From where I stand: “You are a woman, how are you going to handle such a difficult situation by yourself?”Maj. Ishrat Maria Mitu was one of the first women from Bangladesh commissioned as a UN Peacekeeper. She served in the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) for a year in 2009.
“As a military officer, my role was to maintain discipline amongst UN Peacekeepers in Sudan. At that time, South Sudan had still not become an independent country. My role required me to investigate complaints, handle incidents, and deal with traffic discipline such as speeding or drunk driving. On one occasion a senior officer was charged with sexual harassment. When I entered the village with my team to investigate, we encountered a lot of hostility. As we were not armed, we are usually vulnerable in such situations. I liaised with the local leaders and explained calmly what we were doing. The man was found guilty, so he was discharged and repatriated. My part was done, so I do not know any more details of his sentencing. On another occasion, there was a road accident at a water collection point and I was sent to solve the issue. When I approached the location, local people surrounded our car. They asked for USD 600 in damages. One man tried to hit me with a rod. Fortunately, my team – an interpreter and police security – saved me, but it was a very risky situation."
Maj. Ishrat Maria Mitu, was among the first batch of women from Bangladesh to serve as peacekeepers. She faced immense struggles. Acceptance of them has become much greater, but their numbers remain low, at two or three per year. To date there have been a total of 6,772 peacekeepers sent from Bangladesh, of whom just 196 were women. Her work contributes to Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and Goal 16 on reducing all forms of violence and working with governments and communities to find lasting solutions to conflict and insecurity.