Women continue to be trailblazers in the Brazilian Navy. For the first time, a female officer took on a position in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in New York. Brazilian Navy Commander Carla Cristina Daniel Bastos Peixoto serves as a desk officer for the Current Military Operations Service (CMOS) of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), a region disputed between Sudan and South Sudan. She is the liaison between UNISFA, the Office of Military Affairs, and the troop contributing country, which, in this case, is Ethiopia.
UN Security Council Resolution 1990 established UNISFA on June 27, 2011. The mission’s main focus is to promote dialogue between countries of the region and, above all, provide security for Abyei, guaranteeing civilian protection and facilitating the provision of humanitarian aid. In addition, service members monitor the region’s demilitarization efforts.
According to information from the UN, UNISFA has a total of 4,841 professionals responsible for local security, including 4,791 service members and 50 police officers. UNISFA also receives support from civil institutions. Since 2011 UNISFA’s presence greatly improved the relationship between Abyei’s rival tribes, the Mysseria and Ngok Dinka, as well as their quality of life, said Cmdr. Carla Daniel.
Her mission at DPKO started in December 2017 and will last for two years, under a temporary request. She is deployed in CMOS, which falls under the Office of Military Affairs which in the UN hierarchy. “Activities range from daily monitoring of the mission’s military actions, preparation of a daily situation report intended for DPKO’s military leadership, to counseling and advising military leadership in New York about operational aspects of UNISFA,” she explained.
The officer met the position’s requirements: rank of lieutenant colonel/commander, degree in liberal arts, knowledge of English and other languages, previous participation in a peacekeeping mission, and completion of all career courses. “I graduated in Communications with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism, and I served in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL),” Cmdr. Carla Daniel said. “Selected candidates have to take a written test on UN issues in English. Those who pass that phase take an oral English test based on competency and the institution’s primary values.”
The commander is proud to be the first Brazilian female service member to hold a position in DPKO, even though it requires a lot of responsibility. “To be a pioneer in any activity is already something that attracts a little more attention from others. Additionally, if this doesn’t go well, I could close the doors for other women or slow down the process,” Cmdr. Carla Daniel said.
Cmdr. Carla Daniel joined the Brazilian Navy in 1998 as a midshipman. She worked primarily in communications. She was a public relations assistant at the Marine Corps General Command in Rio de Janeiro and at the 2nd Naval District Command in Salvador, Bahia. In Brasília, she worked in the Navy’s Public Affairs Office and the Presidential Security Cabinet. She then went to Lebanon in 2014, where she worked on UNIFIL’s Maritime Task Force (MTF). When she returned to Brazil in 2015, Cmdr. Carla Daniel took on responsibilities for the 1st Naval District Command’s Public Affairs Office in Rio de Janeiro.
Trailblazer in Lebanon
The officer has been a pioneer throughout her career. In 2014, Cmdr. Carla Daniel was the first woman to deploy with UNIFIL’s MTF as an assistant for the force commander, a Brazilian admiral. At the time, she was in charge of MTF staff and served as a civil-military coordination officer for activities in support of the local population.
“It was an unforgettable experience. MTF’s importance for security on the Lebanese coast and, consequently, its economic stability is very well known. I never felt so much joy in showing that I’m Brazilian. I’m of Lebanese descent, and this experience makes an incredible difference for the Brazilian-Lebanese female community, with whom I keep close contact. I always get emotional when I talk about this,” Cmdr. Carla Daniel related.
For the officer, this was one of the most valuable professional and personal experiences. “I feel so honored to be a female service member, a Blue Helmet, and even more to have the Brazilian flag on my sleeve. Countless times I’ve been stopped on the streets, [at the] airport, [in a] cafe and heard, ‘Thank you, Brazil!’ I have so many pictures and memories that have a special place in my heart,” she said.
Cmdr. Carla Daniel believes the experience in Lebanon supports her current role with DPKO, since knowledge of peacekeeping missions encompasses practice and theory. “When I have to ask for information or give guidance, I know what it’s all about,” she said. Her completion of the UN Female Senior Police Officer Command Development course in South Africa in 2015 was also a decisive factor for her training.
Importance of women in peacekeeping missions
Cmdr. Carla Daniel stressed the importance of an increased female presence in areas of conflict and peacekeeping missions. For her, the violence against women became a weapon of war because it destabilizes the communities she works with, which resonates with her as a woman. “I once heard a former peacekeeping force commander say that it was more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in a region of conflict, hence the importance of female service members in areas of conflict who support, welcome, and serve as a support system for those who suffer,” Cmdr. Carla Daniel said.
The United Nations made several efforts to increase female participation in missions but the increase, she said, isn’t happening as quickly because a military career requires preparation, time or a promotion for the position. In mid-July, female security forces will have the opportunity to earn additional knowledge. The Female Senior Police Officer Command Development course that targets senior military police officers, will take place in Brazil from July 10th to 16th in the city of Belém, in the state of Pará, and will include representatives from Latin America and the Caribbean.