The Deputy Commander of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MUNIRSO), Commodore Faustina Boakyewaa Anokye, has urged females in the military to avail themselves to be part of peacekeeping missions.
She said there was a spectrum of opportunities for equipping oneself for UN leadership roles and, thus, urged all females in the military to challenge and position themselves to take up higher appointments that could unearth their innate potential to make a difference.
“Gradually, the advocacy for more participation in peacekeeping operations keeps increasing especially after the UN resolution 2025 where more talks and campaign has gone on about female participation in peacekeeping,” she said.
The MUNIRSO Deputy Commander made the call when she led the females in MUNIRSO to mark this year’s International Women’s Day which was commemorated worldwide on March 8.
International Women’s Day
March 8 of each year is set aside to celebrate women in all spheres of life and who work hard every day to contribute towards the sustainable development of their societies and the world.
The theme for the celebration was “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” with the social media hashtag, break the bias.
MUNIRSO’s event was held at its base in Laayoune, Western Sahara in Morocco and had in attendance, the acting Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Mr Nick Birnback; the Chief of Mission Support, Mrs Veneranda Mukandoli-Jefferson; Section Heads of MUNIRSO as well as senior officers and officers of the mission.
Preparing for opportunities
Commodore Anokye said it was important for females in the military and peacekeeping to prepare and position themselves for leadership roles because the world was moving towards achieving gender parity where there will be fair balance of job opportunities irrespective of gender.
“We must be ready for the opportunity when it avails itself,” Commodore Anokye, the first Naval Officer to assume the top UN role, said.
The MUNIRSO Deputy Commander, who is the second female to hold that position in recent times, said gender equality was not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
She said despite the gains made in promoting gender equality, there were still challenges to be surmounted.
To help bridge the gap, she indicated that the UN systems were making giant strides to ensure that qualified female commanders and senior staff were appointed to play significant roles.
“The leadership landscape for contemporary peacekeeping is changing. The UN systems are making giant strides in the inclusion of competent and qualified female commanders and senior civilian staff from which this mission has benefited” she said.
That notwithstanding, she said the journey to gender equity had not been an easy one; it takes a lot to break habits and to change mindsets.
“To break the bias, we have to do more to sustain the gains made. Also, urgent actions are still needed. We can and must do better because equality for women is progress for all,” she emphasised.
Commodore Anokye, the first female Naval Officer to be commissioned in Ghana, also at the event, paid tribute to her predecessor at MUNIRSO, Brigadier General Constance Ejeani-Asiedu or her immense contribution towards international peacekeeping.
She said apart from breaking the barrier for other women to follow as the first Ghanaian female to become a Brigadier General, she also “made history in peacekeeping as the first female Deputy Force Commander for the MUNIRSO.”
“I doff my heart to my predecessor, the late Brig. Gen. Constance Adjeani-Afenu for her immense contribution towards peace and security in this mission which I also hope to continue. May her soul rest in perfect peace,” Commodore Anokye said.
The late Brigadier General Ejeani Afenu was enlisted in the Ghana Army in 1978 and rose to her last rank and later assumed the role as the Deputy Commander of MUNIRSO in 2019.
Before then, she had, through her four 40-year career, also served in UN peacekeeping operations in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) and Liberia (UNMIL).
According to the UN, as a woman who shattered many glass ceilings within her national military and four different UN missions, the late Brigadier General worked successfully to promote gender inclusiveness and increase the number of women serving in peacekeeping.
She completed her duty tour at MUNIRSO at the end of December 2021 and sadly passed away last January after a short illness.