An Assistant Commissioner with the Zambia Police Service, Charity Chanda was nominated by her country to serve in the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). Currently working as a Public Information Officer with the Mission's Police component, this is Charity's second tour of duty in Sudan, the first being with the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). Here, she speaks about her experiences as a peacekeeper.
Why did you opt for peacekeeping as a career?
As a law enforcement officer, I always wanted to serve as a UN peacekeeper and was honoured to represent my country, Zambia, in contributing to working for sustainable peace in Darfur. I also always wanted to be part of worldwide efforts to ensure that more female peacekeepers are deployed to help people in countries suffering the devastating effects of ongoing conflicts. As a woman, being part of the 'Blue Helmets' serving under UN flag fills me with pride.
Could you tell us a bit about your role in UNAMID?
I was initially deployed as a patrol officer in Central Darfur where I engaged with protection of civilian activities. It is through this role that I came into contact with displaced women and their protracted suffering.
Once I became a Public Information Officer, I was tasked with informing external audiences about the numerous ways in which UNAMID's police component supports the rights of local communities across Darfur. This has been instrumental in building a relationship of trust and mutual confidence between the Mission and the population it serves across Darfur. Furthermore, I also work on a lot of internal messaging to motivate Individual Police officers deployed in Darfur. Another important aspect of my role is focused on highlighting achievements and challenges faced by female police peacekeepers as they play a critical role in sensitizing Darfuri women about their rights as well as building their capacity through skills training, among other things.
I am currently the Chairperson of the UNAMID Police Women Network which promotes and empowers female officers to take up leadership positions as well as lobbys for greater female recruitment at the officer-level within the Sudanese Police. We carry out collaborative programmes with our Sudanese counterparts focused on gender mainstreaming, capacity building and empowerment. We extend our skills-building and awareness-raising efforts to include displaced women and children as well.
What, in your opinion, has been a significant impact of your work in Darfur?
I believe that female peacekeepers are role models for the communities we serve. Our presence in the field encourages displaced women to engage in education and empowerment programmes. Since during any conflict, women and children are, perhaps, the most affected, they find it easier to open up to female peacekeepers, especially when it comes to sensitive issues such as and sexual and gender-based violence.
I strongly believe that the moment a woman is economically empowered, she becomes more confident, which, in turn, reduces her exposure to potential security risks. Keeping this in mind, the Police Women's Network has trained Darfuri women in numerous income-generating skills in order for them uplift their livelihoods. For example, the Police Commissioner recently launched a soap-making and crafts projects sponsored by the Police Women's Network in Central Darfur. Documenting such stories and being involved in implementing such empowering activities for Darfuri women has been a very enriching experience for me.
What do you think is the most important thing we can do to ensure that women in conflict situations are safe from sexual and gender-based violence?
I feel more qualified female police officer should be deployed in the deep field, given the multiple challenges related to gender and community dynamics. I also believe consistent sensitization is key to ensuring that women are aware of their rights and are emboldened to report any violation without fear of reprisal. Educating women caught in conflict situations about sexual and gender-based violence not only protects them from becoming victims of such acts but also ensures that they become a support structure for other women and collaborate with law enforcement officers to report such incidents in a timely fashion.