The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is advocating for the deployment of more women in peacekeeping operations on the continent, saying their role has been critical in stabilising Somalia.
“The participation of women in peacekeeping operations is not simply desirable but critical and very important for the success of peacekeeping operations,” said AMISOM Deputy Force Commander in charge of Operations and Plans, Lt. Gen. Nakibus Lakara, at a three-day gender awareness training for military officers held in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Lt. Gen. Lakara noted that women are endowed with unique abilities that make their role critical to the success of peacekeeping operations.
“Women peacekeepers have a way of establishing ties with their fellow womenfolk in a culturally sensitive society such as the Somali society,” he observed, adding that apart from fostering cordial relations with host communities, women peacekeepers have vital skills in information gathering, critical for the effective functioning of the military.
The training brought together 27 gender focal points, who act as resource persons on gender issues in AMISOM sectors.
The focal points were taken through various topics, among them, conflict-related sexual violence; international, regional and national frameworks on human rights; gender equality and parity; sexual exploitation and abuse and roles of gender focal points persons.
Lt. Gen. Lakara urged African communities to abandon traditional practices and prejudices that impede women from joining the military to enable them effectively contribute to global peace and stability.
“In some African communities it was a taboo for women to join the military but this is a stigma that we need to get rid of so that the women can play an appropriate role in peace support operations,” he stated.
According to the United Nations, female peacekeepers act as role models in the local environment, inspiring women and girls in often male-dominated societies to push for their own rights and for participation in peace processes.
Despite their importance, the number of women in peacekeeping operations is still low due to gender imbalance in disciplined forces. As a result, both the African Union and the United Nations are now encouraging troop-contributing countries to deploy more women to uniformed functions to increase their participation in peacekeeping operations.
Lt. Gen. Lakara challenged the officers to put into good use the knowledge acquired from the training to help the AU Mission achieve its mandate of securing Somalia.
Participants, who spoke at the end of the training, said the course expanded their knowledge and understanding of gender issues.
“I have learned a lot about gender and I am going to share the knowledge acquired with my colleagues back in the sectors,” Lt. Mwanaisha Mahu, of the Kenya Defence Forces stated.
Lt. Mahu’s sentiments were echoed by her colleague from the Uganda People’s Defence Force, Lt. Dickson Mbizukire, who said the training will help in mainstreaming gender issues in the sectors.