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Women from Africa leading the way in peacekeeping efforts.
Africa World News

Women from Africa leading the way in peacekeeping efforts.

In 2022, Baah was among the 173 female peacekeepers from Ghana who were part of the UN Interim Mission in Lebanon. She was also one of the 6,200 women peacekeepers, including military and police personnel, serving in 12 peacekeeping missions around the world, with the majority being in Africa (6) and the Middle East (3).

These females are commonly viewed as a symbol of optimism and defense for countless civilians, particularly women and girls, who are facing challenges in staying secure while assisting in the reconstruction of their societies and personal lives following times of war.

Captain Baah (right) visits a Lebanese family in Southern Lebanon.

Captain Baah (on the right) pays a visit to a family in Southern Lebanon who are of Lebanese descent.

Captain Baah explains that in certain towns, there may be individuals who are uncomfortable with a man they don’t know speaking to their female residents. However, as a woman, she is able to approach any female in any town without being seen as a threat.

The United Nations has made achieving gender equality in peacekeeping a top goal, particularly among those in leadership positions and those who wear uniforms. As the organization relies on its member nations to supply military and police forces, it has implemented various efforts to encourage and incentivize countries to send more female peacekeepers.

Commodore Faustina Anokye, Deputy Force Commander of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, believes that achieving gender equality will greatly improve our world. She urges us to actively combat gender stereotypes, speak out against discrimination, address biases, and strive for inclusivity.

In recent years, there have been advances in the number of women involved in peacekeeping efforts. From 1957 to 1989, there were only 20 women in uniform participating, but as of September 2023, that number has increased to 6,200. However, progress has been sluggish and the military groups still have a disproportionately low number of women. Out of the 70,000+ uniformed peacekeepers, less than 10% are women.

Over half of these women come from Africa. Out of the 120+ countries that provide troops and police, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, and Zambia are some of the biggest contributors of female peacekeepers from Africa currently.

Pioneers and trailblazers

As a female corrections officer from Burkina Faso who served in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic, Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana recognizes the importance of breaking down gender stereotypes and barriers in the field of corrections and security alongside other pioneering women. She believes it is a collective responsibility to carry the torch and promote gender equality.

In 2022, Zoungrana received the inaugural UN Trailblazer Award for her work as a Women Justice and Corrections Officer. As part of MINUSCA’s efforts to strengthen the country’s ability to uphold law and order, she played a crucial role in establishing an all-female rapid response team and in hiring and training local prison officers at the Ngaragba Central Prison, known as the biggest and most infamous prison in Bangui.

Téné Maimouna Zoungrana is a corrections officer  from Burkina Faso serving with the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

MINUSCA/Hervé Serefio

Téné Maimouna Zoungrana is a corrections officer from Burkina Faso serving with the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

“In my workplace, specifically in the security sector, women are frequently relegated to secondary roles or completely disregarded due to the stereotype that men are more capable in this field. However, I had the determination, resilience, and calling to defy these barriers and confidently establish myself in this profession,” states Ms. Zoungrana.

Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana, a female peacekeeper, serves as a source of inspiration for numerous women and girls. Through her efforts, she challenges traditional gender norms and encourages and empowers women in the community to step outside of traditional roles typically held by men in the security field.

Peacekeepers are essential in implementing outreach programs that are sensitive to gender and tailored to meet the specific needs of women and girls.

In 2020, Steplyne Nyaboga, a Military Gender Advisor from Kenya, was recognized as the UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year. She provided training on gender dynamics to over 15,000 troops serving in the now-closed UN Mission in Darfur and played a crucial role in enhancing the mission’s involvement with women in Darfur.

She emphasizes that peacekeeping involves the collective efforts of humans, and prioritizing the well-being of women and girls will improve our ability to safeguard civilians and establish lasting peace.

Over the decades, international norms and conventions have been adopted to include women in peace processes – to make sure women are represented in peace negotiations, support women civil society organizations and address the gender imbalance among decision-makers that continues to exist today. 

In 2019, the UN Women created the Elise Initiative Fund to offer financial incentives and assistance to nations in order to boost the representation of female peacekeepers in uniform.

In 2022, $17 million was dedicated to aiding 21 national security organizations, such as those in Uganda, Senegal, and Ghana, as well as two peacekeeping missions, including MINUSMA in Mali.

Senegalese and Nigerian UN police officers attend an Elise Initiative Fund-sponsored training with Malian police officers in Bamako, Mali.

MINUSMA/Marco Dormino

Police officers from Senegal and Nigeria who are part of the United Nations attended a training in Bamako, Mali, sponsored by the Elise Initiative Fund, along with Malian police officers.

“We must now fulfill our promises. It is crucial to involve women’s voices in political and peace negotiations. We must strengthen and support them so they can be heard. This is essential for maintaining peace,” states Martha Ama Akyaa Pobee, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Africa.

On the ground, the indispensable work of women peacekeepers continues to make a major impact especially in the lives of local women and girls. 

The source of this information is the United Nations news website.