UN Women Supported Armed Forces Report on Opportunities launched

For Women in Peacekeeping…

Dr. Fatima Maada Bio and Mrs. Olena Zelenska,

By Amin Kef Sesay

The UN Resident Coordinator (UN RC), Babatunde Ahonsi, has assured the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and development partners that the UN system would continue working on efforts leading to a higher representation of the forces’ women in United Nations peacekeeping operations.

Additionally, he promised the support of the UN in the follow-up interventions emerging from the assessment.

Speaking at the official launch of the RSLAF 2022 Report on Results of the Measuring Opportunities for Women in Peace Operations (MOWIP) Assessment and in the wake of the recent enactment of the gender equality and women’s empowerment law, the UN Resident Coordinator acknowledged the successful efforts to increase the number of women during the last five years.

“Currently, women make up 12% of the armed forces compared to 6% in 2018. The percentage doubled in four years,” the RC said and congratulated the RSLAF leadership for that.

He noted that the increased participation of women in peacekeeping operations has been shown to improve the effectiveness of missions, ensure better access to local communities, particularly women, and enhanced the promotion of human rights and protection of civilians.

According to the RC, the report will “provide an evidence base for future engagements to do things differently to achieve increased women’s participation and representation in all levels of peace operations.”

To address some of the challenges identified in the report, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Lt. General P.K. Lavahun, in his remarks, said that the RSLAF will take bold affirmative actions to address those barriers both as an institution and jointly with support from partners, like UN Women and the Elsie Initiative Fund.

He announced that he had directed the appointment of a female officer to sit as a member at the Ministry of Defence/RSLAF decision-making Committee. Also, he stated, “the appointment of a female officer as a Battalion Second-in-Command to bring more women into senior leadership roles.”

The CDS said this would be on-going based on their fast-tracked capacity building and positioning in the leadership spectrum.

Lt. General Lavahun also said the report holds vital lessons for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and RSLAF in renewing their attention to the barriers and imbalances that hold down the upward mobility of women in their quest for equality and meaningful participation in peace operations.

“The MoD/RSLAF’s Expression of Interest to the Elsie Secretariat Steering Committee was motivated by our commitment to overcome gendered hierarchies and stereotypes and the need to address systemic and structural barriers, with the support of the Elsie Fund,” the CDS disclosed.

The assessment was welcomed by Lt General Lavahun with calls for UN Women, the Elsie Initiative Fund’s Secretariat, and its partners to support the RSLAF to overcome those barriers and chart clear pathways to make progress in the deployment of women to UN Peace Support Operations.

The assessment used four data collection tools: a fact-finding form (FFF), key decision-maker interviews, a focus group with women personnel, and a survey. It examined the Force’s ability to deploy women to and ensure their meaningful participation in UN peacekeeping through ten issue areas. Data collection was from November 2021 to February 2022.

The report revealed the statistics of the current female strength in the RSLAF is 12%, and those on UN peacekeeping are close to 28% within the armed forces.

The ceremony was chaired by Ms Valnora Edwin, President of Africa Women Leaders Network. She said the report was timely coming in the wake of the GEWE Law enactment and congratulated the RSLAF on the venture. Ms. Edwin also hoped that the barriers identified in the report and the associated recommendations for addressing them would be used by RSLAF leadership to significantly improve women’s representation in UN peace operations and the Forces as a whole.

The report was launched by the Director General of the Ministry of Defence, Mohamed Daboh.

Elsie Initiative Fund for Uniformed Women in Peace operations funded the research.







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