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The Women On the Frontlines of Africa’s Conflicts

In October 2000, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1325 – the first resolution that acknowledged women’s unique experience of conflict and their vital role in peace negotiations and peacebuilding. Unaisi Bolatolu-Vuniwaqa is head of police at the UN mission in South Sudan (UNmiss). Appointed in 2018, she became the first woman to hold the post, one of only three women leading police operations at UN missions around the world. She ensures the safety of people living at UN civilian protection sites, where around 13% of South Sudan’s displaced 1.6 million people are sheltering. In 2016, UNmiss was severely criticised for its failure to keep people living at its sites safe from violence. Since then, more UN police have patrolled the sites, and a “gender-responsive approach” has been introduced to tackle the different protection needs. Last year, Bolatolu-Vuniwaqa was involved in launching the national police force’s action plan for conflict-related sexual violence, which the UN secretary-general said “remained of serious concern”. In 2019, UNmiss documented 224 cases of sexual violence; 133 involving women, 66 girls, 19 men and six boys.