Today (October 31st) is the sixth anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security. Adopted in 2000, the resolution deals with the role of women in peacekeeping and peace building. One of the largest UN peacekeeping operations to date is in Africa. Uganda-born Rachel Mayanja is the special advisor to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on gender issues and advancement of women. She tells VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty that women are underrepresented at all levels of UN peace support operations.
“Overall in peacekeeping, we have about 23 percent women in all the civilian components. And that covers all the peacekeeping in Africa, and the numbers are very small,” she said.
Mayanja says women can play a key role in supporting UN peacekeeping missions.
“My first involvement with peacekeeping operations was in Namibia during the transition, when the UN sent a team. That team had a lot of women. Many of us played usually female roles, but we had women as district directors. So I think women can play a key role in supporting the peacekeeping mission, especially in breaking into areas which are not easily broken into by the traditional military observers,” she said.
Mayanja disagrees with the notion that because men start most wars in Africa, they instead of women should be allowed to end those wars.
“Well, I wish they would not start it in the first place. But we have also seen that while they go off fighting, women replaced them. The women run the communities. The women support the families. And yet when they come back, they want the women to move over…So I think women should be given the opportunity to lead the community the way they have done during the conflict period and to lead society into peace.”
Mayanja also disagrees with those who say women have no business in the dangerous business of peacekeeping. She says women are already exposed to dangers.
“Today’s conflict has turned women’s bodies into battleground. You know gender violence, sexual rape, and all these other violence against women are common occurrences in all the conflicts,” she said.
Mayanja says having a woman as head of a UN peacekeeping mission would make a big difference.
“We’ve seen this making a big difference in Burundi where we had a woman Special Representative. Why? Because they take particular interest in the issue, and they are not part of the boys network. They will not tolerate this kind of conduct,” Mayanja said.
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