Women as leaders and peacekeepers: Dr Lesley Pruitt

More than 118,000 peacekeepers – military, police and civilian – currently serve in 16 UN peace operations around the world. Currently 123 countries contribute military police and personnel but it’s not just the diversity of nationalities that is changing the face of UN peacekeeping – it’s also the more prominent presence of women.

In 2000 the UN Security Council adopted its landmark resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, recognising that women bear the brunt of armed conflicts and so should play a central role in their prevention and resolution. Several years later, this resolution was realised through India’s deployment of the first all-female police unit to the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia.

Within months of the all-female unit’s deployment to Liberia, the number of women applying to work in the Liberian National Police tripled, demonstrating the incredible impact women peacekeepers can have in empowering local women to participate in policing. 

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image: UN Peacekeepers Day celebration in the DR Congo by MONUSCO Photos. License: CC BY-SA 2.0

Dr Lesley Pruitt of Monash Gender Peace and Security (Monash GPS) has published a book that explores the story behind this ground-breaking all-female police unit: ‘The Women in Blue Helmets; Gender, Policing, and the UN’s First All-Female Peacekeeping Unit’. Lesley recently spoke to us about how the unit was implemented, as well as how young people can participate in peacebuilding (her other research area of interest).

She is currently working with Dr Katrina Lee-Koo, in partnership with the World YWCA and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on a new research project, ‘Mobilising Young Women’s Leadership and Advocacy in the Asia Pacific.’

The project will focus on several countries across the Asia Pacific region and aims to enable young women to lead positive change in their communities, through the sharing of information about human rights, sexual and reproductive health rights, violence against women, and gender. They also aim to support young women in the Asia Pacific as a driving force in influencing women’s rights policies.

Dr Lesley Pruitt joined Monash University in 2015, following appointments at the University of Melbourne, Victoria University, and RMIT University. She is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations and her research focuses on recognising and enhancing youth participation in peacebuilding and promoting gender equity in the peace processes.

Listen to our interview with Dr Lesley Pruitt about women as leaders and peacekeepers: 

Find out more