Ratih Pusparini, Peacekeeper in Conflict Areas

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Ratih Pusparini (on the right) in the United Nations’ Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations (C-34), in New York. (Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

UNAIR NEWS – To be the first woman from Indonesia sent on the field as a peacekeeper is one of her achievements. She was excited as she was appointed and sent to conflict areas by Indonesian Military Headquarter.

She was Ratih Pusparini, 1994 alumna of English Undergraduate program Universitas Airlangga sent for peacekeeping missions in conflict areas. Even after four years, her experience on the front line was still clear in her memory, the tribal war, the patrolling soldiers and the sound of bullets she hears every day.

In 2008, Ratih was deployed firstly as military observer of UN missions in the Republic Democratic of Congo. She explained how the political situation there was very dynamic and unstable.

“The wars among the tribes, the rebels still rage on. They were not only from Congo but also from the neighboring countries such as Uganda, Rwanda and Central Africa Republic. We must stay indoor for three days as it is not safe to go out,” said the woman from Indonesian Air Force.

In March, 2012, she was deployed to Lebanon. She was a monitoring officer of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) operation. After a month, in April she was requested to join a team in Syria as a military observer and operational staff in United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) headquarter.

However, she was not long in the country which is currently in conflict due Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) existence. The mission was ended after three months as it was too dangerous for peacekeepers.

She returned to Lebanon in September 2012 as Shift Chief Joint Operation Centre UNIFIL. This time the mission was a year long. In the beginning of the deployment, Lebanon was quite conducive but early 2013, there were firefights in some areas because of the political situation in the neighboring country, Syria was also in turmoil.

Women, World’s Peacekeepers

Mandated as the first military woman sent to countries in conflict was not easy for Ratih who is now a Lieutenant Colonel. She believes that this responsibility should be shown with good reputation.

In her first deployment in Congo and Syria, there were only 20 women deployed. The women were from Indonesia (2 people), China, South Africa, India, Ghana, Canada, Malawi, and Uruguay. The others were men, 17 thousand of military, police and civilian officers.

But, regarding peace, unity is the responsibility of all, men or women. However, the woman born on Denpasar 48 years ago believes that women can be peacekeepers in conflict areas.

“We need our partners’ trust, the men’s trust, that women can also perform similar task given to them as before the mission deployment the women were also trained and well-prepared,” said Ratih who used to be in Merpati Putih UKM.

The woman who has a master from Monash University, Australia was awarded Women of Change from the U.S. Government in 2013. It was given at the same time of International Women Day during her mission in Lebanon. She also received medal of honors such as The United Nations (UN) Medal, UN Medal Syria, and UN Peacekeeping Medal in Lebanon.

Ratih, who had her basic education in Jakarta, has also been involved in UN forum. In February 2017, Ratih and Kristin Lund (Norwegian Major General and Commander of UN peacekeeping missions) spoke in United Nations Special Committee for Peacekeeping Operations in New York.

In the forum, she stated six main points on women involvement in UN peacekeeping missions. “UN must make affirmative measures to increase more women in UN missions. There should be policy changes, which support the women, reform the culture and mindset,” said Ratih.

“Adequate resources to increase the roles women in peacekeeping missions, and the need for gender advisory network consists of decision maker women to ensure gender perspective on all levels. Furthermore, there should be women deployments besides the usual feminine duties, such as medic, logistics and administrative,” added Ratih who is currently The Head of Language Department, Academic Department of Air Force Academy.

Ratih then said that there is considerable opportunity for women to be peacekeepers. They should have good physical and mental condition, foreign language skill and independence. There is a selection held in TNI’s Peacekeeping Mission Center in Sentul, Bogor, West Java.

“There is open opportunity for women to join the UN peacekeeping missions. Not only military and police officers, civilians can also apply. We have a lot of UN women volunteers in many missions. We had women soldiers in Lebanon and Sudan,” said Ratih.

Personally, she hoped that women are given more chances to be more active in world’s peacekeeping. She said that slowly but sure, the world will be strong and peaceful.

Regarding her alma mater, Ratih said that UNAIR’s success lies on the academicians. “We must have great concern to every elements of university, the management, faculty and students. It is to stupport UNAIR to achieve world class university,” she said. “Good luck, UNAIR!”

Author: Defrina Sukma S

Editor    : Binti Q. Masruroh

This post is also available in: Indonesian

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