An army of women has joined forces in Abu Dhabi in a bid to end tyranny and violence by being champions of peace.
The National received exclusive access to see 157 cadets put themselves through their paces during an intensive 10-week program training at the Khawla bint Al Azwar Military School, inside the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces Base Mahawi.
All had their reasons for being in the capital as they embarked on a key stage of their journey to enlist in the UN. maintain the peace body.
Some were spurred on by a desire to see an end to conflict in their home countries, while others relished the opportunity to be part of a military collective.
Fatima Anne T Mendy, an immigration officer from Gambia, in her 40s, said she had never held a gun until arriving in Abu Dhabi.
The results of Ms. Mendy’s stay in the capital were evident when she picked up an M-16 rifle and aimed at a target ahead of her.
Its training was vital because peacekeepers could be sent to some of the most hostile parts of the world, seeking to protect civilians and maintain order in countries still ravaged by the effects of war, where ceasefires the fire can be fragile.
“I had never held a gun before, but now I am confident that I can defend myself and even others in any situation,” Ms Mendy said. The National, who was granted access to the training ground.
“This training will help women to be heard in the security sector and to make a difference in all the missions to which they are sent.
“For me, it was a big advantage to be trained by the United Arab Emirates Defense Forces. It was a great experience that will help me contribute to the safety and security of victims of conflict and unrest.
The program was organized by the General Union of Women in partnership with UN Women and the Ministry of Defence.
The Emirates are the first country to train UN Women peacekeepers under an agreement signed in September 2018.
“I can make a difference”
Second Lieutenant Doha Harbi Sharhan from Iraq was eager to take the opportunity to hone her skills.
“I joined this training course because it was the first time that female Iraqi officers had undergone training abroad,” she said.
“This experience was quite different considering that there are no military camps for women in Iraq.”
Growing up in Baghdad and seeing unrest and violence in her home country, Lt. Sharhan said she understood the importance of peace and stability.
“I love being in the military,” she said. “Many of my family members were also in the army. I believe I can make a difference.
Lt Remadji Stéphanie, from Chad, also wants to help build a better future.
“I am determined to return home to help end the terrorism and violence we face at the hands of Boko Haram, not through violence but through peace,” she said.
Another participant, Major Luljeta Mehmeti Quigley from Kosovo, said she wanted to see more women in peacekeeping.
“The importance of women’s participation in UN peacekeeping missions is more critical than ever,” she said. “Female peacekeepers can bring a different touch and they are able to serve the same as men anywhere in any peacekeeping mission.
champions of peace
Khawla bint Al Azwar Military School, the region’s first military college for women, established in 1990, hosted the first programs under the partnership in 2019 and 2020.
The UAE has so far trained 357 female cadets, many of whom come from Arab, African and Asian countries.
The third class included women from 15 countries, including Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Gambia, Senegal and Pakistan.
Dressed in UAE military uniform, the women gathered at the training ground each morning.
“How are our morale? Brigadier Afra Saeed Al Falasi, commander of the military school, asked the cadets, the enthusiastic response being immediate: “High. High. High.”
During the course, the women underwent eight weeks of military training and two weeks of peacekeeping, covering combat, weapons, shooting, drills and first aid.
“Cadets experience a change in their lives during military training,” said Brig Al Falasi.
“It prepares them for a transition from civilian life to military life, teaches them patience and raises their awareness.
“The course strengthens their personality, prepares them for emergency situations, teaches them self-defense, how to protect their environment and equips them with the skills to perform any task,” said Brig Al Falasi, who belongs to the first class of female officers to pass out from military school in 1990.
Increasing the representation of women is essential
Although women are playing an increasingly important role in UN peacekeeping missions, progress remains to be made.
In 1993, only 1% of all deployed uniformed personnel were women.
In 2012, women made up 3% of military personnel and 10% of police personnel in UN peacekeeping operations, according to the UN.
Currently, women make up nearly 30% of international civilians working in peacekeeping and special protection missions.
Dr. Mouza Al Shehhi, director of the UN Women Liaison Office for the GCC, said enhancing women’s participation was less about gender equality and more about getting the right people for the job.
“It’s about generating and advocating for solutions that reflect the needs of all people in conflict situations and addressing the underlying conditions that create the conflict in the first place,” she said.
“Women’s leadership in peace and security helps dismantle the systems that allow violence to happen in the first place.
“Data shows that women’s participation in peace processes increased the likelihood of a peace agreement lasting at least two years by 20% and the likelihood of it lasting 15 years by 35%.
“Yet this year, women made up 19% of delegations to UN-led peace processes, up from 23% in 2020.
“These data strongly emphasize the importance of capacity building for women in peace and highlight the uniqueness of this training program which has a direct impact on capacity building and empowers women to start or improve careers in peace and security. ”
Updated: November 21, 2022, 03:56