Monday, October 24, 2016


“A Female Approach to Peacekeeping”[i] by New York Times reporter Doreen Carvajal illustrates the leaps and bounds taken by women globally in peacekeeping operations especially in the West African nation of Liberia currently headed by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-an astute woman who is known by the nickname “Iron Lady”.  According to the writer, women started pioneering in peacekeeping missions during the Balkan Wars of the 90s and their numbers continue to skyrocket. By the time the article was written in 2010, the Head of the U.N. Mission in Liberia was Ellen Margrethe Loj of Denmark, a woman who was dedicated to the preservation of peace and nation building in countries ravaged by wars. By then, Nigeria and India were the leading contributors of women peacekeepers in the world.

According to figures released by the U.N., women are edging closer to men in peacekeeping missions. In the past five years alone, the number of female police officers serving U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world doubled with Liberia and Darfur taking the lead. Of the 12,867 men and women serving U.N. peacekeeping missions around the world as police officers, women account for roughly 6% or stand at 833.  Of the 1,159 peacekeepers from Nigeria currently in Liberia, 5% or 59 are women. The need for the service of women in peacekeeping activities has gone global. Women account for 14% of the 1,354 peacekeepers in Liberia.

Men peacekeepers tend to behave better when women peacekeepers are present. Since women peacekeepers started arriving in Liberia, crimes like armed robberies, rape of women and girls, child molestations, and other types of startling transgressions have been considerably reduced with the help of the locals. After a long day patrolling the dusty streets of Monrovia, Syalus Maharana, an Indian operations commander, spends an hour of her time to mother her child in India by telling bedtime stories via video conferencing.

Even though women peacekeepers suffer nostalgia and depression during their tenure of duties overseas, to the locals they remain intimidating and sober. The major endearing factor driving women to such strenuous peacekeeping missions is the appealing financial opportunities offered by the U.N.  

Having marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day on March 8, the United Nations is intensifying its recruitment efforts by finding more women for its global peacekeeping missions. For many poor countries, contributing women peacekeepers to the U.N. global peace efforts means added value in terms of moneymaking. As it already pledged, the nation of Bangladesh is expected to dispatch a new unit of women peacekeepers to the U.N. peace initiatives. Thus, we learn from this story that women peacekeepers are as effective and efficient as their male counterparts in global peacekeeping operations if not profoundly more effective and that the demand for women peacekeepers will rise in the future.

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