When she graduated from Akagera Aviation Training School in March 2016, Lt Ariane Mwiza emerged among the best students out of the 14 Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) pilots who completed training at the school.
Lt. Mwiza was awarded by the School as the “Best Check ride Performer”. In 2017, she was deployed in the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) where she has been serving as a co-pilot of the helicopters deployed on the mission.
At the tender age of 25, she is currently in her third tour of the mission and still going strong.
Today women are deployed on peacekeeping missions as pilots, infantry soldiers, doctors or as police officers. They play a critical role in peacekeeping.
Studies show that when women are involved in peace processes, results are achieved in the short term due to their negotiating skills and understanding of situations.
However, according to the United Nations, of the 98,000 peacekeepers currently deployed in 13 missions around the world, only 6 percent of the uniformed military, police, justice, and correction personnel are women. The number is still very small.
As Rwanda joins the world to celebrate the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, KT Press spoke to Lt Mwiza on the role of women peacekeepers in restoring peace in conflict-ridden parts of the world and how more girls can be encouraged to join security forces.
Below are the excerpts from the interview with KT Press’ Edmund Kagire.
Briefly tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Lieutenant Ariane Mwiza, I’m a Helicopter pilot in the Rwanda Air force, I’m 25 years old. I did my secondary school in Lycee Notre Dame de Citeaux. I am doing international relations in university.
I did my aviation training at Akagera Aviation School in Rwanda from 2014 to 2016, when I graduated.
When did you join the United Nations Peacekeeping?
I joined the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) peacekeeping mission in 2017.
What is your experience so far? Any challenges?
When I went for my first tour of mission, I was very excited because it was my first assignment out of my country. It has been mostly fun working with people of different nationalities, experiencing new cultures, and being in a country different from home Geographically, most Challenges have only been minor Like High Temperatures and heavy rains which sometimes cause floods, some other challenges was operating in what most people think is a Man’s world, where u couldn’t find many women’s voices on the radio communicating in the air, and also some people tend to be Sceptical about being flown by a female pilot, but with time people are even way more happy to find out that it’s a Female pilot that is going to fly them.
In your view, what is the role of women in peacekeeping? Currently only 6 percent of all peacekeeping forces are women. This is a very small number. How can the number of women be scaled up?
Women in peacekeeping play a big role, mostly promoting and protecting women’s rights and fighting against gender-based violence.
The number of females in peacekeeping missions can be levelled up by encouraging young women to join military, police mostly, introducing mentorship programmes for young girls in the areas where we operate. And enhancing living conditions as per the needs of women and by bridging liaisons between peacekeeping forces and women in conflict zones which will create trust in women hence encouraging them to join the peacekeeping journey.
In terms of inspiring and creating role models, Women peacekeepers serve as powerful mentors and role models for women and girls in post-conflict settings in the host community, setting examples for them to advocate for their own rights and pursue non‐traditional careers.
Women peacekeepers are essential enablers to build trust and confidence with local communities and help improving access and support for local women, for example, by interacting with women in societies where women are prohibited from speaking to men.
Last but not least, Women peacekeepers improve access to the population, including women and children – for example, when it comes to interviewing and supporting survivors of gender-based violence, women peacekeepers play a vital role in helping the victims to get support.
What does representing your country as a peacekeeper mean for you?
Representing my country is a big honour for me, because whatever I do, I do it under my country’s name and flag. And whenever my country is involved in helping bring back peace to conflict torn areas/regions it gives me a feeling of accomplishment and pride in what I stand for and do as a female in service
Take us through your typical day at work. What does your assignment look like?
Typically, my work starts a day before, by receiving details of the nature of the mission I’ll conduct then start by planning for the flight and I come in the morning with everything set. I ready myself and head over to the operations office for the mission’s briefing which includes filing a flight plan and verifying all the needed paperwork.
Before I head over to the aircraft, to perform pre-flight inspections, that is checking the state of the aircraft, before heading into the cockpit and fly.
What message can you give to young girls who probably think joining armed forces is a difficult task?
The military is the most diverse and favourable working environment for all kinds of careers from Doctors to Engineers and Pilots. So, joining the military is the best choice you can make, and I encourage many young girls to join, because if I have made this far, they can too.