Drawing attention to the challenges posed by women’s under-representation in roles for preventing and ending conflicts, India has said that problem has to be met through broader development programs targeting women.
“The issue of Women, Peace and Security cannot be seen in isolation from the wider societal context involving gender and development issues,” India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin told the Security Council Monday.
Tracking the scant record of women’s participation, he said that fewer than four percent of them have signed peace agreements and less than ten percent participated in negotiaitons. In UN peacekeeping operations, only three percent of the military and ten percent of the police were women, he added.
“These numbers reflect the enormity of the challenges that we are confronted with,” he said.
Akbaruddin was participating in a Council debate on “The Role of Women in Prevention and Resolution of Conflict in Africa” where several participants spoke of enhancing the role and status of women to lessen risks of conflicts.
Even though there has been more focus on promoting women’s role in the peace and security agenda, “women and girls continue to be major victims despite being non combatants” in conflicts, he added.
Turning to UN peacekeeping operations, where India has been overall the single biggest contributor, Akbaruddin spoke of India’s efforts to raise the number of women in an area where there has only been “a marginal increase.” He noted that India provided the first ever UN women police unit for peacekeeping.
The all-women unit of over 100 women drawn from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was first deployed in 2007 in Liberia and several teams rotated through till earlier this year when their participation ended as the UN is slowly winding down operations in the west African nation scarred by a brutal civil war.
“The unit has been widely appreciated for its work and for setting a pioneering example” Akbaruddin said.
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf went to the extent of saying at their farewell that she would rather have had other units sent back and the Indian women police retained in her country. Following the deployment of the Indian women police unit, several countries have followed suit and they have been sent to various operations in places were women and girls are at significant risk.
Another significant initiative by India is the training of women women officers from various countries for the UN, Akbaruddin said. The Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping in New Delhi is running the Third United Nations Female Military Officers Course for 40 women military officers from 26 countries, he said.
India has also contributed women military observers, staff officers and medical personnel, Akbaruddin said.
After the pullout of the police unit in Liberia, there are about 25 Indian women now participating in various capacities in peacekeeping operations.
Last year at a UN summit on peacekeeping convened by President Barck Obama, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to increase the number of women to UN operations.
“Women’s empowerment is our best line of defence against militarism and violent extremism,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN-Women, the unit entrusted with promoting gender equality and empowering women. Countries where gender inequality was lower were less likely to resort to force and that where women had more say in spending societies recovered better when conflicts ended.