Women’s History Month recap: Strong past & bright future for women peacebuilders
By: Maya Kelly
In many parts of the world, Women’s History Month in March is an occasion to celebrate and recognize the contributions that women have made to advance women’s rights, equality, and better lives for all. In a month-long campaign that kicked off ahead of 8 March, International Women’s Day, UN Peacekeeping featured trailblazing women peacebuilders from civil society, local partners, and women peacekeepers.
Take a look back on some of these inspiring women who shattered glass ceilings, and who continue to charter their own path to peace.
Week 1 Highlights
In 2015, Alokiir Malual made history as the only woman to have signed a peace agreement in South Sudan.
Fast forward to 2018, Alokiir was one of the seven women signatories of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, after she successfully advocated for a 35 per cent quota of women represented in the agreement.
In a #ThrowbackThursday post, we featured peacekeepers from the Indian Armed Forces Medical Services, being deployed to the UN Peacekeeping Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) in 1960.
We paid tribute to #WomenInPeacekeeping pioneer, former MINURSO Deputy Force Commander, Brigadier General Constance Emefa Edjeani-Afenu.
Constance was a woman of many firsts, she was the:
- 1st Woman Commanding Officer for Ghana Armed Forces
- 1st Woman Deputy Military Adviser for the permanent mission of Ghana to the UN
- 1st Brigadier-General for the Ghana Armed Forces
- 1st Woman Deputy Force Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO)
She passed in January 2022 after a brief illness. Her legacy lives on and continues to inspire.
Week 2 Highlights
On 8 March, we marked International Women’s Day. This year’s theme was, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” recognizing the contribution of women and girls leading climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response. We highlighted women from civil society and peacekeeping operations spearheading environmental initiatives.
Superintendent Sangya Malla of Nepal leads the UN Peacekeeping Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO)’s health and environment unit, which works to prevent and mitigate risks posed by various diseases through good environmental practices.
Their current project is donating solar panels in Kalemie, DRC.
Eva Psalti is a member of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP)’s Youth Champions for Environment & Peace programme.
She is raising awareness about environmental issues like pollution, desertification, mining and threats to biodiversity through social media.
To learn more about Eva’s work, read this article.
Jihann Shaheen is an Environmental Officer working for the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
She believes that, “Every calamity offers new potentials. COVID-19 can and should be turned into an opportunity to embrace eco-friendly policies and protect flora and fauna.”
Week 3 Highlights
Magda Zenon is a peace and human rights activist in the women’s movement in Cyprus.
A member of the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network, Magda focuses on the inclusion of Cypriot women in the overall peace process.
Think sexism and discouragement will stop women from participating in peacekeeping? Think again!
Watch #WomenInPeacekeeping respond to their naysayers who didn’t believe they would come this far.
From taking up arms to fighting for peace, ex-combattant Guetel Moiba Esther Adrienne is the only woman to have signed the Central African Republic’s Peace Agreement and one of the few women on the commission to implement the agreement .
To learn more about women transforming peace, read this article.
Week 4 Highlights
In 1992, Margaret Joan Anstee of the United Kingdom became the first woman to lead a UN Peacekeeping mission, heading the UN Angola Verification Mission II, and serving as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the African nation.
To learn more about her legacy as a gender pioneer, read this article.
Working with the UN Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was a dream come true for Assessment Team Leader Ragini Kumari of India.
She felt the immense impact of her work on the ground in South Sudan where she provided security to civilians, predominantly women and children.
Week 5 Highlights
Cultural & traditional barriers did not stop Fatima Khamis of Sudan from pursuing her passion for math & science. She works as a Network Engineer with the UN Peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
She hopes that her story will inspire other women to pursue jobs in science & technology.
With tensions rife in her country of the Central African Republic (CAR), trailblazing activist Lina Ekomo paves the way towards peace.
She is fighting to ensure women’s leadership becomes a norm in her home country of CAR and across Africa.
Women’s History Month is a time to reflect on and celebrate the important contributions of women to peacebuilding. Sustainable peace cannot be achieved without the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in peace processes and decision-making.
Though much progress still needs to be made, through the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, UN Peacekeeping works to empower women in the communities we serve as well as women peacekeepers to lead as active agents of peace.