Lebanon – Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said on Monday that Indonesia needed to deploy more female personnel on peacekeeping missions after witnessing first-hand the appreciation that people living in a conflict area have for them.
“There are a lot of reasons, from culture, tradition and such, that make women more comfortable to communicate with other women and in areas of conflict where the victims are mostly women and children,” Retno told The Jakarta Post at the end of her two-day trip to visit Indonesian peacekeepers deployed under the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
She said women would aid in the process of mental healing and that peacekeeping missions would benefit greatly from female peacekeepers, especially those with backgrounds in psychology.
Indonesia has various units serving under the UNIFIL, including the Garuda Contingent (Konga) XXIII-L, also known as the Indonesian Battalion (Indo-Batt), based in Adchit al-Qusayr.
According to the commander of the mechanized infantry battalion, Col. Murbianto Adhi Wibowo, the number of female Indonesian peacekeepers at IndoBatt had increased from 29 in 2017 to 48 in 2018. Retno said she welcomed the progress and expected it would continue to gradually improve. She recounted her meeting with the two female doctors at an Indonesia-led medical camp in neighbouring Al-Taybeh municipality earlier that day, noting how the local community respects Indonesia’s fielding of female peacekeepers.
“There is a sense of extraordinary pride that emerges from knowing that our forces are able to serve in another country mired in conflict, but I’m even prouder to say that the presence of women peacekeepers is appreciated and needed,” she said in her speech.
“I welcome the fact that more and more women are deployed as peacekeepers on international peacekeeping missions.”
Indonesia has vowed to deploy 4,000 UN peacekeepers by 2019 and promote greater gender mainstreaming.
UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 1325 (2000) stresses the importance of women's equal and full participation as active agents in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace-building and peacekeeping.
It calls on member states to ensure women's equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security and urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all areas of peace building.
Retno also had a quick discussion with 28 female peacekeepers at the military base, seeking to find out what kind of trials and tribulations they faced there.
One of them, Sgt. Anita, noted how the medical team would provide free healthcare services at the in-house medical treatment facility, but also go door-to-door to the homes of patients in need.
She said they routinely set up a medical camp once a week, just like the one the minister had visited in Al-Taybeh.
After her brief visit to the camp, Retno inspected Panorama Point in neighbouring Oddaiseh municipality, which overlooks the UN-designated "blue line" that separates Lebanon and Israel and where exclusively Indonesian blue helmet patrol.
She was briefed on the security situation at the border by Murbianto before heading back to Beirut for her first-ever talks with her Lebanese counterpart, Gebran Bassil. A number of issues were raised during their short meeting, including Lebanon's pledge to support Indonesia in its bid to be a non-permanent member of the UNSC for 2019-2020.
On Sunday, Retno visited the KRI Usman Harun, home base of the Garuda Contingent XXVIII-J, a part of the UNIFIL's Maritime Task Force at the Port of Beirut.