In the words of Captain Anaseini Navua Vuniwaqa: “There is a need for female peacekeepers”

Date: Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Captain Anaseini Navua Vuniwaqa of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. Photo: UN Women/Caitlin Gordon-King
Captain Anaseini Navua Vuniwaqa of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. Photo: UN Women/Caitlin Gordon-King

Captain Anaseini Navua Vuniwaqa of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, participated in the ninth edition of the Female Military Officers’ Course in April 2018. The course aims to bridge the gender gap in UN peacekeeping. Women currently represent only 4 per cent of the more than 80,000 UN Peacekeepers, despite their key role in preventing sexual violence during and after conflict, and their unique abilities to engage with the communities they serve, especially women and girls. The two-week course organized by UN Women and partners, and funded by the Governments of the Netherlands, Norway, Australia and Finland, provides specialized training for female military officers around the world to create a global network of trained women peacekeepers. Captain Vuniwaqa spoke to UN Women about women’s role in preventing sexual violence during and after conflict, and their unique abilities to engage with the communities they serve.

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I joined the military in 2009. Out of the 340 recruits, there were around 68 women, and I was one of them.

Back in April (2018) I was teaching at the Officers Training School in Vatuwaqa (Suva), and got a call from another woman officer asking if I wanted to go to the UN Female Military Officer’s Course in India. I’d heard about it, and obviously I wanted to go, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me.

The experience was mind-blowing. There were 31 participants from 27 countries; you sit in a room and look around and it’s all women. I’m used to sitting in rooms full of men all the time.

In the training, we learned about conflict-related sexual violence, about victims of war. And you know in war, women and children are classified under the most vulnerable people. They are the ones who are the most affected because when men are busy going out to war in certain conflict areas, the women are the ones who are left behind and they are not armed.

This is where the female military officers come in, because when someone has been violated by a man, she would not open up to a man. It’s not about learning psychology, it’s about common sense. So that’s where female military observers are needed because they can relate to other women and they’re not armed. 

Survivors tend to gravitate towards the female officers, they are able to open up to them. It’s important for us to inform the women officers that they have an important role in peacekeeping; there is a need for female peacekeepers.

The United Nations Female Military Officers course is a good base to learn about how to deal with a survivor, how to talk to a woman who has been raped or sexually harassed, and how to deal with it when there is a child involved.”