The United States and Netherlands governments have announced that they will jointly fund, procure and deliver women-specific body armor to Ghanaian and Zambian United Nations (UN) women peacekeeping officers to enhance their operations and safety during training and deployment.
Unlike its “unisex” predecessor, which is what both the men and women on UN peacekeeping tours have been using to date, the woman-specific body armour, features a tailored cut, rounded chest, shortened torso, and adjustable back that tightens to fit, allowing the vest to conform to the woman’s torso and providing better coverage of vital female organs.
The two countries – the United States and the Netherlands – announced the piloting of the initiative at a ceremony at the Accra International Conference Centre today (Tuesday 5 December 2023) on the sidelines of the two-day UN peacekeeping ministerial meeting taking place in Ghana.
Ghana and Zambia are the leading contributors of female peacekeepers on the African continent.
The UN threshold for meaningful participation of women in peacekeeping is 15%. Ghana has crossed the threshold and currently stands at 18%, while Zambia has achieved 27% of women’s participation in peacekeeping operations.
At the ceremony to sign the quadrilateral partnership (between the United States, the Netherlands, Ghana and Zambia) were Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US permanent ambassador to the United Nations, Ghana’s Minister of Defence, Dominic Nitiwul MP, the permanent secretary in Zambia’s Ministry of Defence, Norman Chipakupaku, and Koen Davidse, director general for policy at MINDEF in the Netherlands.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said the purpose of the women’s body armour pilot project is to evaluate the degree to which the equipment enhances operations and safety during training and deployment.
The pilot project, she added, is aimed at reducing barriers to women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in UN peace operations.
“Women peacekeepers are still woefully underrepresented in the communities that need them,” Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said. “One major barrier to entry is (quote, unquote) ‘the unisex personal protective equipment’ that simply doesn’t fit women peacekeepers.
“And that is why we are thrilled to commit $3 million to a joint partnership with the Netherlands to help Ghana and Zambia pilot women-specific body armour in peacekeeping.
“Investment in the armour is an investment in women and, in turn, an investment in entire communities. It is long past time that we empower and protect these peacekeepers as they dedicate their lives to empowering and protecting civilians in conflict,” the US representative to the UN added.
Keep women safe
Ghana’s Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul, told guests at the meeting that the investment by the US and the Netherlands in providing Ghanaian women peacekeepers with woman-specific body armour is a timely intervention which will go a long way to touch the lives of millions of people who will be served by the women in peacekeeping.
“Judging from the fact that one of the topics that will be discussed [during the two-day UN peacekeeping ministerial meeting in Ghana] is women in peacekeeping, it marries so beautifully that today, we are signing an agreement for your support in body armour for women in peacekeeping.
“To keep every woman alive who is in peace is as important as keeping a nation alive,” Nitiwul said.
The permanent secretary at Zambia’s Ministry of Defence, Norman Chipakupaku, registered the appreciation of the Zambian government and armed forces for the support the governments of the Netherlands and the United States are offering to keep their female peacekeepers safe.
“We are very grateful that the US and the Netherlands have decided to support these gallant defence forces. Epecially in Zambia, we are so grateful.
“On behalf of the commander-in-chief of the Zambian Armed Forces, President Hakainde Hichilema, we say thank you,” Chipakupaku said.
Reporting by Wilberforce Asare in Accra
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