Peruvian women who will fight for peace in Africa

By Paula Bayarte

Lima, Jun 16 (EFE).- The active participation by women in the establishment and in the consolidation of peace is key for resolving conflicts, the United Nation said and, with that in mind, 33 female Peruvian soldiers are preparing in Lima to travel later this month to the Central African Republic as part of the 7th contingent of the international body’s Blue Helmets peacekeeping force.

“I’m very happy to be what I am. Being part of a United Nations peace mission opens the door for me to learn about another culture, to link up with another type of military personnel and to absorb knowledge,” Capt. Evelin Torres Giuria told EFE at the Chorrillos Military School in Lima.

Along with Torres Giuria, another 206 soldiers will participate later this month in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca), which was launched in 2014 and in which Peru has taken part since the following year.

“This year we’ve increased by 20 percent the number of women compared with last year. Now 33 women make up part of this contingent. Everything is proceeding as per UN Resolution 1325, which is aimed at gradually increasing the number of female personnel within the military contingents,” Torres Giuria said.

By 2028, the UN is aiming to have 15 percent female participation in the military peacekeeping contingents. Currently, Peru has just 4.8 percent female participation in its armed forces.

Resolution 1325 recognizes the differentiated and disproportionate impact that women suffer during conflicts and post-conflict periods, especially due to gender violence and sexual abuse, but it also emphasizes the importance of their presence in the resolution and prevention of conflicts to achieve peace.

Via assorted programs on the global level, the UN seeks to incorporate gender perspectives into peace and for security to be a growing commitment and task assumed by governments in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The image of women and their participation in the activities of the peace missions is inspiring,” Capt. Alfredo Salas, who will also depart for Africa, said.

Salas said that Peruvian women in the contingent will act as mentors and models for women and girls in the Central African Republic who are in post-conflict situations, or have suffered some kind of trauma or experienced warfare, child abuse or people smuggling.

“Seeing female military personnel serves as an example to them so that they can defend their rights and pursue professional careers that are not common in their community,” the officer said.

The presence of women in conflict zones is key – 32-year-old Lt. Josheline Salas Villanueva said – in helping vulnerable populations who prefer to approach females rather than male peacekeepers.

“I know that (in the Central African Republic) there’s a lot of sexual abuse against women and children, and women have more confidence in telling us what’s happening. There, the abuse is being committed by the men and (the victims) are not going to want to talk about it to men,” the lieutenant said.

The members of the 7th Minusca contingent has been preparing for months to be able to carry out their tasks in the African country, duties that include building and reviewing the rehabbing of infrastructure such as roadways and bridges.

The members have also received French lessons and courses on the geography and the overall situation at their destination.

The Central African Republic has been mired in systemic violence since 2012, when a coalition of Muslim majority rebel groups – the Seleka – took over the capital and deposed President Francois Bozize, sparking a civil war.

Despite the signing of a peace accord in 2019 and the unilateral cease-fire in October 2021, two-thirds of the country – which is rich in diamonds, uranium and gold – is controlled by militias and, according to the UN, some 692,000 people have fled their homes due to the ongoing violence.

The Peruvian members of the peace mission are being trained for their tasks at the Chorrillos Military School, founded in 1896, an institution with special symbolic value given that it was where Peruvians fought an 1881 battle against Chile during the War of the Pacific.

EFE pbc/gdl/eat/bp

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