You may reckon that uniformed UN peacekeepers and sewing machines is an unlikely combination. Think again. Bangladeshi soldiers based in Wau have just finished a three-month-long training of 16 local women, graduating with empowering, income-generating tailoring skills.
“Now I will look for a place to set up shop at the market and be my own boss rather than wait for my monthly salary from the local government to be paid,” says 35-year-old Rekella Tande Ukoti, till now and for the last ten years employed as a messenger by the state ministry of public service.
She and fifteen other women have thoroughly enjoyed the tailoring course, offered by the Ministry of Gender in close cooperation with Bangladeshi peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
The contingent provided the participating women with sewing machines and taught the actual skills themselves. Yes, some of the nation’s military men and women deployed in South Sudan are also, conveniently enough, trained tailors.
The teaching and sewing took place in the Ministry’s training centre, which, as it happens, has been renovated by the same uniformed personnel.
“When women are empowered, self-confident and independent the peace process will proceed smoothly,” says Lieutenant Colonel Monjur Morshed, one of the Bangladeshi soldiers in Wau, stressing that promoting peacebuilding is the common theme of all civil-military activities undertaken by his contingent.
Their efforts, and the resulting batch of women equipped with useful skills, are praised by Ann Daniel, Director General of the state Ministry of Gender, especially in our current times of COVID-19.
“Among other things, you are now able to make face masks which will help keeping people safe. This is a big and commendable achievement,” she said, addressing the graduating women.
The UN peacekeeping mission will continue to lend its support to government-led initiatives to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus whenever possible, in Wau and across the country.