The newly authorized hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur can serve as a major step towards saving the lives of vulnerable women and girls in the violence-wracked Sudanese region, the head of a UN women’s institute said today.
Carmen Moreno, Director of the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW), said yesterday’s Security Council resolution setting up the force “has provided an opportunity to put an end to violence against civilians, especially women, who are in danger.”
Ms. Moreno called on the new peacekeeping operation, to be known as UNAMID, to treat the protection of Darfur’s women as a priority.
“Training troops and police on gender issues before and during their field deployment will strengthen their ability to prevent the atrocities committed against women,” she said. “Violence against women can only be tackled from a gender perspective.”
UNAMID is the first hybrid force involving the UN and will become the largest peacekeeping force in the world, with an eventual force of nearly 26,000 troops and police officers.
The mission has been given an initial mandate of 12 months and will incorporate the existing AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which has been deployed across Darfur since 2004, soon after deadly fighting erupted between rebel groups, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias.
Since then Darfur has become the scene of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with more than 200,000 people killed and two million others forced to flee their homes. Rape, sexual enslavement, torture and abductions are also widespread.
Ms. Moreno said that rape was being used as a weapon of war, with women and girls – some as young as eight years old – at risk every day, even when living in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) or refugees.
She added that women are estimated to represent more than two-thirds of the IDPs scattered across Darfur and the refugees who have fled to neighbouring Chad or the Central African Republic (CAR).