Over the past decade, the UN has undertaken several initiatives to increase the number of women police officers deployed to peace operations. Collectively, these initiatives have increased the proportion of women police officers deployed to UN missions. However, women police still face challenges deploying to missions and effectively contributing to mission mandates.
This paper interrogates the experiences, concerns, and needs of women police officers deployed to UN peace operations. First, it analyzes progress on including more women in UN police forces. Second, it provides arguments for including more women police officers. Third, it describes the multifaceted challenges that women police officers face both before and during deployment. Finally, it provides recommendations for how police-contributing countries (PCCs) and the UN can move toward a shared, sustainable approach to the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women police officers in peacekeeping.
While the UN often argues for deploying more women peacekeepers because they will increase missions’ operational performance, this rationale risks reinforcing some of these challenges by perpetuating stereotypes about the role of women in missions. Missions should instead focus on women police officers’ right to deploy. To ensure women have this right, both PCCs and missions need to foster an enabling working environment and address structural barriers to women’s participation.