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UN Official Urges Greater Role for Women in Peacekeeping Efforts

A U.N. official says more women should be involved in peacemaking and peacekeeping in Africa. Rachel Mayanja is the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women to the UN Secretary General.

She says there are a lot of African women affected by conflicts, including those in camps or without shelter and former women soldiers who need rehabilitation. Mayanja says the UN itself needs women involved in its efforts to reach these groups.

“There are special attributes women bring: if you have a woman who has been raped, especially by a man or men in uniform, it would be very difficult for (her) to trust even our peacekeepers, who are also men in uniform. So we find the use of women (in peacekeeping operations) makes it easier for us to communicate with these (victims) to try to understand what has happened and for the UN to help them.”

Mayanja says she’s disappointed by the lack of women in talks to end civil conflict, including in the talks to end the fighting in the western Sudanese province of Darfur.

“We have women in government, in parliament and as ministers, but when it comes to negotiations, these women are overlooked…. If they are able to contest for elections and be elected, they are going to be able to negotiate in [the peace process]. ”

Manyanja calls on Sudanese women to get more involved in politics and for officials in Khartoum to stop the violence against women in Darfur.

“(Women there) have no income generation activities. (When) they go outside the camp to try to sell and make money, they are attacked and raped. So I’d like to see more women, especially the minister…taking an interest and putting pressure on the government to make sure the violence is stopped. If pressure were brought to bear from within the country, it might be better than [what] pressure from outside has done so far.”

Recently, scores of women leaders and activists came to the U.N. to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the signing of a measure to increase women’s involvement in peace and security issues. Resolution 1325 calls on member states to protect women in conflict and to bring more women into peace negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction.