Protecting civilians and raising awareness despite COVID-19 challenges

May 28, 2020

By Ruth Njiru

This piece is part of our May campaign highlighting women in peacekeeping, leading up to the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on 29 May.

I’m Ruth Njiru from Kenya, a Police Adviser serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). I have been working here since December 2018, and I’m stationed at the UNMISS Field Office in Bentiu, in the northern part of the country.

My initial role within the mission was that of a Patrol Officer, which gave me the opportunity to interact very closely with local communities, especially women and children.

I led patrols to fulfil one of our most important mandated tasks here — protecting civilians.

I used my time on patrols to develop connections with young people, share messages and raise awareness among youth about the importance of education.

Most importantly, I focused on making sure that they were familiar with their rights, and knew how to report any violations of their human rights.

Within four months, I was appointed as the UN Police Duty Officer. I work mainly with patrol teams who respond to incidents in the UNMISS Protection of Civilians site in Bentiu. I supervise a team of 30 police officers drawn from different police-contributing countries.

We’re a diverse, multicultural team and we bring different strengths and skills to the table.

It is an enriching experience to work with colleagues from varied policing backgrounds, and I’ve designed mentorship programmes that enable all of us to continuously learn from each other.

Photo by UNMISS

Another area I am passionate about is capacity building among the communities we serve, as well as among our national counterparts.

As women peacekeepers, we strike a different rapport with South Sudanese women, as we share many of the same concerns.

I’ve always used this connection to make sure we do the best we can to trickle down income-generating skills to displaced women.

These skills include knitting, weaving baskets and cooking.

I believe being economically empowered is an important step in ensuring women’s voices are heard and considered within their families, communities, and eventually, in larger political and peace processes.

With COVID-19 casting a cloud over the entire world, our operations and patrols are restricted as per guidelines from the World Health Organization.

Photo by UNMISS

Our primary aim is to make sure that, as peacekeepers, we do not transmit the virus to the people we are here to serve.

In order to keep the local population safe, we must keep ourselves safe as well.

This has not deterred myself or my team from continuing to engage in awareness raising, especially about protective measures among our own ranks and among host populations.

COVID-19 or not, Peacekeeping is a challenging occupation.

Ultimately, however, it is an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to make a difference and play a part in achieving international peace and security.

I can safely say that women across the world should consider peacekeeping a career option worth pursuing.

Ruth Njiru from Kenya is a Police Adviser serving with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in Bentiu.

Protecting civilians and raising awareness despite COVID-19 challenges was originally published in We The Peoples on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.