Women power: Vietnamese peacekeepers undaunted by challenges
Vietnamese female UN officers reflect on their time serving the United Nations peacekeeping mission.

Lieutenant Colonel Luong Thi Tra Vinh is having a once-in-her-lifetime experience serving in the United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan.

Lieutenant Colonel Vinh talks with an officer on leave in Hanoi.__Photo: VNS/VNA

It was a dream come true when she became the first female police officer in the country to be deployed for this operation October last year.

She is currently in the seventh month of her one-year term, working as a staff officer at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Vinh said she found this experience truly rewarding as it has opened up several new opportunities for her.

“When one is deployed for peacekeeping mission, people often focus on the aspect that this job is tough, the work environment is harsh and difficult and they tend to see this as the sacrifice,” Vinh told Vietnam News during her two-week leave in Hanoi in late May.

“To do this job, one has to put in a lot of effort and responsibility but at the same time, I have also gained a lot. It is a truly valuable experience.”

Now more than half way through the mission term, Vinh said she is still cherishing every moment in Africa.

“I cherish every moment, every day in South Sudan and it is also an opportunity for me to look at my home country from a wider perspective. I have a broader picture of my country thanks to exchanges with international friends about their thoughts about Vietnam,” she said.

"This opportunity allows me to work in the field in a country which is torn by conflict, where I can interact with many international friends, learn from them as well as express myself. I am proud to represent Vietnam and Vietnamese female public security in an international environment.

Lieutenant Colonel Luong Thi Tra Vinh attends a forum with female colleagues at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.__Photo: VNS/VNA

"Thanks to this, I have broadened my horizons and grasped this opportunity to show people a sense of Vietnamese people, the heart of the Vietnamese people as well as the responsibility of a people's police officer.

"It opens up other opportunities for me that I didn't expect, opportunities that come when I'm ready."

Vinh had always hoped to join the UN peacekeeping mission and she prepared for it for many years.

“Nothing can compare to the joy I have when I fulfill the dream to be deployed,” she said.

Vinh said she had been always ready and proactive, adding that this is also one of the conditions that help her be selected to become the first female police officer of Vietnam to serve in the UN peacekeeping operation in 2022.

“It is a huge pride,” Vinh said.

Her first duty as an officer there was to join the patrol for at least a month. This is an extremely important for new staff as it was the opportunity for one to get to know the local situation, the coordinating units as well as the people and the police authority of South Sudan, she said.

Through each patrol, officers can have basic information about to the political security and the social order situations in South Sudan’s Juba.

It is also a chance for them to bring the image of the United Nations peacekeeping officer, and Vietnam to the host country and learn about local people’s aspirations and desires in life, she said.

Women power

Lieutenant Do Huyen Trang, staff officer of the training division of the Vietnam Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said she enjoyed serving the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

She said: "Female soldiers participating in the United Nations peacekeeping mission receive certain privileges and priorities. When I go to work in those subdivisions, I also get to know and interact with civilians and local people tend to be more willing to share with female soldiers than with male soldiers.

“People who are vulnerable in conflict areas are often women and children. That makes them more willing to talk to female soldiers.”

In a recent interview with media in Hanoi, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security Jacqueline O’Neil

said female UN peacekeepers help build the confidence of the local community and the presence of female officers also help build the full understanding of the local community’s priorities and needs.

Though encountering a number of challenges ranging from tough living conditions, like shortages of water and electricity, to safety and security threats on a daily basis, Trang said, as long as one has a clear goal and good preparation, these difficulties are “immaterial”.

“We must clearly define our goals and preparations and plans, and the most important thing is that each person should have a passion, then when we face difficulties, we will know how to turn difficulties into challenges into opportunities,” Trang said.

“I am well aware that this is part of my work and I have a passion for my job so for those things, I don’t think it’s a big problem,” she said.

Lieutenant Do Huyen Trang at an interview in Hanoi.__Photo: VNS/VNA

Security is also a challenge for officers here where conflicts are rampant.

“In Bangui (capital of the Central African Republic) area, there is the possibility of conflicts everyday, one can't tell whether there is a bomb or if there is a group of armed conflicts waiting for me,” Trang said.

“Whenever going out, I must be ready and well prepared for all circumstances. I have to make sure I am aware of what I may face and what I have prepared,” she said.

She said officers should have strong knowledge and be able to speak as many foreign languages as possible, which makes it easier to communicate with the local community.

It is also important to fully grasp the regulations of the UN to cope with situations when there are armed conflicts, she said.

“One of the strengths of women is flexibility and Vietnamese women are also very patient and resilient, helping able to cope with these tough situations skillfully,” she said.

Before taking over the position, Lieutenant Colonel Vinh was sent to a training camp where Vietnamese military peacekeepers share valuable information and experience through which the new officers can have an overall view of the political situation and challenges that they should expect in order to adapt to the new job at the mission as soon as possible.

The political situation in South Sudan now is quite stable, however, there are still conflicts and unrest here and there.

However it is not something to be concerned about as ensuring safety for officers has been top priority at missions, Vinh said.

The peacekeeper said after finishing the term, officers will return to their everyday jobs or be assigned other tasks depending on the decision of the management agency.

“We would take over any task that the nation, the Party and the people require no matter where it is,” she said.

Talking about the possibility of extending serving term, Vinh said all three police officers deployed are recommended to request extension of their term, however, this will depend on the decision of the Ministry of Public Security.-(VNS/VNA)

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