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People for Peace: Mame Rokhaya Lo on empowering women in Ituri, DRC

More than one 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.

Original reporting: Jean-Tobie Okala / Edited by: Maya Kelly

Mame Rokhaya Lo is a trailblazer. She is squadron chief and the first woman to lead the Formed Police Unit from Senegal (SENFPU) with the UN Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) in Bunia, Ituri. As a woman peacekeeper in a leadership role, she challenges the traditionally male-dominated landscape in the security sector and serves as a role model for women and girls to advocate for their own rights and follow the career of their choice. For Mame Rokhaya, peace is precious and empowering the women of Ituri, DRC, is a priority. This story is based on an original interview in March 2022.

"As the squadron chief and the first woman to lead the Formed Police Unit (FPU) from Senegal (SENFPU) within MONUSCO in Bunia, Ituri, DRC, I lead a team of 135 members, including 21 women. Sometimes I see surprised faces, as there has never been a woman as the head of the FPU in the sector.

For the men who are under my command, we have mutual respect and they fulfill the missions I entrust them with. Even if it is a first for a woman to command a formed police force in Bunia, we respect each other and work together.

I am very sensitive to the living conditions of the people I meet, especially women and children. I was particularly shocked by the plight of the displaced persons assembled in camps in Ituri.

Something more can be done... This may (mean) reviewing how my team members conduct patrols at these camps.

Empowering women for sustainable peace

First, patrolling troops should get closer to the people, in a professional manner, to better understand their needs.

I would like to support women as much as possible. I have realized that women here are very brave and try to be autonomous, even though they face many difficulties. Although our primary mission is the protection of civilians, I can still contribute to the empowerment of women.

 My team and I brought together more than 50 women from Bunia, including people with disabilities, from all communities, for discussions. These women, gathered within the ‘’Fraternité’’ association, have undergone training to produce and sell liquid soaps and disinfectants so that they can become economically independent and support their families.

My message to the women of Ituri is that they must continue fighting to be autonomous. They must also be part of the solutions, because for a sustainable future, there must be equality between men and women."