Bangladeshi female peacekeepers are brightening the country’s image abroad like their male counterparts as they are performing their responsibilities with utmost sincerity, dutifulness and professional attitudes to maintain peace in different trouble-torn regions of the world in line with the country’s commitment to women empowerment.
Bangladesh is the second largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping, as currently more than 6,543 military and police personnel are deployed to the UN peacekeeping missions globally.According to sources, a total of 1803 Bangladeshi female peacekeepers have so far served in different UN Peacekeeping Missions, while the number of Bangladeshi women peacekeepers currently working are 256.
Bangladesh’s role in the UN peacekeeping was highly appreciated on different occasions by the world leaders and the United Nations (UN) top officials including the Secretary General.
This year the International Day of UN Peacekeepers has been observed in the country like in other countries in a befitting manner. The theme of this year’s day is – “Women in Peacekeeping – highlights their central role in our operations”.
On the eve of the day, two female Bangladeshi peacekeepers, who are now engaged in peace operations in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), talked to this correspondent virtually and shared their experiences in performing their duties there.
The two — Bangladesh Army Major Jesmin Akter and Bangladesh Air Force Squadron Leader Sohana Chowdhury — said that the security and social safety status is very comfortable in the UN peacekeeping mission and it is preserved consciously with a very high priority by all segments of the mission.
Jasmin Akter, who is now in Central African Republic (CAR), described her duty in the UN peacekeeping mission as “challenging” like her classic military job.“However, there are few challenges to perform responsibilities like impediments of different culture and language as well as adopting with hostilities and new nature of assignments,” she said.
In addition, she said, as a female officer staying away from family and children is another challenge.
While Sohana Chowdhury said that there is no barrier to discharging duties as a female officer in MINUSCA.
“The environment is very friendly to any gender. Currently Bangladesh is participating in 10 UN Missions,” she said.
Major Jasmin informed that a total of 1078 female peacekeepers of different countries are presently working in MINUSCA, and 17 of them are Bangladeshis.
“I do feel that the image of Bangladesh has been enhanced to a great extent in comparison to other participating nations, thanks to our sincerity, dutifulness and professional attitudes,” she added.
The UN Peacekeeping Mission in CAR started in the year of 2014. The different tiers of the local community are still learning about the whole functionality of the UN Peacekeeping Forces there, Shohana stated.
Jasmin said though acceptance level varies from community to community, the overall level of acceptance is quite encouraging.
“Besides the mandated tasks, we arrange free medical camp for locals, provide safe drinking water to the people in remote areas and free education for social awareness,” she said.
The army major said they also distribute sports and entertainment items to the locals to generate interest in leading healthy life.
“Bangladesh Air Force personnel are also engaged in similar activities there,” Squadron Leader Sohana Chowdhury said.
Experts hope that Bangladesh will continue to uphold its image by contributing more to the UN peacekeeping operations and establishing peace and security worldwide.
At the same time, the participation of female peacekeepers reflects Bangladesh’s commitment to women’s empowerment.
Bangladesh has a long commitment to peace and believes that UN peacekeeping can bolster the country’s image and increase its soft power.
Bangladeshi Army, Bangladesh Air Force, Bangladesh Navy and Bangladesh Police personnel of Blue Helmets, the UN personnel on the ground, have been serving with utmost reputation in maintaining peace in different trouble-torn countries under dangerous and challenging environments over the years. Bangladeshi peacekeepers have built their image through their sincere and exemplary competence and earned the trust in the “Blue Helmet” family and have remained a leading troop contributing country for decades.
This year two martyred peacekeepers of Bangladesh will be honoured at the UN Headquarters in New York at a ceremony on the occasion of the day.
They are Private Atiqul Islam who served with the MINUSCA and Police Constable Md Omar Farouk who was deployed with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
It can be mentioned that the International Day of UN Peacekeepers was established by the General Assembly in 2002 to pay tribute to all men and women serving in peacekeeping, and to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.
The General Assembly designated 29 May as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers in commemoration of the day in 1948 when the UN’s first peacekeeping mission, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began its operations.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a message on the occasion of the day. He said 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 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,” Guterres added.
The Secretary-General said: “Today we honour more than one million men and women who have served as United Nations peacekeepers and the more than 3,900 who have lost their lives in the line of duty.”
UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said women who serve in peace operations play an essential role in helping communities in the fight against COVID-19. “They must be a central part of all international, national and local responses”.
The writer is a senior journalist currently working at BSS