Are Women ‘Really’ Making a Unique Contribution to Peacekeeping?

The Rhetoric and the Reality

In: Journal of International Peacekeeping
Lindy Heinecken Dept of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, 7602, South Africa,

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This article examines the factors that inhibit the ability of female peacekeepers to make a unique contribution to peacekeeping operations based on their gender. The debates are examined in relation to the claims made about their ability to enhance operational effectiveness and reach out to the local population as women, compared to the actual experiences of South African peacekeepers’ deployed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (drc) and in Darfur/Sudan. The argument is made that factors stemming from both the military and operational context affect the optimal utilization of women in various ways. As most national armed forces tend to draw their peacekeeping troops from the infantry, women come under tremendous performance pressure when deployed and are obliged to assimilate masculine values in order to be recognised as ‘good’ soldiers. It is argued that this, coupled with the hyper-masculine peacekeeping environment which is hostile to women, undermines their optimal utilization, as well as their ability to infuse a more gendered approach in peacekeeping.

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