The inception and subsequent creation of the United Nations (UN) on October 24, 1945, was aimed at bringing peace, stability and socio-economic development to the world in the aftermath World War II. However, this mandate was not limited only to address the ravages of World War II, but was meant to prevent and manage all future conflicts in the world. While there is an on-going debate about the success of the United Nations in bringing world peace, there is no denying the fact that it has had great success in minimizing conflict and maintaining peace in many regions, as well as in its attempts for the socio-economic uplift of the populace of these areas, through its Military Observers (UNMOs), and more importantly, its peacekeeping missions.
The success of the United Nations Peacekeeping Missions to bring peace and stability to the war-torn regions of the world is dependent on troops contributing countries, with Pakistan being one of the biggest troops contributors. Initially, peacekeeping was more about maintaining peace and only gradually began to pervade other areas of life of host communities, i.e., social and economic wellbeing of the affected populace that overwhelmingly comprise women and children. As peacekeeping has evolved, women have increasingly become a part of the peacekeeping efforts. As conflict-ridden countries navigate the difficult path from conflict to peace, women peacekeepers improve overall peacekeeping performance as they have greater access to communities to help in promoting human rights and the protection of civilians, and encourage and educate women to become a meaningful part of political processes and contribute to their own and their communities’ progress by being financially independent.
Women in peacekeeping have, therefore, emerged as an operational imperative and are deployed in all areas — police, military and civilian. Pakistani peacekeeping contingents also include women as an integral part that not only complies with the UN’s gender parity standards but also shows Pakistan’s commitment to make every effort possible to fulfil its international responsibilities. Women from Pakistan work in diverse positions: UNMOs, peacekeepers, staff officers at various command headquarters, doctors, in Female Engagement Teams (FETs), as part of police units, etc. In all fields of peacekeeping, Pakistani women peacekeepers have proven that they can perform the same roles, to the same standards and under the same difficult conditions, as their male counterparts. The broadened skillset that they bring helps bring new perspectives and solutions to the table by effectively addressing the needs of women in conflict and post-conflict settings, including those of women ex-combatants and child soldiers during the process of demobilizing and reintegration into civilian life. They are also playing a crucial role in supporting and helping survivors of gender-based violence and violence against children. They also help improve access and support for local women, for example, by helping them build lives and livelihoods for themselves. Pakistani women peacekeepers serve as powerful mentors and role models for women and girls to advocate for their rights and pursue non‐traditional careers in post-conflict settings.
Pakistani women peacekeepers have played a critical role in the COVID-19 response in assisting host governments and local communities by generating awareness and providing treatment for the disease. They are making diligent efforts despite sometimes having their own families falling prey to the pandemic while they serve people with the same affliction thousands of miles away, while simultaneously implementing mission mandates within current constraints and while taking all precautionary measures.
Peacekeeping is a cornerstone of the UN’s peace and security mandate, and women peacekeepers are a key to its success. The full, equal and meaningful participation of women in peace processes and political solutions is essential for sustainable peace and more resilient societies. To celebrate and highlight the contributions of Pakistani women in this humanitarian cause, Hilal for Her has included stories of Pakistan Army Lady Officers who have served under the UN flag without faltering even when their own or their loved ones’ wellbeing was at stake. HH
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