The Finnish Embassy in Abu Dhabi organized a panel discussion on female participation in peacekeeping on Wednesday the 31st of Oct. The panel was called Women, Peace and Participation: Emirati and Finnish experiences, and it was organized together with UN Women in UAE and the UAE General Women’s Union.
The Finnish guest of honour was Anne Meskanen, Ambassador at large for Gender Equality. Other panelists in the morning session were Major General Abdullah Al Hashimi from the UAE Ministry of Defence and Colonel Afra Al Farasi from the Khawla bint Al Azwar women’s military school.
In her previous positions as the Ambassador to Kosovo and Afghanistan, Anne Meskanen has worked in close co-operation with the Finnish peacekeeping operations. In her speech she brought up how female peacekeepers can function as excellent role models to other women in the local communities. She also gave an example of how it is easier for female peacekeepers to connect with all of the population – sharing experiences of e.g. sexual abuse with males is often unimaginable in many cultures.
In addition to Ms Meskanen, the Finnish Ambassador to the UAE HE Riitta Swan also made a speech in the event. She stressed not only the long history of Finnish peacekeeping, but also our country’s advancements in gender equality in general: “In 1906 Finnish women became the first in the world to receive full political rights. Already before that Finnish women have been entitled to complete university degrees since 1882,” the Ambassador told the full audience. She also mentioned the International Gender Equality Prize established by the Finnish government, and said she believes the the UAE could have many excellent candidates for next year’s prize.
The panel also discussed Finland and UAE’s common goals in increasing female participation in peacekeeping, both in military and civil positions. Together with the United Nations and the UAE Ministry of Defence, United Arab Emirates will begin a peacekeeper training aimed at women. Covering nine Arab countries, the training is the first one of its kind in the region, and UAE seems genuinely proud of this step towards increased (Arab) gender equality. Finland could also make a great partner in this training, given the country’s extensive record in peacekeeping, both Ambassadors Meskanen and Swan believe.
All in all, the panel was a successful step towards a mutual understanding between Finland and UAE in terms of peacekeeping and gender equality.