female peace keeping
A UAE-based training programme that has already qualified nearly 500 female peacekeepers over the last three years. Image Credit: Wam

Abu Dhabi: A UAE-based training programme that has already qualified nearly 500 female peacekeepers over the last three years has been lauded by delegates at the International Conference for Women Peace and Security (ICWPS) in Abu Dhabi.

The Sheikha Fatima Women, Peace and Security Initiative, which welcomed its third batch of 140 trainees on Wednesday (September 7), was deemed a “valued” and “impressive” women empowerment and advancement programme for the region.

Mother of the Nation

Mother of the Nation Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, reasserted in a speech the UAE’s commitment to developing female peacekeepers and military personnel. The ICWPS is being held under the patronage of Sheikha Fatima, and her speech was delivered in a video address by Sheikh Shamma bint Sultan, great-granddaughter of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s Founding Father.

“I would like to express my full confidence that women can take their rightful place in leading the action plan to build peace throughout the world, regardless of how intense or accessible it is in reality, and join the ranks of the future makers, the protectors of the present and the writers of history, so they are able to formulate their role for the renaissance and advancement of their homeland,” Sheikha Fatima said. She also recognised the UAE leadership’s role in promoting women to the forefront in all fields.

“The UAE has been a strong champion and a prominent partner in making progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, especially its fifth goal. In this regard, I value the Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak Initiative to Empower Women in Peace and Security, which provides training and capacity building opportunities for women from the Middle East, Africa and Asia in the military and peacekeeping. UN Women is proud to be a partner in these efforts,” said Dr Sima Bahous, UN Women executive director in her address to the conference.

Dignitary visits

The peacekeeping programme is delivered at the Khawla Al Azwar Military Training School, and has trained 497 women from the Middle East, Asia and Africa so far.

Dr Bahous is one of several dignitaries who met the cadets who make up the Initiative’s latest batch ahead of the ICWPS. Dr Jacqueline O’Neill, Canadian Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security, also visited the facility.

Future of peacekeeping

“The future of training for peacekeeping is gathering people at regional levels, in particular, to train in ways and networks that make sense with them. The strength of peacekeeping is its ability to engage with, and work with, local communities, and we need people who can connect with communities and perform all the functions of peacekeeping. [During my visit to the Khawla Al Azwar school], I was extremely impressed to see the pride in the region. Peacekeepers are grown from around the world, [and I saw that] women from this region, in particular, now have a forum to highlight their contributions,” O’Neill said.

The nine-week peacekeeping training is organised by the General Women’s Union, in cooperation with the UAE Ministry of Defence, and in coordination with UN Women. It seeks to achieve the strategic objectives of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 by increasing the number of qualified women working in military, peacekeeping and peacebuilding. Seven weeks of intensive military training are accompanied by two weeks of peacebuilding and peacekeeping training.

Women in decision-making

Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi, UAE Minister of State for Defense Affairs, and Reem Al Hashimi, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, also addressed delegates at the ICWPS, reaffirming the UAE’s commitment to gender equity and women’s empowerment.

“Women are most affected in conflict situations, but also play a vital role in ensuring recovery. They are also key to ensuring that violence does not reignite after conflict. This is why we must support women in peacekeeping and decision-making roles, and the UAE reaffirms its commitment to peace and security,” Al Hashimi said.

The three-day conference will culminate in a ministerial meeting to discuss greater participation of women in UN peacekeeping. The UN has previously announced that it aims to increase the percentage of women in units with military missions to about 15 per cent, and in forces with police missions to 20 per cent, by 2028. Officials said there is still a long way to go towards achieving these targets, and that the UAE’s efforts are therefore extremely important.