Women should be considered for leadership positions they deserve

Women peacekeepers are enablers to build trust and confidence with local communities, thus help prevent and reduce conflict and confrontation. More importantly, they inspire, encourage, create role models for women and girls to become a meaningful part of peace and political processes.

“Not only do they (Vietnamese female officers) complete the task, but they also inspire others and help bring Vietnamese values closer to international friends...In addition, they should be considered for leadership positions that they deserve.” said Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh, Member of the Party Central Committee, Standing Member of the Central Military Commission, Deputy Minister of Defense.

Major Do Thi Hang Nga, Vietnam's the first female staff officer sent to join the UN peacekeeping mission. Photo provided by UNDP

31 October marks 20 years since the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on women and peace and security- the first resolution to recognise women’s leadership and contribution to achieve international peace and security.

The UN Development Program (UNDP) has reaffirmed its commitment to promoting participation of women, including female officials from Vietnam, in the UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations.

“Supporting women’s participation, empowerment and leadership in all fields is one of the cornerstones of our support in Vietnam,” said UNDP Resident Representative in Vietnam Caitlin Wiesen. “We are committed to deepening our partnership with the Government of Vietnam to continue strengthening capacities for increasing women’s contribution to Vietnam’s future deployments.”

According to UNDP, increasing women’s participation means more effective peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Women peacekeepers are enablers to build trust and confidence with local communities, thus help prevent and reduce conflict and confrontation. More importantly, they inspire, encourage, create role models for women and girls to become a meaningful part of peace and political processes.

In recent years, Vietnam has increased its engagement in global peacekeeping efforts. Vietnam has sent two rotations of Level-two Field Hospital (L2FH) with 126 officers and non-commissioned officers to the UN Mission in South Sudan. Meanwhile, the country has also deployed 50 officers to UN peacekeeping missions in the Central Africa Republic and South Sudan as well as the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the UN headquarters in New York, USA.

In 2017, Vietnam sent the first female staff officer, major Do Thi Hang Nga, to join the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. Currently, Vietnam has 10 female officers on duty in Level II Field Hospital, accounting for nearly 17% of the total 63 members of the hospital. This rate is higher than the set target of the UN.

Despite the difficulties in their daily lives, female officers of the People's Army of Vietnam in South Sudan and the Central African Republic not only fulfilled their duties but also proactively proposed to the UN Peacekeeping Mission many extra-duty activities to help local people, such as voluntarily teaching homeless children, donating gifts to the poor, and guiding local people on farming activities.

The COVID-19 pandemic makes their military lives even more challenging. In the Central African Republic, lieutenant colonel Nguyen Thi Lien, a training staff officer, took initiative to hire sewing machines, bought materials, sew over 500 face masks and gave them, for free, to colleagues in the Peacekeeping Mission and the people of Bangui Capital.

“Not only do they complete the task, but they also inspire others and help bring Vietnamese values closer to international friends,” said Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh. “We hope that, for Vietnamese female officers in particular and female officers in the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in general, their living conditions will be paid greater attention to.

In addition, they should be considered for leadership positions that they deserve. Their roles and contributions should be recognized and appreciated not only within their missions but also in the world. Engaging women in peacekeeping forces is a typical example of gender equality, a cause that the United Nations is promoting,” said Vinh.

Major Do Thi Hang Nga, Vietnam's the first female staff officer sent to join the UN peacekeeping mission. Photo provided by UNDP

To mark the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (October 31), UNDP, in collaboration with Vietnam’s Ministry of Defense and the embassies of Canada and Norway in Vietnam, has premiered a video featuring initiatives and contributions of countries and organizations in the world to promote women's participation in the peacekeeping operations.

Wiesen introduced a very useful tool for parliamentarians to progress the Women, Peace and Security agenda. “Recognizing the important role that parliamentarians have played and continue to play in supporting the peace process, UNDP has developed a Global Handbook: Parliaments as Partners Supporting Women, Peace and Security Agenda,” she said.

Minh Anh