Life Lessons Learnt as a Peacekeeper in UNAMID

Proud Pakistani Female Peacekeepers

“The theme of this year’s observance ­— Women in Peacekeeping — highlights their central role in our operations. Women often have greater access in the communities we serve, enabling us to improve the protection of civilians, promote human rights and enhance overall performance. This is especially important today, as female peacekeepers are on the frontlines in supporting the response to COVID-19 in already fragile contexts — using local radio to spread public health messaging, delivering necessary supplies to communities for prevention, and supporting efforts of local peacebuilders. Yet, women continue to represent only 6 per cent of uniformed military, police, justice and corrections personnel in field missions. As we commemorate the 20th anniversary of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, we must do more to achieve women’s equal representation in all areas of peace and security. 
Together, let us continue to wage peace, defeat the pandemic and build a better future.”

Secretary General's Message on International Day of UN Peacekeepers,May 29, 2020

Maj Dr. Amna Malik
Medical Officer & Public Health Specialist in Pakistan Field Hospital-11, UNAMID, Sudan
“I am extremely grateful to Pakistan Army for selecting me as part of an international mission to serve humanity; being an ambassador of global peace is a major achievement for me as a Pakistani and as a healer. Serving in UNAMID has been the most amazing and challenging experience of my life.”
Maj Dr. Saima Yasmin
Lady Regimental Officer (RMO), Level 1 Hospital, UNAMID, Sudan
“Wearing the blue helmet, stethoscope around the neck and keeping the aid box in hand while on patrolling duties along with a spectacular team to decrease the sufferings of impoverished people of Darfur, gives me great joy and satisfaction. I cannot forget the smiling faces of children who raise the slogans of ‘Pakistan Zindabad.’ Wearing the UN uniform with the Pakistani flag is a matter of extreme pride. Female peacekeepers and healers are playing a vital role in promoting peace both regionally and globally.”
Maj sadaf javaid
Pakistan Army Information Computer Technology Officer, MONUSCO, Democratic Republic of the Congo
“My work as Military Public Information Officer with Pak RDB involves projection of selfless and indelible role that peacekeeping troops play to ensure protection of civilians. It is inspiring to see people from all over the world, uniformed or otherwise, with different cultures, values, traditions and attitude, working together effortlessly to bring peace and strengthen various institutions of the host country. I feel myself blessed and humbled to be chosen to contribute to world peace in my own capacity.”
Sqn Ldr Hifsah Zaman
MONUSCO, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Proudly wearing my blue helmet, I strive to do my part in ensuring a thriving future for Congolese children and a safe and peaceful community for adults. Female peacekeepers have proven that they can perform the same roles to the same standards and under the same difficulties as their male colleagues. I am proud to work alongside my teammates to further the mission of peacekeeping as a woman, a mother, and a warrior.”

Life Lessons Learnt as a Peacekeeper in UNAMID
I believe everything starts with a dream! And then you can add a lot of abstracts and hard work alongside perseverance, and it becomes your destiny; add time and patience, and you might end up making your dreams come true! Working for United Nations—African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has been such a dream! Blue berets, Darfur and UNAMID equals adventure, I tell you! But beyond the adventures and roller coaster rides I learned a lot along the way! I can narrate a million experiences but let’s start with the top 10!

In The Times of COVID-19
Being an epidemiology doctor here at Force Medical Office (FMO) cell has taught me how to apply multi-dimensional roles, so when COVID-19 struck the world in December, there was a lot of apprehension and concerns regarding the virus spread and infection. My job has been to collect and correlate data from WHO and John Hopkins, make a comprehensive brief everyday specially for African countries and then devise ways and methods to prevent Covid-19 in UNAMID, and allay fears. It required making campaigns, delivering lectures and imparting knowledge via video calls to all troops contributing countries and Police Contributing Countries (PCCs). From the province of Wuhan to this virus being labelled as a pandemic to subsequently coming to Sudan, we have faced and followed it all keeping a close eye on repercussions it could have if we have a case in UNAMID. The medical aspect is one part, and then comes surviving in the town of Elfasher, completely locked down, away from your home country with only one thing as your saviour … Hope! Hope in times of coronavirus is what keeps us here!
Flag-Bearer of Pakistan
I hail from Pakistan. Land of the Pure, yes! Land of acolorful spectrum of people, Yes! I have always been patriotic besides the instillation of this sentiment being from the military. But how much I love my country, I came face-to-face with this realization when I was given the honor to represent my country at so many different forums in front of so many nations. 
When you’re the flag-bearer of your country, with immense pride comes great responsibility. How you talk becomes a duty, how you portray your culture becomes your obligation, how you interact with people becomes a concern; you have to walk the talk! I tell you, I haven’t felt more pride than when a Sudanese local asked me about my nationality and I said I was from Pakistan! And they were so happy and welcoming! I knew that my predecessors have left a legacy for me to follow, and not only has that legacy prevailed, it endures! When moving through the towns, you see locals chanting the slogans of Victory equals V for Pakistan. You just can’t help being elevated and ponder upon one thing; people will forget who you are, people will forget what you did, people will forget who Sana is but they will never forget one country … Pakistan! It is my sole identity here and everywhere around the world!
There is No “I” in a Team
The lessons I learnt while working as a cohesive, well-orchestrated team for FMO cell helped me to  empower myself not only as an individual but as a team player … whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life here in UNAMID or whether that power is held by my friends, only time can tell.
The power of teamwork is a life lesson that the UNAMID has taught me; I am sure it will stand the test of time forever. My military training back home has a long, time-honored tradition of shaping individuals into rigorous, fulfilling, and organized team cohorts. The traditions, amalgamation and fortitude of a congealed unit magnify the accomplishments of a team. If you are just starting your journey to becoming a better person than you were the day before, don't think that you can achieve it all by yourself. Two Pakistanis in one office, one formidable tea: Maj Dr. Amna Khan and I, we juggle everything between us whether it’s the Daily Flight Schedule, or the coordination or making the briefs or delivering the lectures. It has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life to be working with her, learning from her meticulous nature. 1 plus 1 truly is 11 if you believe in the magic of teamwork coupled with camaraderie and friendship! And this stands not only for professional life but personal as well! When you know, someone has your back, you are invincible!
The Power of Intense Focus
There are times when a peacekeeper is faced with situations that come with a lot of noise. My military background helps me stay on task and focused. The ability to silence distractions is a critical skill that allows me to quickly assess situations and identify solutions that yield positive outcomes. This ability to keep my bearings allow me as a peacekeeper to focus more on what people are saying rather than on how they say it. Working in UNAMID as an Acting Medevac Coordinator alongside my mentor Maj Dr. Amna Khan, Chief Medevac Coordinator, allows us to sustain a lot of pressure while conducting medical evacuations in a very diverse environment of UN. Not only are you dealing with multiple components of Aviation and Movcon, most importantly you are dealing with patients from respective contingents. Getting them from destination A to destination B under duress requires harnessing your focus and your concentration. 
Leadership Skills
I learned everything about being a leader while being an inspector with the Contingent Own Equipment (COE) team including discipline, consistency, ethics and respect. You can learn leadership and management skills anywhere, but being an inspector gave me a lot of opportunity to channelize and streamline it. It has been a very humbling experience visiting all the contingents for inspection of their hospitals and their equipment according to COE guidelines and UN mandate. Besides being a novel experience, learning independent decision making in diverse environments gives you confidence in your own skills and gives you new rigor to gear up for more. One method I learned is ‘distributed decision making’. This involves pushing responsibility and culpability as far down in the organization as possible. This requires training and clear accountability. When implemented well, this method promotes creativity and autonomy at many levels of the organization, rather than creating a bottleneck at different tiers.
They say in the military, if something stays the same for too long, it starts to feel strange. You are constantly moving to new places, meeting different people from diverse backgrounds, changing versatile roles in duties and deploying to different locations whenever duty calls. Change is the only thing constant, that is what I learnt in Darfur! If we, in our capacity, push through changes quickly, accept circumstances and mold ourselves according to the environment, professionalism endures! Travelling far and wide into harsh terrains of Darfur opened my mind to a lot of different horizons. You appreciate your blessings more in difficult times under a different sky with the same stars! Solitude comes with adaptability and flexibility. There is a difference in travelling on a Turkish Airlines Air Bus and then going from one desert airstrip to another on an MI-17, when the sun is shining bright, at 41-degree celsius! Adventure yes, but adapting yourself requires a change of mindset and that is what I have proudly learnt at UNAMID!
Resourcefulness, Flexibility and Persistence
Peacekeepers bring a sense of resourcefulness, boldness and leadership not seen under normal circumstances, because here we are faced with the challenge of getting the job done without access to the resources that would ideally be available. So here is a shout out to all peacekeepers in all missions from all countries! Doing your best even when the circumstances are less than ideal and sticking to the tasks and seeing them through completion through sheer persistence is something you learn bit by bit.
Learning Cultures, Making Friends and Respecting People
And when I got to Sudan, everything and everyone was completely different. I had to deal with different kinds of people from different countries with different kinds of attitudes and personalities. Yet despite all of it, it was not hard for me to embrace the way people live here. I may not belong to the same culture or tradition, but they deserve my utmost respect. And out of that respect comes acceptance and then lifelong friendships. You see inspiration everyday even when you’re not seeking it. And here’s a newsflash: you make friends everyday too from every colour, every creed and every country. These friends become your impetuses for everyday life. These people are my mentors, my guides and my inspirations, which to-date fuels my passion. I believe that moment-to-moment human interaction contains an incalculable soul. I believe there is something paradoxical, too eccentric and too interactive to be mimicked by machines that we are so used to now. For 11 months that I have been living here in this foreign land, God has taught me how to live a simple life, how to cherish people who matter, how to appreciate little acts of kindness and how to be grateful.

One of the core values of UN, protection of civilians, being doctors has always been our mandate. But one such incident really brought this core value closer to my heart. Three women stuck in the far-flung town of Sortony, where the only medical facility is a Level 1 Hospital,  were fighting the war between life and death. Their initial checkup was done by Maj Dr. Abbas Akhunzada, who not only stabilized and resuscitated them but also coordinated with us at the Force Headquaters for their emergency medical evacuation! You realize in difficult times that humanity stands above all, that empathy is what makes the world go around irrespective of any cast or creed the foremost duty in that time is to Save Lives!

Maj Sadaf Zahra
Industrial/Organizational and Clinical Psychologist, MONUSCO, Democratic Republic of the Congo
“As a part of FET at DRC/MONUSCO, I have contributed towards enhancing the capacities of locals to improve their psychological wellbeing. Being a stress counselor, I plan to implement game therapy and child protection strategies with children aiming to enhance emotional management as well as problem solving ability. My work here gives me great satisfaction and a feeling that I’m not only serving my country but humanity as well.”
Maj Farah Nazneen Bhutta
Deputy Chief of Staff Operations, MONUSCO, Democratic Republic of the Congo
“I feel proud for what I have accomplished so far under the United Nations flag, for myself, my country and especially for the women in DRC. I have pledged to accept the challenge and will try to make the difference in the world.”

Maj Amara Balqees
Deputy Chief Info Ops, IO Cell, MONUSCO, Democratic Republic of the Congo
“Serving both the United Nations and Pakistan has provided me with an incredible opportunity to learn and develop on both professional and personal levels. The opportunity to contribute to world peace by serving in the MONUSCO brings me great pride.”
Maj Uzma Saeed
Force Signal Officer, UNFICYP, Cyprus
“Being a soldier and a peacekeeper, I am always fully charged and highly spirited to do my job here. The medal I received for peacekeeping not only lies on my chest, my soul wears it with passion, commitment and honour. My tribute to all the peacekeepers across the globe! A great job requires great sacrifices and pride and we are willing to offer those!”

The Best of All … Cherishing Family
Profound experiences bring about profound impacts. Everything resonates more when you are away from home! So, when you see someone’s mother, you remember your own calling you for dinner! When you see couples smile, you have a Déjà vu so intense it pulls at your heart. You miss your siblings, the advice of your parents, you recall each and every face over and over again. I realize home is people, not a place! And when you are away from your home, thousands of miles away, in middle of a deserted town, where the only semblance of family are your friends, you become more grateful, and  cherish each person more. A single call from home means the world to you here in Sudan! It brings you hope, it becomes your motivation to go through each day ceaselessly! Sure, there are times you want to give up, break down. While I’m serving here in Darfur, my better half was serving in Central African Republic. We shared borders but still we couldn’t see each other. Life brings up tough choices at times, but it is your support to each other in times like these through, which you survive! Now my better half is in Pakistan, and I’m here all the way in Africa struck down by a pandemic with no clarity as to when this will all end. But what gets me through everyday are all the people, all the faces, all the memories and hope that they are missing me exactly the way I miss them in this foreign land! I believe God fights your battles if you have faith. He can carry you through. So, I trust Him, keep believing and keep hoping! HH



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