Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace

UN Peacekeeping
13 min readMay 21, 2020

This year marks the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR1325), recognising the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts to maintain and promote peace and security.

The resolution has called for the expansion of the role and contribution of women in UN Peacekeeping missions — military, police, civilians — including in positions of leadership. Research shows that the deployment of women helps improve overall peacekeeping performance at all levels and contributes to longer-lasting and sustainable peace.

Today, women represent a small but increasing percentage of more than 97,000 peacekeepers serving under the UN flag.

The global community is marking 2020’s International Day of UN Peacekeepers with the theme “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace,” highlighting the invaluable contributions women peacekeepers make across the globe, including in response to COVID-19.

This photo exhibition features a snapshot of their accomplishments, their impact, and their sacrifices in the service of millions of vulnerable people who depend on UN Peacekeeping every single day.


Photo by Herandane Dicko

Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, no other international or multinational institution has played a greater role in supporting democratic elections across the globe. The UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the members of its Electoral Affairs Section, have provided a wide range of support and assistance since the mission’s inception in 2013. Here, they are preparing materials ahead of Mali’s presidential election in July 2018.

Photo by Courtney Martin

The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNIFICYP) was the first mission to have women simultaneously leading its civilian, military and police components. Here, the Special Representative of the Secretary General in Cyprus and Head of UNIFICYP, Elizabeth Spehar, and Force Commander Major General Cheryl Pearce, review the missions’s deployment maps.

Photo by Rick Bajornas

All peacekeeping operations are established by the UN Security Council and are required to report to the 15-member body on a regular basis. Here, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), briefs the Security Council via video link on the situation in the country. Ms. Zerrougui is among a growing number of women leading peace operations in recent years.

Photo by Albert Gonzalez Ferran

The full, equal and meaningful participation of women in peace processes and political solution is essential for sustainable peace and more resilient societies. Gender Affairs Officers with the African-Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) work with government institutions, local leaders, women’s groups and internally displaced persons to help advance the inclusion of women in decision-making processes. Here, Gender Affairs Expert Magda Abdallah Ibrahim Ahmed meets with local women in El Fasher.

Photo by Shiv Ankit Ahuja

Sandi Arnold has 21 years of peacekeeping experience and is serving as the Chief of Mission Support for the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) since February 2017. Her team was recently recognized for its outstanding COVID-19 medical preparatory activities, which included quickly establishing an on-base COVID-19 Response Unit. UNMIK also facilitated the delivery of personal protective equipment to the Ministry of Health. Arnold has served under the UN flag in many locations including Abyei, Baghdad, Damascus, Freetown, Juba, and Khartoum, and was the Ebola Crisis Team Leader for UN Peacekeeping in 2014.

Photo by Marco Dormino

The promotion and protection of human rights is a key purpose and guiding principle of the United Nations. Here, Human Rights Officer Fadimata Yattara serving with the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) interviews a witness in the town of Menaka. A delegation led by Human Rights Officers travelled to Northern Mali to investigate armed attacks in the settlements of Aklaz and Awakassa, where dozens of people were killed.

Photo by Michael Ali

Experts working with the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) regularly organize explosive hazard sensitization sessions for students in eastern DRC. Here, expert Sasha Bhatnagar explains how to adopt safe behaviour to avoid accidents resulting from explosive hazards at a school in Beni. Mine action makes it possible for peacekeepers to carry out patrols, for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance and for ordinary citizens to live without the danger that a single misstep could cost them their lives.

Through her photos, UN Photographer Matine Perret really does say “a thousand words.” Perret has helped the UN tell its story for nearly two decades in some of the world’s most challenging places and under a variety of difficult circumstances. Her assignments have included Burundi, Timor-Leste, South Sudan, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Here, Martine is aboard an armoured personnel carrier of the UN Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO), on a security patrol to protect Ebola responders the eastern part of the country.

Photo by Isaac Alebe Avoro

Radio is uniquely positioned to bring communities together and foster positive dialogue for change. It also plays a crucial role in emergency communication and public emergency response. Irene Lasu works as a radio presenter for the UN Mission in South Sudan’s Radio Miraya. Peacekeeping radio stations in many countries, such as Mali, the Central African Republic and the DRC are currently providing critical information during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by MONUSCO

Building peace in a country needs the buy-in of national and local officials as well as communities-at-large. UN Civil Affairs Officers play an important role in reaching out to a wide range of local actors to foster peace and reconciliation. Here, Daniela Tarizzo, Civil Affairs Officer with the UN Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO), meets with community leaders to discuss the reintegration of children back into families after being separated by armed groups.


Photo by Hervé Serefio

Zambian peacekeepers serving in the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) have been deployed in the Vakaga prefecture since 2015 to help protect civilians. In 2018, 930 peacekeepers based in Birao, including 59 women, provided security to the locality and surrounding area by conducting daily patrols. They also regularly organised civil military activities to strengthen social cohesion. Women peacekeepers play a lead role in building trust with communities.

Photo by Pasqual Gorriz

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) conducted its first all women foot patrol in 2017 with ten peacekeepers from Ghana, Ireland, Italy, Republic of Korea, Malaysia and the Netherlands. This initial patrol in Rumaysh, South Lebanon, is now a regular practice by the Mission. It is often easier for women to engage with other women in the local community

Photo by Harandane Dicko

Soldiers of the Togolese contingent of the UN Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, visit a village in the region of Mopti, to engage with the local population and provide medical care during military operation Furaji II.

Photo by Pasqual Gorriz

Cambodia is a country that faces many challenges due to land mines, a legacy of three decades of war. In response, the country has developed a large cadre of mine-clearance experts. For the past two decades, Cambodian experts have served as military or civilian de-miners in several UN peacekeeping operations. Here, a Cambodian de-mining team deployed with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) works in a mine field near the Blue Line, in the vicinity of Yaroun, south Lebanon.

Photo by Kevin Jordan

As part of its mandate to protect civilians, Indian peacekeepers serving with the UN Mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, met with residents of Lac Vert, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city of Goma, in North Kivu province. India is one of the largest contributors to UN Peacekeeping and became a pioneer in providing women peacekeepers when it deployed an all-women Formed Police Unit to Liberia in 2007.

Photo by Harandane Dicko

Guinea is one of the major troop contributors to the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The peacekeepers are based in Kidal, Northern Mali. They help to secure the Mission’s camp as well as to improve the security of the civilian population, including by conducting land mine and improvised explosive device searches. Here, a peacekeeper drives a forklift on the UN base.

Photo by MONUSCO Force

In 2017, Bangladesh, one of the largest contributors to UN Peacekeeping, deployed women pilots for the first time when they sent Flight Lieutenants Nayma Haque and Tamanna-E-Lutfi to serve with the UN Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO). Here, the two officers stand proudly in front of their helicopter.

Photo by Hervé Serefio

Senegal has deployed an Air Force squadron to the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) since 2015. The unit helps improve security in the country by providing a tactical aviation unit to support ground troops in carrying out their protection of civilian tasks. The unit, which is composed of 100 peacekeepers, conducts daily air patrols and gathers information using advanced camera technology. Here, a Senegalese peacekeeper helps to maintain an attack helicopter in Bangui.

Photo by Harandane Dicko

These two Swedish Marines served with the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in 2018. They were part of the Mission’s community engagement team that connected with the local population to build support for the peace process and to gather critical information for MINUSMA to carry out its mandate effectively. Sweden is among the leaders in contributing women peacekeepers to the UN.

Photo by Logan Abassi

Air assets play a key role in helping to implement mission mandates in some of the vast countries and rugged terrain in which the UN operates. In recent years, the number of women peacekeepers serving in aviation units has increased, including pilots, crew and maintenance staff. Here, a member of the Chilean aviation unit with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) readies an aircraft for takeoff.

Photo by Pasqual Gorriz

Enhanced patrolling by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has helped keep the peace in the south of the country. Here, a Spanish peacekeeper patrols at night along the Blue Line on the outskirts of Kafar Kela.

UN Photo

In August 2014, Major General Kristin Lund of Norway became the first woman to command a United Nations peacekeeping force, when she became the Force Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) where she served for two years. In October 2017, she was appointed as the Head of Mission and Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). Here, Major General Lund views the terrain from an observation point within UNTSO’s area of operation.

Photo by UNIFCYP

Peacekeepers from Indonesia serving in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) are here featured in the outskirts of Taybe, patrolling along the Blue Line. Robust patrolling plays a key role in preventing incidents in the area.

Photo by UNFICYP

The UN Mission in Cyprus, UNFICYP, has stepped up preventative measures against COVID-19 while continuing patrols in the buffer zone. Here, Force Commander Cheryl Pearce is with peacekeepers from Slovakia, conducting an assessment visit. Strict social distancing, hygiene, and sanitation rules are in place for all UN personnel.

Photo by Michael Ali

Medical assistance to local communities is one of many ways UN peacekeepers positively impact the lives of civilians and help to build trust. Here, South African military medics with the UN Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) administer first aid to a child.

Photo by Albert Gonzalez Ferran

UN peacekeepers were deployed to Liberia from 2003 to 2018. Throughout that time, Nigeria was among the top contributors to the operation and deployed a significant number of women military and police personnel.


Photo by Harandane Dicko

The region of Menaka, Mali, has experienced insecurity as a result of attacks by extremist groups and other armed elements. Peacekeepers from the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) help protect and secure the civilian population. Here, a Chadian police officer and her colleagues carry out a foot patrol.

Photo by Katarina Zahorska

Military, police and civilian components of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) help maintain law and order in Cyprus’s Buffer Zone as well as carry out humanitarian activities. Here, Vildana Sedo, a Senior Police Officer from Bosnia and Herzegovina is on duty at the Mission’s headquarters in Nicosia. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which once hosted UN peacekeeping operations, is now a regular contributor to peace missions.

Photo by Nektarios Markogiannis

Protecting civilians is one of the primary tasks of UN Peacekeeping. When the local population fled violence in South Sudan, many sought shelter at UN bases. In response to the large number of civilians who arrived at UN premises throughout the country seeking shelter and protection, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) set up ‘Protection of Civilian’ sites (POCs). Here a member of the Rwandan Formed Police Unit protects the perimeter of a POC site.

Photo by Harandane Dicko

To ensure the security of Mali’s Presidential election in July 2018, the UN Mission in Mali, MINUSMA deployed a military and police presence throughout the country. Here, a UN Police officer from Cameroon talks with a local official outside a polling station in Mopti.

Photo by Marco Dormino

Bangladesh is among a handful of countries that have provided an all-women unit to UN Peacekeeping operations. Here, a Bangladeshi FPU arrives in Haiti to serve with the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Their commitment and bravery was the subject of an award-winning documentary: “A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers.”

Photo by Harandane Dicko

United Nations Police (UNPOL) officers carry out frequent patrols in Timbuktu, Mali,to secure the city against threats of terrorism and armed conflict. Here, an UNPOL officer from Niger greets a woman while on patrol in the city.

Photo by Eskinder Debebe

Gladys Ngwepekeum Nkeh, a UN Police Officer from Cameroon serving with the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), conducts a session on gender-based violence at a school in Bangui. Gladys was so recognized and respected for the support she gave to the women and girls of Bangui that one grateful mother named her child after her.

Photo by Albert Gonzalez

Women Police Officers serving with the Chinese FPU deployed in Liberia made a big impression during their stay in the West African country. They participated in long-range patrols, helped mentor local police officers and conducted extensive outreach to the local community.

Photo by Marco Dormino

The women of the Burkinabe FPU have been crucial to its success. Here, the FPU is providing an armed escort for a joint UN Police and Malian National Guard patrol in the streets of Gao, to ensure general security and maintain law and order.

Photo by Leonora Baumann

UN Police officers played a major role in a community engagement campaign in Haiti to sensitize the population about the UN’s zero tolerance policy towards sexual exploitation and abuse. Here, two UN Police officers from Canada and their Haitian police counterparts speak with women in a busy market in the capital Port-auPrince to inform them about the existing channels to report allegations of misconduct.

Photo by Marco Dormino

Reforming, rebuilding and restructuring police and other law enforcement institutions in post-conflict and fragile states lies at the core of United Nations policing.Training local police is a big part of this effort. These members of the Senegalese Formed Police Unit (FPU) of the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) are participating in a training on maintaining and restoring public order at the Police Academy in Bamako.

Photo by Victoria Hazou

Professional corrections systems are a fundamental part of the rule of law. The UN deploys corrections officers to its UN peacekeeping operations to train and mentor national counterparts. Here, a corrections officer from Rwanda talks to a detainee at the women’s prison in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Photo by MONUSCO

Maimouna Samna, a police officer from Niger serving with the UN Mission in DR Congo, MONUSCO, is helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by raising awareness about the virus among Road Traffic Police officers in Bukavu, South Kivu. UN peacekeepers are continuing to execute their mandates while helping to keep themselves and others safe.

Photo by Gaspar Da Costa

Unaisi Bolatolu-Vuniwaqa is the first woman to serve as Police Commissioner with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). She began her service as a police officer, rising quickly through the ranks to command the Fijian UN police contingent before becoming Deputy Police Commissioner and then Police Commissioner. Since her appointment in 2018, she has been working with countries to increase the deployment of women police officers. Here, Commissioner Bolatolu Vuniwaqa speaks to members of the South Sudanese police force.



UN Peacekeeping

We help countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace.