IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

…and speaking of women…

Oh the synergy of it all!  After posting about women, I ran across this very interesting story about women in peacekeeping forces.

Here are a few excerpts for your reading pleasure:

“MONROVIA, LIBERIA — When darkness comes to Congo Town, women in crisp uniforms take the streets, patrolling with Kalashnikov rifles and long, black hair tucked into baby-blue caps.
Multimedia

The brisk sergeant in command, Monia Gusain, matter of factly calls them “my men.” But the stern Indian women facing her are actually wives and mothers who wage peace for a living on the rutted dirt roads of Liberia.

The women — part of a special female United Nations police unit from India — lead dual lives: stamping out street crime by night and standing guard under the steamy equatorial sun outside the Monrovia headquarters of the Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. When they retreat, home is a military barracks where they tell bedtime stories to their toddlers via video conference calls.

Together they form the thin pink line of a U.N. recruitment campaign for the 21st century. As it marks the 100th International Women’s Day on March 8, the United Nations is intensifying efforts to recruit women for peacekeeping missions that seek to mend what war has wrought.

The theory — which has evolved since pioneering female peacekeepers started participating in U.N. missions in the Balkans in the 1990s — is that women employ distinctive social skills in a rugged macho domain. They are being counted on to bring calm to the streets and the barracks, acting as public servants instead of invaders.

“When female soldiers are present, the situation is closer to real life, and as a result the men tend to behave,” said Gerard J. DeGroot, a history professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who has written books about women in the military. “Any conflict where you have an all-male army, it’s like a holiday from reality. If you inject women into that situation, they do have a civilizing effect.”

“Liberia — a West African country created in 1847 to settle freed American slaves — is something of a modern laboratory for the rise of women making peace. Women are marching in foot patrols; the head of the U.N. mission, Ellen Margrethe Loj of Denmark, is a woman; and the Liberian president, Mrs. Sirleaf, is the first woman elected as an African head of state, in 2005.

Mrs. Sirleaf — whose nickname is “Iron Lady” — is particularly blunt about the role of women in the recovery of her fragile country, which was battered by 14 years of civil war that left about 200,000 people dead and survivors haunted by torture, systematic rapes and the exploitation of drug-addicted boy soldiers.

“What a woman brings to the task is extra sensitivity, more caring,” Mrs. Sirleaf said in an interview. “I think that these are the characteristics that come from being a mother, taking care of a family, being concerned about children, managing the home.”

The softer approach is critical in Liberia. In 2004, a U.N. report criticized peacekeepers in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti for the sexual abuse of young women by trading food and money for sex. In 2005, 47 peacekeepers were accused of sexual abuse in Liberia, compared with 18 peacekeepers who were accused last year, according to the U.N. mission.

Top U.N. officials credit the arrival of women for helping improve behavior. Yet within Liberia, national peacekeeping units from different countries are still debating the best approach, tinkering with ways to best deploy female peacekeepers — or “blue helmettes” in U.N. lingo….”

The article goes on to talk about the experience of Nigerian and Indian women.  It is very interesting and even touching.  The women speak of the “trade off” of being away from their loved ones but also having the chance to help an entire country heal and revive.  And, of course, the men on the ground have mixed feelings about what is going on.

IGBarb says:”Get with the program guys!  This will work!”

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March 7, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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