In an announcement at the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial in Accra, Ghana, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Representative of the United States to the United Nations, revealed a U.S. commitment of US$3 million to support a women’s body armor pilot project. The initiative, developed in collaboration with the Netherlands, aims to address the longstanding issue of inadequate and personal protective equipment (PPE) for women peacekeepers and enhance their effectiveness in peacekeeping missions.
Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield highlighted a critical issue faced by women peacekeepers – ill-fitting “unisex” personal protective equipment. This problem has hindered the participation of women in UN peace operations. The $3 million pledge is a significant step toward tackling this issue.
Female body armor is designed with a tailored cut, rounded chest, shortened torso, and an adjustable back that conforms to a woman’s body, providing better coverage of vital organs. The primary objective of this pilot project is to evaluate the effectiveness of the equipment in enhancing operations and safety during both training and deployment. By addressing the gender-specific challenges in personal protective equipment, the initiative seeks to reduce barriers and promote women’s active involvement in peacekeeping missions.
During the ceremony, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield emphasized the importance of women peacekeepers in fostering positive relationships with local communities. She noted that women peacekeepers are more approachable to women and girls, particularly survivors of gender-based violence. Additionally, women peacekeepers offer unique perspectives on conflict, reconciliation, and peace-building, serving as powerful role models for the next generation of peacekeepers.
The Ambassador expressed gratitude to Ghana and Zambia for their consistent leadership in providing not only body armor but also the necessary training, infrastructure, and support for women peacekeepers. She underscored that the $3 million investment represents a commitment to empowering and protecting these peacekeepers as they dedicate their lives to empowering and protecting civilians in conflict zones.
As part of her address, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield recognized the historic progress in increasing the number of women peacekeepers, citing a significant rise from only 20 women in the late 1980s to approximately 4,800 women in military peacekeeping and nearly 12,000 in formed police units in 2023. Despite this progress, the Ambassador urged continued efforts to address the underrepresentation of women peacekeepers in the communities that need them.
The Ambassador stressed that this investment in women’s body armor is not only an investment in women but also in entire communities. The joint initiative with the Netherlands and the commitment to pilot women-specific body armor in Ghana and Zambia reflect a collective effort to overcome gender disparities in peacekeeping and contribute to a safer and more inclusive future for conflict-affected regions.