Corporal Justin Kanyana was all smiles when asked if it is difficult being a uniformed woman peacekeeper.
This year’s theme for the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers marked May 29, every year is: “Women in Peacekeeping: A Key to Peace.”
The theme highlights their central role in peacekeeping operations.
This year’s Day coincided with the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
“We are very capable much as our male colleagues are… arguably better because women are natural peacemakers. We are happy UN acknowledges the special role played by women peacekeepers,” says Corporal Kanyana.
She is a member of Rwanda Formed Police Unit (FPU2) contingent serving under the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
Needless to say, Kanyana is one of dozens of Rwandan women peacekeepers providing protection in the PoC (Protection of Civilians) camps.
While her work is even more challenging during this COVID-19 crisis, she remains committed.
“I feel proud to help displaced women in our friendly country to resolve their problems and make them feel secure.
As a woman from a country that has previously suffered from the Genocide against Tutsi in 1994, I feel proud to be working for peace here,” says Kanyana.
Her experience is shared by her colleague, Sergeant Janet Kagwera also serving in UNMISS.
Sergeant Kagwera held the UN and South Sudan flags high at an all-woman parade of fellow military and police officers from Ethiopia, China, Rwanda and Nepal to mark the 2020 UN Peacekeepers Day.
The two Rwandan women peacekeepers share a sense of pride and duty as they work together under the UN flag to protect civilians and build peace in South Sudan.
Rwanda deployed the first Police peacekeepers in 2005. So far, more than 7700 Rwanda Police officers have participated in peacekeeping duties across the globe, of which over 1400 of them are women.
Today, Rwanda ranks top as a country with the highest number of women peacekeepers in UN missions.
The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General to UNMISS, David Shearer, while speaking at the event, said: “Through their own strong leadership and values, our women peacekeepers are role models to inspire and empower South Sudanese women to achieve their own dreams.”
He added: “Today, I thank all women peacekeepers for their dedication to duty, their passion for peace, and willingness to risk their own wellbeing to improve the lives of others. They are an inspiration to us all.”
The Head of UNMISS joined with the President of the National Staff Association to lay wreaths in honor of the 65 peacekeepers, who have died in the line of duty since the inception of UNMISS, including 12 personnel who passed away in the last year.
“They left their homes and families in order to serve the people of South Sudan,” said National Staff Association President, Bennett Kenyi.
“We commend their professionalism and dedication and honor the memory of those who lost their lives in the cause of peace while in South Sudan,” Kenyi added.
UNMISS has committed to continuing its lifesaving and life-changing work despite the threat posed by the pandemic.
“It is essential that this work continues. If it doesn’t, the ramifications of COVID-19 will be much worse,” said Shearer.
For all the peacekeepers in South Sudan, the day was a chance to celebrate their efforts to support the people of this country while also remembering their colleagues, who have given their lives in the pursuit of peace.
The Mission is making a strong contribution to the national COVID-19 prevention efforts with its peacekeeping engineers, who are renovating local hospitals around the country.
It is providing 100 tents and 500 beds to increase the capacity of the local health system.
New water tanks and boreholes are being installed as well as generators for hospitals to have electricity.
Thousands of items of Personal protection equipment as well as medicines and ambulances are also being donated.
Peacekeepers are running major COVID-19 awareness-raising campaign in the UN Protection of Civilians sites, encouraging displaced families to follow all prevention measures to keep themselves and others safe.