Female peacekeepers’ added burden
Twenty years since the adoption of UNSC 1325 there is an almost unanimous call for an increased number of uniformed women in peace operations from policy makers and multilateral organizations. This continuous push for the inclusion of more women is often justified by arguments about an increased operational effectiveness related to women’s ‘added value’: both implicitly and explicitly advocating for greater gender equality. Yet, in this article, I contend that using instrumentalist arguments to increase thenumber of female peacekeepers may on the contrary undermine gender equality, as there is a risk of producing self-fulfilling prophecies wherebyfemale peacekeepers try to live up to the high expectations by fitting into gender-stereotypes and/or by working harder than their male colleagues. The ‘added value’ becomes an ‘added burden’ which male peacekeepers do not have to carry.
I draw on extensive interview material from military staff in South Africa, Burundi, Belgium and Niger; interviews and informal discussions with female peacekeepers and participation in several policy and research workshops on female participation in peacekeeping to illustrate my argument.
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(Photo credit: UN Photo Pasqual Gorriz dec2017)