By: Camilla Stamp & Samira Y. Salifu
From the icy plains of Greenland to the arid Golan heights, the life of Commander Janne Kristina Larsen has been one of unforgettable and challenging experiences. Having led the human resources department of the Royal Danish Navy at the Joint Arctic Command headquarters in Nuuk in Greenland, she first served with UNTSO from 2018 to 2019 to oversee deployments of military observers (unarmed military officers). In October 2022, she returned to UNTSO and now leads the liaison office.
“Although I had no female role models when I applied to be a peacekeeper, I always knew I wanted to be part of something big and make a difference. Indeed, my motivation to join the United Nations and play my part for peace in the Middle East had been growing for more than 10 years before I joined the UN.
So, my first deployment to the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) was a dream come true. I served as the Chief Military Personnel Officer in Jerusalem and, among other things, was responsible for ensuring that the Mission recruited a diverse pool of well-trained officers, including female peacekeepers.
The experience helped me to understand the importance of deploying women peacekeepers to volatile security environments. It was fulfilling to see how female military observers were significantly breaking down communication barriers with women and children in communities we served.
I always tell young women who are considering serving under the blue flag to “Just do it!”. Because once you become a part of the UN family, you will make a difference and your confidence will receive a renewed boost to achieve great things.
It is true that female peacekeepers face harsh realities during peacekeeping missions. First, in the communities we serve because of how male-dominated they tend to be. For instance, contrary to what happens in northern Europe, I discovered that I could not always talk to or shake hands with a man due to religious or cultural beliefs.
Second, deployments are generally for a period of twelve months. That is a long time to be away from home if you are a young mother, or if you want to explore other career paths within your country’s army.
Finally, I believe increasing women’s participation in UN peacekeeping should go hand-in-hand with improving water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in field locations that better cater to the needs of women. The organization needs to ensure that living conditions for peacekeepers are respectful of all.
For my part, what drives me the most is the realization that as one person I cannot achieve it all. But I can make a mark when I work with others as part of an organization such as the UN to understand the different and complex perspectives of a conflict and help communities find sustainable peace.”
More than two million peacekeepers have served for peace under the UN flag, but they are not alone in the pursuit of peace. Peacekeeping is powered by strong and diverse partnerships. In this new series, we bring you the voices of peacekeepers and partners across the world, to mark the International Day of Peacekeepers, 29 May.