferreira Costa from the Brazilian Military Support Section for UN Missions said she found the course important because it “enables us to live in the situations that we usually have no idea can occur on ground.”
One of the key elements of the course was the prevention of, and responses to, the violations of women’s rights. The scenario-based module on sexual violence in armed conflict focused on how to prevent, detect, report and fight sexual violence. It is also in line with the UN Secretary-General’s report on women, peace and security, which recommends that gender expertise must be made available in field missions, national institutions, and in policymaking and planning.
The Special Technical Course for Female Officers is a reflection of India’s central role in peacekeeping operations and underscores the country’s potential in helping mitigate the suffering of thousands of women and girls across the world. With only 86 female military observers in all UN peacekeeping operations, this initiative has the potential to increase that number in a short period for time.
Addressing the participants, Lieutenant General Philip Campose, Vice Chief of Army Staff, said: “It is a huge challenge for peacekeepers to prevent sex and gender based violence in conflict zones. All actions of peacekeepers must be such as to enhance the role and respect for women in a conflict and post-conflict society. Training of peacekeepers to report and combat sexual abuse and exploitation in all its forms is therefore absolutely essential.”
Presenting a message by Sujata Mehta, Secretary Ministry of External Affairs, Economic Relations and Multilateral Relations, Munu Mahawar, Joint Secretary, UN Political Division, emphasized India’s contribution to UN peacekeeping operations “and our commitment to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment”.
“I would like to encourage UN-DPKO and UN Women to develop our facilities here into a major training hub, including for gender-related pre-deployment. It is our ongoing endeavour and intention to support the UN in building more peaceful and stable societies in the world,” Mr. Mahawar added, quoting Ms. Mehta.
(Photo: UN Women / Sarbjeet Singh Dhillon)