Rwanda has sent an all-woman police unit for deployment in South Sudan under the UN peacekeeping mission.
The contingent of 85 officers is the first female team to be sent on a foreign mission by the country.
They will specialise in public order management like crowd control, facilitating delivery of humanitarian assistance, escort duties and protection of UN facilities, among others.
Addressing the contingent ahead of deployment, Dan Munyuza, the deputy Inspector General of Police, urged the force to observe discipline despite the volatile environment.
“You are well-equipped, well-trained and disciplined. Rwanda expects you to adhere to the highest standards of behaviour and conduct yourself in a professional and disciplined manner and always strive to protect and promote Rwanda’s image abroad,” he told the police officers.
Munyuza appealed to the contingent to maintain their commitment to and support for UN operations in South Sudan.
The unit will be headed by assistant commissioner of police Teddy Ruyenzi — the first woman to head a Rwandan contingent.
The deployment by Rwanda is a step towards meeting a UN resolution adopted in 2000 urging governments to contribute more women peacekeepers in peace-building and humanitarian response in post-conflict communities.
In 2009, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launched a campaign to increase the share of female peacekeepers to 10 per cent in military units and 20 per cent in police units by 2014, however the target was missed, according to the UN.
Women account for only 30 per cent of those working in peacekeeping and special protection missions, which the UN says falls short of gender equality requirements in peacekeeping missions.
The UN hopes to increase that number by 20 per cent in police peacekeepers and by 15 per cent in military units by the end of 2018.
The UN argues that gender equality will lower the prevalence of social injustices and biases within the peacekeeping sector.
“The female peacekeepers that were deployed are well trained in handling victims of gender-based-violence and offering counselling services to the afflicted, as well as handling their daily peacekeeping and policing assignments,” said Emmanuel Kabanda, the director of public relations at Rwanda National Police said on Wednesday.
The UN peacekeeping missions have been rocked by scandals involving sexual exploitation and abuse.
According to an investigation by the Associated Press, between 2004 and 2016, the United Nations received about 2,000 complaints of sexual exploitation and abuse against its peacekeepers.
Studies by the UN in support of more female peacekeepers showed that women do not face the same cultural restrictions as their male counterparts, and are able to gain information from women and children.
This ability to gain the trust of local populations, the UN says is a vital component of any peacekeeping operation.
Rwanda first deployed its police peacekeepers to South Sudan in 2015.
The country is one of the leading troops and police contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions.