Brazil takes part in operations with the United Nations (UN) to contribute to peaceful conflict resolutions in different regions since 1947. According to UN data, as of February 28, 2019, Brazil contributed 275 military and police service members, mission experts, and Staff officers to the 21 missions around the world—of those, eight (2.9 percent) were women. The objective is to multiply the number by 2020 for female participation to reach 15 percent of the Brazilian contingent.
The challenge isn’t limited to Brazil. “UN Security Council resolution 2242 (2015) established quantitative goals for contributing countries with military and police personnel. This outcry for female participation goes beyond the matter of representation,” said Brazilian Navy (MB, in Portuguese) Commander Adler Cardoso Ferreira, commandant of MB’s Naval Peacekeeping Operations Academy. The institution under the Almirante Sylvio de Camargo Training Center created the Peacekeeping Operations Internship for Women, in partnership with the UN’s Information Centre in Brazil.
“Women’s presence in peacekeeping missions is essential. I can mention some reasons, for instance, a better ability to conduct activities to counter gender violence, or to facilitate the approach with cultures that value women’s roles in certain social tasks,” said Cmdr. Adler. As such, the internship’s goal is not only to attract volunteers for missions, but also to qualify women to participate so that they can take up leadership roles, strengthen female empowerment, and prevent violence against women.
The first edition of the Peacekeeping Operations Internship for Women took place December 2018. Its positive results led the organization to conduct a second edition, March 13-22, 2019. Thirty women participated, including 21 MB officers, two from Rio de Janeiro’s State Military Fire Brigade, and seven civilian academics.
Class activities were mainly focused on presenting the core pre-deployment training materials guide to students. The curriculum consists of essential knowledge required from all personnel working in peacekeeping operations, whether they are service members, police officers, or civilians.
Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese) Lieutenant Colonel Priscila Maria Frank Braz Guimarães was studying UN material online, when the opportunity for the internship came up. “It was very interesting, especially because of the hands-on activities,” said the officer, who currently attends the Brazilian Air Command and General Staff Academy. During activities, students simulated situations that can occur daily during missions.
“We learned how to identify possible mines and explosive remnants, how to conduct ourselves on those grounds, and how to move on foot and with an armored vehicle,” said Lt. Col. Priscila. Students also attended the military observation workshop, where they simulated military troop crossings to report what happened. They also attended a workshop to become familiar with weapons—often present in conflict regions—which the majority of internship attendees don’t handle in their daily roles.
Lt. Col. Priscila has volunteered to participate in peacekeeping operations with FAB since 2016. Now that the increase of female personnel is a priority, aspiring women participants anxiously await the UN call. “I think it will be the experience of a lifetime, because I believe that, as a service member, I can carry my country’s flag during a mission and contribute toward improving the lives of other people,” she said.
The desire to help others was also an incentive for Brazilian Marine Corps (CFN, in Portuguese) Lieutenant Colonel Carla Araújo, who took part in the first Peacekeeping Operations Internship for Women. The officer is close to achieving her dream. In late April, Lt. Col. Carla will join the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic.
The officer has been a CFN dentist for about 15 years and heard many stories from service members who traveled to serve in peacekeeping operations. “Sometimes I feel as if I’m not making a difference here, as if I’m not doing all that I can to contribute to a better world. This is what moved me to apply for a position in the peacekeeping mission,” said Lt. Col. Carla, who will take on a role with the gender council, to observe and report matters related to women in conflict areas.