My Friend Woman. A Qualitative Study of the United Nations Gender Balancing Strategy Examined Through the Perspectives of Local, Community Women

Start date: 2 May, 2017 End date: 4 June, 2017 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A31611 Countries: Liberia Institutions: Aarhus University (AU), Denmark Grant recipient: Charlotte van Doorn Bernhard Total grant: 20,877 DKK



This thesis examines the assumed effects of the United Nations gender balancing strategy seen from a local perspective. More specifically, this is accomplished by placing local, community women at the forefront, letting their perspectives and experiences come forward in exploring the underlying assumption that an increase in the presence of female peacekeepers will improve local women’s living conditions.

The United Nations’ focus on an increase in the deployment of female peacekeepers became an official aim by the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in year 2000. Here it was born as a strategy of gender balancing and represented one out of two pillars of the first United Nations gender strategy. The resolution enhanced an increased focus on women, peace and security, which likewise pushed the growing acknowledgement of women and female roles in conflict and post-conflict environments. Despite the seventeen years, which have passed from the UNSCR1325 adoption, female peacekeepers are still a rare sight, constituting only three percent of the total UN military personnel (UN Peacekeeping). The gender balancing strategy is nevertheless a main priority of the UN in order to facilitate gender equality within missions as well as improve the conditions for local women in the host-country.

In the present thesis, the research question is examined through an intensive qualitative single case study of the United Nations Mission in Liberia. Based on seven focus group interviews as the primary data material this thesis finds an overall support to the theoretical assumption. The analysis is thereby stating that from the perspective of local, Liberian women, female peacekeepers make a positive difference. In addition, the analysis brings three new contributions forward. These three state that the bond between women, the gendered history of the national context, and the behavior and attitude of male peacekeepers should also be considered as influencing factors when examining the effect of the gender balancing strategy.