Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
December 5, 2023
Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a Signing Ceremony in Support of Women’s Body Armor Project at UN Peacekeeping Ministerial in Accra, Ghana
Let me thank you, the entire Peacekeeping Ministerial Team here in Ghana, for hosting us – and to all of you for joining us today. And a special welcome to Captain Cecilia Erzuah, last year’s UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year award winner. It’s wonderful to have you here today. Captain Cecilia, can you please stand up? Okay, she’s not here. Well, we still should applaud her. [Applause.]
Now, I spent a lot of time in West Africa in the late 1980s. And up until that point, there were only 20 women who had ever served as uniformed UN peacekeepers. Twenty. Not twenty in Africa. Not twenty a year. Twenty women, all across the world – over three decades of UN peacekeeping. Twenty women.
And thankfully, these numbers have begun to change. In 2023, there are some 4,800 women who served as military peacekeepers – and nearly 12,000 in formed police units. And we’ve seen the impact that that diversity has had.
And I will share with you when I served as the Ambassador to Liberia, there was nothing more amazing than seeing the Indian Formed Police Women’s Unit providing security for the president of Liberia, who happened to be a woman. And they were extraordinarily respected. They were no nonsense, and they got the job done, but they also dealt with many issues that unfortunately many times you men don’t know how to deal with. So, we really do need to have women peacekeepers in the field.
We know that women peacekeepers are more approachable to women and girls – and especially survivors of gender-based violence. They help ensure that peacekeeping missions are effectively communicating with communities they serve. They offer valuable perspectives on conflict, reconciliation, and peacebuilding. And they serve as powerful role models for the next generation of peacekeepers – inspiring women and girls to imagine a future after conflict ends.
But let’s not overstate progress: women peacekeepers are still woefully underrepresented in the communities that need them. One major barrier for entry? The quote-unquote “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 armor in peacekeeping.
The United States is grateful for this partnership – and for Ghana and Zambia’s consistent leadership in providing women peacekeepers with not only the armor, but the training, infrastructure, and support they need.
Friends, an investment in this armor is an investment in women – and in turn, an investment in entire communities. It’s long past time that we empower and protect these peacekeepers as they dedicate their lives to empowering and protecting civilians in conflict.
So, thank you very much. [Applause.]