A small team of Pakistani women is receiving major recognition for being the first all-female group from the country to carry out a UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
South Kivu Province Governor Theo Ngwabidje presented the Members of the UN’s Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) Female Engagement Team (FET) the UN medal at a ceremony in South Kivu on Friday. The UN medal is awarded for participation in military and police operations that include peacekeeping, humanitarian efforts, and disaster relief.
“This team’s extraordinary endeavors to serve the UN is worthy of praise,” said a MONUSCO press release.
The DRC is currently involved in a civil war, and over 200,000 people have fled South Kivu to escape the conflict between armed groups and government forces. A coalition of militias who identify as “Indigenous” Congolese are fighting a Rwandan cattle-herding group for power and resources. Rebel groups from neighboring countries are also thought to be contributing to the violence.
The team of 15 women stationed in the DRC in June provide a range of resources to the region. They are psychologists, stress counselors, vocational training officers, gender advisors, doctors, nurses, operations officers, information officers, and logistics officers.
#PhotoOfTheDay In Adikivu, #South_Kivu, #DRC 🇨🇩 – The first ever Pakistani Female Engagement team in any #UN 🇺🇳 mission around the world received UN #Peacekeeping medals for serving in #MONUCO. #Pakistan 🇵🇰 #A4Ppic.twitter.com/NbroYXVpVd— MONUSCO (@MONUSCO) January 31, 2020
Local community members feel more comfortable sharing information with military groups that include women and men, according to the mission.
“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,” the UN says.
So far FET has launched many successful projects. The group is actively supporting South Kivu with vocational training and medical outreach, regular trauma support sessions for students, women, and teachers, and psychological workshops for Congolese authorities.
Despite the known benefits of female peacekeepers, and the UN’s efforts to increase female participation, women still make up the minority of these groups. Lieutenant Colonel Rachel Grimes, a senior British army officer who worked for the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC in 2014, said she spoke to over 200 female officers and the majority of them said low female participation is often due to women not knowing these opportunities were available.
Another 17 female officers will join FET in early February.