South Sudan: First Person - Women Peacekeepers a 'Powerful Image for Girls in Remote Villages'

13 March 2021

Deputy Inspector Martina de Maria Sandoval Linares, from El Salvador always wanted to help others. Now, working as a UN Police officer, she has found her vocation, far from home in South Sudan. Ms. Linares, whose eight-year-old daughter and family are back in El Salvador, told UN News why the job is so rewarding, despite the sacrifices she makes.

"This is my first posting with the UN Police Force, known as UNPOL. I arrived in South Sudan in December 2019 to work in the UN peacekeeping mission, UNMISS.

I am part of the assessment team office, collecting and analyzing information on any serious incidents that take place in the IDP (internally displaced persons) camp in Juba, the country's capital. We are here to protect them and ensure that the security situation within the camp remains stable.

I think the COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge we are facing. When the virus first spread in South Sudan, there was limited knowledge about our safety and that of the communities we serve.

But we teamed up, and made sure we had access to masks, gloves, disinfectants, and everything else needed to keep on doing our job.

I am very proud of the team I work with. It has not been easy, but because we come from so many different countries, we shared our police experiences to ensure a smooth operation.

Women inspire peace

Keeping the peace can be difficult: you will learn to live in distant lands with people you do not know, you will have to overcome many obstacles and take risks, but it will change your life in a way you have never imagined.

I think the greatest impact we have as women peacekeepers is that we inspire young women and girls to think about being like us. They see us leading a life of service, of commitment to a cause that is greater than the individual.

What a woman peacekeeper represents for a girl in a remote village is very powerful, it shows that they can follow their dreams, and they don't need to limit themselves.

'My father wasn't happy at first'

I always wanted to wear a uniform. A careers counsellor gave me good advice when I was a student; he told me to finish my college degree before making any decisions. I took his words seriously, and took a degree in business administration.

However, when I thought about what I wanted to do with my life, the answer was clear: I wanted to help people. After graduating, I didn't waste any more time, and joined the National Academy of Public Safety in 2007. I finished my training two years later and became a full-fledged police officer.

My mother was the only one who knew what I was planning. When my father found out, he wasn't very happy at first, but he relented when he saw how determined I was, and even supported me financially for a while.

South Sudan holds a special place in my heart: the people and warmth I have experienced here remind me of where I grew up. Also, I have made lifelong friends from all over the world".

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