As part of UN Peacekeeping’s campaign for International Women’s Day and the Commission on the Status of Women, I wanted to make an innovative video. But I faced a basic challenge: I had never done one before.

By Becky Band Jain, UN Peacekeeping

Other United Nations videos on the theme of gender and peacekeeping in previous years mostly took an interview format, so this was an opportunity to try something different. After discovering that a colleague had a previous career in filmmaking, we teamed up with our graphic designer and set out in a new direction.

Digital media tends to be looked at as less useful to peacekeeping missions that are charged with communicating their mandates to local populations with very limited Internet access. However, there is global political, public and media interest in peacekeeping and we need to be able to share our work in the field with those who follow it from overseas. We hope that with videos like this one, we could channel the power of this medium.

The main challenge for the video concept was to show the important work that we do to empower women in conflict areas, and to highlight the importance of having women in peacekeeping roles. We focused on four missions in particular who had strong gender teams, and had to be resourceful under the tight deadline.

Although we briefly considered the idea of using archived footage from the UN (Unifeed), we decided to use the fresh and striking photos supplied by our peacekeeping missions. These photographs were more powerful than plentiful, so we were prompted to be creative: in one instance, we repurposed a mission calendar of high-quality photos of female peacekeepers. You can see this at the end as a quick-cut montage–powerful role models unaccompanied by text.

We went through several versions of a makeshift storyboard, but it wasn’t until I drew from the UN Peacekeeping website text on Gender and Peacekeeping that a clearer narrative emerged. We would provide more background about our work, and intersperse quotes, facts and figures amongst the photos.

quote1“It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict.”– Major General Patrick Cammaert, former UN Peacekeeping Operation commander in DR Congo

I was introduced to this powerful quote through a chance encounter with someone I had been meaning to contact, and it immediately took its rightful place at the beginning of the video. It drives home the message that women face tremendous risks in areas of conflict, and also have the most to gain from working towards peace.

In conflict areas, security concerns present many challenges to adequately documenting our work. UN Peacekeeping is actively building up the digital communications abilities of our missions through a series of trainings that have so far happened in Liberia, Haiti, Afghanistan, and South Sudan.

The head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Hilde Johnson, recently spoke about gender-responsive peacekeeping at a panel associated with the Commission on the Status of Women, supported by the Principality of Liechtenstein. Bukeni Waruzi of WITNESS was another presenter at their panel. This initially struck me as an unusual match since I hadn’t heard about Witness’ work in South Sudan. But then I was moved by the video he presented, created by an organization of South Sudanese citizen journalists that Witness had trained: Eyes and Ears Nuba. This felicitous meeting was significant—it was no small coincidence to encounter a video advocacy NGO presenting about an organization in the global region with the most female UN peacekeepers, at the very same time that we were debuting our advocacy video.quote3

UN Peacekeeping operations conduct business in fast-changing political and security situations. Digital communications enable peacekeeping missions to expand their reach and engagement with key audiences inside host countries and beyond, helping effective mandate delivery on the ground, and linking with the global channels at headquarters. International peace and security issues are likely to present major new challenges for UN Peacekeeping in the coming year, and it is critical that we have the capacity to present our story and messages globally in a timely manner, to build unity of effort and support for our operations, and build trust by being transparent and responsive to media, civil society and public scrutiny.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the United Nations.

Becky Band Jain has been coordinating digital and social media campaigns for UN Peacekeeping as a digital communications officer since November. Previously, she held a similar role at UNICEF, and she has also been a communications consultant in New York and India, where she lived for five years. You can follow her on Twitter (@bexband) and on her blog.


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