Uruguayan Female Soldiers Serve in UN Peacekeeping Missions

Uruguayan Female Soldiers Serve in UN Peacekeeping Missions

By Dialogo
September 21, 2015

It's good they give women in the military opportunities not like here in our country where we women in the military don't get the chance to go to those peace missions even though we have missions in Haiti and (illegible).

More than 100 female Uruguayan Soldiers are serving in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, demonstrating the country’s commitment to providing training and opportunities for enlisted women.

As of July, 112 of Uruguay’s 1,517 Armed Forces Troops deployed in peacekeeping operations in the Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Kashmir, the Ivory Coast, and the Multinational Force of Observers in the Sinai Peninsula, were women, according to Gabriela González, Director General for Defense Policy for the Uruguayan Ministry of Defense.

“The National Army is the force with greatest female representation in peacekeeping missions outside the country; the Uruguayan Air Force follows, with 14 women out of 148 Troops, and finally, the Navy includes 11 women among their 107 Troops,” González said. ”Uruguay ranks 21 among 122 world countries contributing Troops and police forces to UN peacekeeping operations."

In 2014, 3.6 percent of the 1,177 Uruguayan Troops participating in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) were female, according to the report, “The Women, Peace, and Security Agenda” by the Latin American Security and Defense Network (RESDAL), in March 2015. Additionally, women comprise 4 percent of the more than 400 Uruguayan Soldiers who’ve participated in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

“Our Soldiers, women, and men, are highly trained and answer a call to serve the interests of peace and international security,” said retired Uruguayan Army Col. Rivera Helgue, who served as a Battalion Chief during a UN peacekeeping mission in the Republic of the Congo from June 2014 to April 2015. “Their participation is the result of accurate planning, training, and cumulative experience.”

Female Troops contribute in different ways

In their service for Uruguay, the female Troops have taken on a full range of tasks - serving as captains, field supervisors, section chiefs,
military doctors, nurses, interpreters, vehicle drivers, communications operators, translators, and interpreters during UN peace missions. The Armed Forces don’t restrict female Troops in terms of their assignments; they serve in any capacity in the Military and alongside their male colleagues while supporting combat operations.

“Women’s collaboration on these missions provides a necessary understanding in certain conditions,” Col. Helgue said. “They serve as an example and they deal extremely well with the local populations. Today, some of the Military units have three to eight women. This is a substantial change that will improve the mission’s chances of success.”

Their contributions were bolstered in 2000, when the UN Security Council approved Resolution 1325, which promotes gender equality and seeks to expand women’s roles in achieving peace and development objectives. That topic was discussed among 100 delegates from more than 20 countries at the Regional Conference of the Americas on Peacekeeping Operations, recently held in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, when participants also addressed the need to provide proper training to Troops before deployment.

“One of the principal skills developed by peacekeeping components is the ability to work in a hostile environment. Service members are trained and disciplined to withstand a certain amount of pressure, which allows them to avoid violence in protecting civilian society.”

That training came in handy for Captain Ana Lucas, who in 1996 became the first Uruguayan female officer to participate in a peacekeeping mission. In 2010, the group of 40 service members she was leading took gunfire from rebel forces during two consecutive nights in the Congolese jungle.

“It has been a very big change for the Army to admit female officers, and the latest step is having female combat officers,” Capt. Lucas told Uruguayan daily El País.

The importance of training

Before they are deployed to an overseas peacekeeping mission, all Uruguayan Soldiers are trained on military issues, the host country’s history, and the need to protect human rights.

“Peacekeeping forces receive benefits, among them the incentive to train on the ground in what they have learned in theory, training deployed personnel, social prestige, and financial compensation,” Secretary of National Defense Jorge Menéndez said.

Ninety percent of Uruguayan Armed Forces members have participated in a foreign mission.

“Uruguayan service members are recognized for their professional skills, human qualities, spirit of sacrifice, teamwork, humility, and values,” Col. Helgue said. “Each mission is a challenge that enriches the country’s military institutions.”