Three female UN Peacekeepers celebrate International Day of the UN peacekeeper 2023 (on 25 May!) in Goma, North Kivu, DRC

Women have regularly participated in global peacekeeping efforts, including through the United Nations.[1] Although participation greatly increased in the last decade of the twentieth century and the first two decades of the twenty-first century, women remained significantly underrepresented in peacekeeping operations in 2023.[2] The participation of women in peacekeeping operations differs significantly between military contingents, military observers, staff officers versus police units.[3] Gender stereotypes and discrimination often limit women's opportunities for advancement and leadership roles within international organizations and military institutions.[4] Additionally, women often face discrimination and harassment in male-dominated peacekeeping environment.[5]

The inclusion of women in peacekeeping operations provides access to places and people inaccessible to men and improves communication quality with civilian communities.[6] Studies have shown that peacekeeping missions with a higher percentage of female personnel are more effective in reducing violence and achieving long-lasting peace agreements.[7][8][9][10] Women peacekeepers have been instrumental in addressing issues such as sexual violence, human trafficking, and gender-based discrimination, which are prevalent in conflict-affected areas.[11] Women peacekeepers also serve as role models for women and girls in these areas, showing them that women can be powerful and influential agents of change.[12]

In October 2000, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (S/RES/1325) on women, peace, and security was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council, after recalling resolutions 1261 (1999), 1265 (1999), 1296 (2000), and 1314 (2000). The resolution acknowledged the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls. It calls for the adoption of a gender perspective to consider the special needs of women and girls during conflict, repatriation and resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration, and post-conflict reconstruction.[13][14][15]

Effects of women's participation in peacekeeping

External videos
video icon " Women In Peacekeeping" – United Nations (YouTube) (2:20 min)

A rise in women's participation in peacekeeping significantly contributes to an increase in safety and security. Effects include wider dissemination to civilians by acting as a safe environment to report abuses such as sexual violence.[1] There are circumstances in which certain settings are not disclosed to men and women peacekeepers aid in acquiring intelligence regarding such events within the local population.[16] These circumstances coincide with women peacekeepers examining women combatants during disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration procedures.[17] Dispute resolutions are enriched due to women peacekeepers' decreased reliance on undue force compared to male peacekeepers.[1] Gender parity within peacekeeping acts as diversification within missions giving rise to participation empowerment and a rise in a mission capacity.[1] For instance, the percentage of women in Liberian national security forces increased from 6 percent to 17 percent over a period of nine years; this was attributed to all-female police units having been present in the United Nations Mission in Liberia.[1] The backlash factor leads to increased visibility; women in peacekeeping subvert the cultural expectations of women within states where peacekeeping occurs.[18] Women become inspired by these roles that women peacekeepers take on as they go against the societal norm and illustrate that such actions are possible.[19]

According to Neville Melvin Gertze of Namibia, speaking at an October 2019 meeting of the United Nations Security Council, peace agreements that are the result of negotiations including women are 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years than those which are the result of men-only negotiations. At the same meeting, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated that women were excluded from peace processes, attacks against women human rights defenders had increased, and only a "tiny percentage" of funding for peacebuilding was given to women's organisations.[19]

Gender gap statistics in UN peacekeeping

Women's representation in major peace processes from 1992 to 2018

As of October 2022, women constituted about 6% of military personnel.[20] In January 2021, women constituted 11% of police units and 28% of individual police in peacekeeping missions.[21] These numbers underrepresent women, but are greater than the 1% women's component of overall uniformed peacekeeping personnel in 1993.[22][20]

The 2028 target is for women to constitute 15% of military contingents, 20% of police units, and 30% of individual police officers.[21]

UNSCR 1325

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) establishes four pillars: Participation, Protection, Prevention, Relief, and Recovery.[15] Participation aims to increase women's involvement in UN peacekeeping operations.[15] Protection seeks to better safeguard civilians from sexual exploitation and gender-based violence.[15] Prevention entails enhancing protocols for mediating violence against women in conjunction with assisting local women's peace measures, reinforcing women's rights, and ensuring repercussions for those who infringe on international law.[15] Relief and recovery commit assistance through a gendered perspective in times of crisis.[15]

Ghanaian women serving as UN Peacekeepers.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 calls for states to initiate specific protocols to safeguard women and girls from gender-based crimes, specifically rape and sexual abuse.[23] In 1975, the Decade for Women was established, which marked the beginning of the Women, Peace, and Security strategy.[24] There was a renewed call for action after the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia.[24] Resolution 1325 supports implementation of the Women, Peace, and Security Strategy, which addresses the role of gender and the term gender mainstreaming, the incorporation of an outlook on gender regarding topics such as security.[25] Women's participation in peacekeeping is considered vital to implementing safety and security through a series of mission improvements. There is greater diversity, first-hand accounts, and precedent for more women peacekeepers. With more women participating in missions, there are more opportunities for reform because of experiencing the indirect effects of issues such as war.[26]

Women in non-UN peacekeeping

Nadia Murad was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.[27]

Outside the UN, women have also been involved in peacebuilding as well as peacekeeping. Women set up different organizations in local areas, calling on society to stop violence and maintain peace. For example, women have been fighting in the front line of peacekeeping, shuttling between the two sides of the conflict, actively coordinating and organizing peace negotiations, and promoting the peaceful development of the country. Women also provide some psychological counseling and living assistance to refugees and victims. Through these actions, women let the media and the world know that their efforts are proving the importance of peace.[28] It is not easy for women to participate in peacekeeping outside the UN, but there are still some factors that motivate them to take part in the work. From the perspective of individual women, the danger to life, gender-based violence, and disruption of education all drive women to stop the war. Also, the leaders of the government and the armed forces are not promoting peace, which makes women come forward and participate in peacekeeping work.[29] From a community perspective, women are more likely than men to reject hierarchy within their group, further promoting women to build peace across differences. From the perspective of the warring parties, women as intermediaries are perceived as honest and less threatening, which leads to women's access to warring parties' leaders and facilitates negotiations.[30]

Examples of women's peacekeeping work outside the UN:


African Union Mission to Somalia female officers.

Women in peacekeeping face significant challenges, such as unsafe working environments, unequal access to opportunities, lack of information regarding missions, and lack of resources.[32] Women peacekeepers are often deployed without sufficient information and training; this leads to peacekeepers dealing with dangers when they happen rather than being knowledgeable on what steps to take prior to such circumstances.[32] At the same time, compared with their peers, women participating in peacekeeping generally lack the special training for the roles they are required to play and have fewer opportunities for promotion.[32] More broadly, lack of data is also a challenge, as many contributing countries do not provide information on the number of women in the ranks.[32] Secondly, the goals set for female participants are difficult to fully achieve.[32] Of the countries currently sending women peacekeepers, only five have met their goals.[32] The UN has not given more resources to achieve a higher female participation rate.[33] Part of the challenge is what role women should play when they participate in peacekeeping, rather than simply being "tools" for equality between men and women.[32] It is also likely that some sending countries prefer to have short-term women members to avoid punishment or gain rewards from UN, rather than actually getting more women involved in peacekeeping in the long term.[32] Finally, women's status in peacekeeping will be labeled and their achievements will be weakened or erased.[34] In many UN documents, women are labeled as "vulnerable groups".[34] Such a narrow definition would limit women to be treated only as victims in need of protection, rather than participating in their own protection or the struggle for peace, national liberation and independence.[34]

Women's participation in peacekeeping outside the UN also faces problems and difficulties. First, women's peacekeeping is sometimes ineffective by the fact that operations are ad hoc and decentralized, limited to public marches or observation. Second, lack of funding prevents women from further peacekeeping operations. These restrictions include women's inability to attract more people to join, limited activity locations, and limited activity forms.[29]

COVID-19 pandemic

External videos
video icon "Women peacekeepers are responding to COVID-19" – United Nations (YouTube) (1:33min)

The COVID-19 pandemic posed a significant challenge to UN peacekeepers. UN women peacekeepers are an important integral part of the peacekeeping process and faced the challenge directly.[35] Women peacekeepers have contributed to promoting scientific protection knowledge, providing local medical services, and distributing supplies.[36] Furthermore, women peacekeepers not only actively participated in peace and political processes, but also promoted the integration of gender into response planning under the COVID-19 pandemic.[37] However, despite the efforts of UN women peacekeepers to maintain peace and promote gender equality, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have serious negative impacts on women through four aspects. In terms of economy, women who were already living on the economic margins had been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic, with their incomes reduced by layoffs and housework.

In terms of health, women formed 70% of the health workforce, so they have been affected by the virus more severely; in addition, women's unique health needs have not been guaranteed.

In terms of unpaid care work, the number of unpaid nursing and unpaid childcare work undertaken by women in the community and families has increased significantly due to the pandemic, which has reduced women's equal opportunities to work and girls' right to continue their education.

In terms of gender-based violence, the data reported shows a 25% increase in cases of gender-based violence against women.[38]

In 2020, the head of UN Women stated that further participation and leadership of female peacekeepers would be crucial to advancing peace processes and promoting gender equality in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.[37]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Bigio, Jamille (2018-08-13). "Increasing Female Participation in Peacekeeping Operations". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2024-03-08.
  2. ^ "Facts and figures: Women, peace, and security". UN Women – Headquarters. Aug 14, 2023. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024.
  3. ^ Crawford, Kerry F.; Lebovic, James H.; Macdonald, Julia M. (2015). "Explaining the Variation in Gender Composition of Personnel Contributions to UN Peacekeeping Operations". Armed Forces & Society. 41 (2). [Sage Publications, Ltd., Sage Publications, Inc.]: 257–281. doi:10.1177/0095327X14523416. ISSN 0095-327X. JSTOR 48609188. Retrieved April 8, 2024.
  4. ^ Raymond, Camille (Nov 27, 2020). "Gender, Peacekeeping, and Operational Effectiveness: Recommendations for the Deployment of Women in Peacekeeping Operations". Network for Strategic Analysis (NSA). Retrieved Apr 8, 2024.
  5. ^ Kumalo, Liezelle (2021). Perceptions and Lived Realities of Women Police Officers in UN Peace Operations (Technical report). JSTOR resrep32748. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024.
  6. ^ Bigio, Jamille (Aug 13, 2018). "Increasing Female Participation in Peacekeeping Operations". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024.
  7. ^ Rudberg, Eric (May 4, 2023). "The Importance of Meaningful Participation of Female Peacekeepers". Women In International Security -. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024.
  8. ^ "Deployment of Female Personnel Boosts Effectiveness, Says Secretary-General, as Security Council Holds Open Debate on Women in Peacekeeping". Meetings Coverage and Press Releases. Apr 11, 2019. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024.
  9. ^ Osland, Kari M.; Nortvedt, Jenny; Røysamb, Maria Gilen (2020). Female Peacekeepers and Operational Effectiveness in UN Peace Operations (Technical report). JSTOR resrep25749. Retrieved Apr 11, 2024.
  10. ^ Huber, Laura (2022). The Impact of Women Peacekeepers on Public Support for Peacekeeping in Troop-Contributing Countries (Technical report). JSTOR resrep41532. Retrieved Apr 11, 2024.
  11. ^ Secretary-General, United Nations. (2002). Women, Peace and Security (PDF). New York: [New York] : United Nations. ISBN 92-1-130222-6.
  12. ^ "Women's participation in UN peacekeeping operations: agents of change or stranded symbols?" (PDF). Fafo. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024.
  13. ^ "Women, peace and security". GAC. Feb 21, 2017. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024.
  14. ^ Karim, S.; Beardsley, K. (2017). Equal Opportunity Peacekeeping: Women, Peace, and Security in Post-Conflict States. Oxford Studies in Gender and International Relations. Oxford University Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-19-060243-7. Retrieved April 8, 2024.
  15. ^ a b c d e f "What is UNSCR 1325?". United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved 2022-11-21.
  16. ^ Martin, Callum (2011). NZ Inc: New Zealand's Whole-of-Government Approach to Peace Support Operations (Thesis). Victoria University of Wellington Library. doi:10.26686/wgtn.16992886.v1.
  17. ^ Nagel, Robert U.; Fin, Kate; Maenza, Julia. "Gendered Impacts on Operational Effectiveness of UN Peace Operations" (PDF).
  18. ^ Huber, Laura (May 2022). "The Impact of Women Peacekeepers on Public Support for Peacekeeping in Troop- Contributing Countries" (PDF).
  19. ^ a b "Security Council Urges Recommitment to Women, Peace, Security Agenda, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 2493 (2019)". Meetings Coverage and Press Releases. Oct 29, 2019. Retrieved Apr 12, 2024.
  20. ^ a b Rudberg, Eric (May 4, 2023). "The Importance of Meaningful Participation of Female Peacekeepers". Women In International Security -. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024.
  21. ^ a b "Gendered Impacts on Operational Effectiveness of UN Peace Operations". GIWPS. Oct 1, 2021. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024.
  22. ^ "Our Peacekeepers". United Nations Peacekeeping. Retrieved Apr 8, 2024.
  23. ^ "S/RES/1325. Security Council Resolution on women and peace and security | UN Peacemaker". Retrieved 2022-11-17.
  24. ^ a b Jašová, Lucie (2021). Gender Mainstreaming in UN Peacekeeping Operations (PDF) (Master's thesis).
  25. ^ "Gender Mainstreaming". UN Women – Headquarters. Retrieved 2022-11-17.
  26. ^ Shea, Patrick E.; Christian, Charlotte (2017). "The Impact of Women Legislators on Humanitarian Military Interventions". The Journal of Conflict Resolution. 61 (10): 2043–2073. doi:10.1177/0022002716631105. ISSN 0022-0027. JSTOR 48590062. S2CID 156153357.
  27. ^ "The Nobel Peace Prize 2018". Oct 5, 2018. Retrieved Apr 12, 2024.
  28. ^ a b O'Reilly, Marie; Súilleabháin, rea Ó; Paffenholz, Thania (2015-06-16). "Reimagining Peacemaking: Women's Roles in Peace Processes". International Peace Institute. pp. 19–26. Retrieved 2022-11-16.
  29. ^ a b Alaga, Ecoma. "Background brief "Pray the Devil Back to Hell:" Women's ingenuity in the peace process in Liberia". pp. 6–8, 10, 12. Retrieved 2022-11-16.
  30. ^ O'Reilly, Marie (2015). "Why Women? Inclusive Security and Peaceful Societies" (PDF). Inclusive Security. pp. 5–8.
  31. ^ Ejaz, Muhammad (2022-06-30). "Civil Society, Gender and De-Radicalization Programs: A Case of PAIMAN Alumni Trust". Pakistan Social Sciences Review. 6 (II). doi:10.35484/pssr.2022(6-ii)42. ISSN 2664-0422. S2CID 250034437.
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h Sharl, Lisa (2020-10-02). "Challenges to Sustainably Increasing Women's Participation and Gender Equality in Peacekeeping". IPI Global Observatory. Retrieved 2022-11-18.
  33. ^ Sánchez, Fernández (2018). "Peacekeeping: Global Perspectives, Challenges and Impacts".
  34. ^ a b c Puechguirbal, Nadine. "Gender and Peacekeeping: A Few Challenges".
  35. ^ "Women in peacekeeping". United Nations Peacekeeping. Retrieved 2022-12-06.
  36. ^ "Women peacekeepers on the front lines of COVID-19". UN Peacekeeping. 2020.
  37. ^ a b "Implementing WPS mandated tasks in the context of COVID-19" (PDF). UN Peacekeeping. 2020.
  38. ^ "UN Secretary-General's policy brief: The impact of COVID-19 on women" (PDF). UN Women. 2020.

Further reading