MONTEVIDEO.- Uruguay, with a population of only 3,400,000, has for many years had thousands of Blue Helmets deployed around the globe, not of all of whom are men.

An ever increasing presence, in both numbers and rank, of Uruguayan women on UN peace missions is the subject of growing interest to the region’s armed forces.

Prensa Latina sources confirmed that Uruguay has 1,192 soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 260 in Haiti, 60 observers in the Sinai, two in Libya, two in Kashmir and one in the Ivory Coast.

75% of officers and 66% of the lower ranks of the Uruguayan Armed Forces, estimated to be 26,000 strong, have completed UN peace missions.

Uruguay, with a population of only 3,400,000, has for many years had thousands of Blue Helmets deployed around the globe, not of all of whom are men.The Ministry for National Defense recalled that the first Uruguayan contingent consisting of 36 soldiers and 2 B-212 helicopters was deployed in 2003 in both Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Since then, in support of the UN, the Uruguayan Air Force has accumulated some 10,000 flight hours in a range of aircrafts.

Colonel Yamandú Lessa, spokesman of the army recently announced that the government is at present looking at the possible deployment of a further undetermined number of Blue Helmets in the Central African Republic.

From the total of 112 soldiers, between 6% and 9% of those deployed are women.

This places Uruguay in pole position in the region for the participation of women in peace missions and at number 11 out of 122 countries that send troops to such missions worldwide.

The Uruguayan women undertake different tasks within the missions, from section chiefs to doctors, nurses, interpreters, drivers, radio- officers, and cooks, among other tasks.

Local media have highlighted the experiences of four uniformed women on active service. Captain Ana Lucas of the Uruguayan army was the first such officer to participate in peace missions, and now has completed two of these missions in charge of personnel in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 2006 and 2010.

They stressed that the presence of female officers “represents a major change for the army, the most recent of which being the combative female” (Uruguay have included female soldiers of lower ranks in peace missions since 1992).Lieutenant Deborah Lalinde was a section chief in the Congo (2009-2010), and private Gimena Chiazzaro participated twice as a scribe in this African nation (2008 and 2012).

Similarly, private Claudia Sierra completed a mission as an interpreter in the Congo (2004) and has completed a further three in Haiti since then.

All four have assured that they were never discriminated against for being women. In saying this, they told the press, they reflected their own attitudes of not feeling inferior and their undertaking of any tasks required.

Experts from a number of countries recently attended a peace keeping conference here in Montevideo entitled “Our commitment to International Peace and Security”.

According to the organizers, the agreements made at the conference which addressed themes such as “existing gaps in the system” will add to the II Summit on Peace Keeping Operations which is to be held in New York next September.

Paz Tibiletti, president of the Latin American Security and Defense Network (RESDAL in Spanish), pointed to the need for a gender based examination of challenges that arise in military and police work.

Along similar lines, RESDAL member Samantha Kusrrow, said that the idea was not simply to increase the number of women, but for better mission command for these women and more contact with the civil public.

Academic Rosario González confirmed that female presence in missions “serves to help and give an example to women in all countries where peace keeping missions are undertaken”.

UN resolution number 1325, which is due for revision in New York in September, emphasizes the importance of full female inclusion in peace consolidation, in keeping operations on an equal footing and in conflict prevention and resolution.

It also advocates for increased female representation on missions, and incorporates a gender perspective for all spheres of peacekeeping.

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