The United States government has committed $3 million to a joint partnership with the Netherlands to assist Ghana and Zambia in piloting women-specific body armor for peacekeeping. Until the late 1980s, only 20 women had served as uniformed United Nations (UN) peacekeepers.

However, there has been a significant change in UN missions. In 2023, approximately 4,800 women served as military peacekeepers, with nearly 12,000 in formed police units.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, during a Signing Ceremony in Support of the Women’s Body Armor Project at the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial in Accra, Ghana, emphasized that the world has witnessed the impactful contributions of diversity.

She added that “we know that women peacekeepers are more approachable to women and girls – and especially survivors of gender-based violence. They help ensure that peacekeeping missions are effectively communicating with communities they serve.

They offer valuable perspectives on conflict, reconciliation, and peacebuilding. And they serve as powerful role models for the next generation of peacekeepers – inspiring women and girls to imagine a future after conflict ends”.

Despite these gains, Thomas Greenfield expressed concerns that women are still woefully underrepresented in the communities that need them adding that a major barrier for their entry is the  “unisex” personal protective equipment that simply doesn’t fit women peacekeepers.

“And that is why we are thrilled to commit $3 million to a joint partnership with the Netherlands, to help Ghana and Zambia pilot women-specific body armor in peacekeeping,” she noted.

Women-specific body armor, distinct from its “unisex” predecessor, features a tailored cut, rounded chest, shortened torso, and adjustable back that tightens to fit. This design allows the vest to conform to a woman’s torso, providing better coverage of vital organs.

The purpose of the women’s body armor pilot project is to assess the extent to which the equipment enhances operations and safety during training.

The pilot project, aimed at reducing barriers to women’s full, equal, and meaningful participation in UN peace operations, will be funded by the United States and the Netherlands. It involves the procurement and delivery of women-specific body armor, including vests, attachments, and armored plates.

Ghana and Zambia, both leaders in promoting the meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping and surpassing UN Gender Parity Strategy goals, will provide women peacekeepers with the necessary personal protective equipment during training and deployments.

Ambassador Greenfield expressed gratitude for the partnership, praising Ghana and Zambia for their consistent leadership in providing women peacekeepers not only with armor but also with the training, infrastructure, and support they need.

She added that “an investment in this armor is an investment in women – and in turn, an investment in entire communities. It’s long past time that we empower and protect these peacekeepers as they dedicate their lives to empowering and protecting civilians in conflict”.

Women in peacekeeping is one of the main themes of the 2023 UN Peacekeeping Ministerial in Accra, Ghana, and partnership is a cross-cutting theme.

Source: myjoy online

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