Currently, women are underrepresented in peacekeeping. As of January 2021, women make up fewer than 5% of all military personnel, 11% of personnel in formed police units, and 28% of individual police officers on peacekeeping missions.
And yet, the authors find that across various missions, women’s participation improves community engagement and changes the narrative of women’s roles in society. The report offers recommendations on how gender mainstreaming and the integration of local perspectives can improve operational effectiveness, along with recommendations for better data collection policies and practices.
This study is based on 78 interviews of mission personnel from three ongoing UN PKOs in Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Lebanon, along with civil society actors, and a comprehensive review of personnel data, strategy, policy, and standard operating procedure documents related to operational effectiveness.
- Both men and women highlighted uniformed women’s importance for interacting with local women and girls to build trust with communities. Women peacekeepers have also changed community perceptions of what jobs men and women should perform.
- However, the campaign to depict women as ‘more effective’ peacekeepers has incited resentment, hostility, and a sense of disenfranchisement amongst male personnel. A common refrain among the uniformed women we interviewed was that there was no room for error in women’s performance, as individual work reflected upon all women. One uniformed officer likened the experience to being “contestants on a show,” as women are watched and applauded while performing routine tasks.
- Deployed uniformed personnel, both men and women, report that the most essential skills for operational effectiveness are communication skills and not inherently gendered.