Fifty Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) officers yesterday concluded a two-day course on "prevention and response to conflict-related sexual violence in peacekeeping theatres."
The training took place at Rwanda Peace Academy in Musanze District.
According to academy's director, Col Jill Rutaremara, the course is a result of collaborative efforts between the UN Women, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations Overseas (DKPO), and the academy on behalf of government.
Col. Rutaremara said the training was significant because RDF contributes to international peace and security through active participation in peace support operations and mainly in countries grappling with armed conflict and such countries are quite often characterised by human rights violations including sexual violence.
He added that the training has enhanced the understanding of the roles that various mission components and stakeholders play in addressing human rights violations and in particular sexual violence.
This is first ever scenario-based training on sexual violence to be carried out separately with other courses, Pablo Castillo Diaz, the UN Women Protection Analyst, said, adding that after the course, the officers would have a clear understanding of rules of engagement and duties to protect people including victims of sexual violence and participants get practical examples of how to address the situation.
"This training provides military peacekeepers with hands-on guidance on how to approach and respond to the cases or threats of sexual violence when they are at the field," Diaz said.
"We came to Rwanda because Rwanda has for many years been a leader in integrating gender into peace operations and the country is one of the major contributors of troops to peacekeeping worldwide," he said.
More women needed:
He gave an example of where Rwandan peace keepers have protected female civilians in Darfur against rape by accompanying them to collect firewood and fetching water.
Meanwhile, several officials said that more females are needed in peacekeeping to better deal with victims of rape, who tend to open up more if the case officer is a fellow woman.
"We need more females to undergo such training because not every victim can freely talk to me," said Maj. Gen. (rtd) Patrick Cammaert, a senior consultant on protection of civilians in UN Women.
He said that respect and good leadership are core points for peace keepers to operate and fulfil well their mission.
The officers who attended training said this kind of training was useful and timely, saying it would inevitably help them execute better their respective assignments as they go on their peacekeeping missions.
The trainees are in pre-deployment, meaning they are being prepared for peacekeeping missions while others are instructors for peace support operations. Participants also had time to discuss and respond to questions in groups on how to handle sexual violence cases once deployed in the region or elsewhere in the world.