Cecilia and her colleague provide first-aid assistance to the local community after a motorcycle accident as a part of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic. Photo: Cecilia Permatasari Ritonga

Cecilia Permatasari Ritonga is a 24-year-old criminal investigator from Indonesia serving as First Sergeant Tactical Force with the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). In light of this year’s International UN Peacekeepers’ Day, Cecilia shared with us some of the challenges and opportunities that a young woman peacekeeper may encounter during missions, and meaningful roles of women in sustaining international peace and security.

There have been several challenges to overcome during the deployment, for example, learning French and Sangho in the Central African Republic and adjusting to a new culture. For me, carrying firearms on a daily basis is also new. But I am always keen to learn and equip myself with essential skills for peacekeeping missions. Sometimes, due to the perception of lacking experience, youth peacekeepers are not always given big responsibilities, but we do our utmost anyway to demonstrate our ability and eagerness to develop new skills and gain new experience. As youth peacekeepers, we serve with new perspectives, enthusiasm and goodwill.

For Indonesian youth peacekeepers, social media has been a wonderful tool to share our peacekeeping field activities with everyone and keep us connected with family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic. By posting on Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and YouTube about our daily life, we can convey an important message about youth, peace and security to the world.

I am extremely proud to contribute to maintaining peace and resolving conflicts as Blue Helmet personnel, particularly when I see women playing roles in the field that are no less meaningful that their male counterparts. During daily patrolling, I interact with local communities and have heart-to-heart conversations with women and children. I also teach them self-defence and encourage them to be brave and speak up for themselves. For vulnerable groups such as women and girl survivors of gender-based violence, the presence of women peacekeepers makes them physically and emotionally safe to disclose all types of experience.

Don’t be afraid – that’s the key message I want to share with all women and girls who aspire to become peacekeepers. There will be obstacles, yet they can be transformed into opportunities. Always keep your spirits high and never give up.

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