Lynn Holland was at home one night, watching the news- something that most of us do, but what Holland saw and did was unique. In fact, it became a first. She saw an American police officer standing in Haiti with a woman who had been injured in a domestic violence situation. Because of the laws and state of security in Haiti, nothing could be done to help the woman. The American asked for other American officers to come to Haiti and help train the Haitian National Police. Holland describes seeing this woman: “I jumped out of my chair and said, “I’ve got to go help that woman.”(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29P0QSVaqnc). Holland joined the executive management team for the Haitian National Police Initiative on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice’s International Criminal Investigative Training and Assistance Program (ICITAP) She went on to serve as a peacekeeper in Bosnia and worked to develop a program for victims of rape during conflict, and has continued to be an advocate for women in peacekeeping operations and the United States’ role in PKO (http://www.usip.org/events/where-are-the-women-peacekeepers). Holland helped one woman in Haiti as well as many more around the world with her actions as a peacekeeper. But it is not only her desire to help that I admire so much. Holland did so as the first US female peacekeeper. After her time with PKO, she was the only woman on the law enforcement team in Kosovo. Before Holland’s decision as a result of watching the news that night, no American woman had ever served in a peacekeeping operation. She had to have known of the barriers (or soon found out about them) but was undeterred.
Holland shared her opinions on women in peacekeeping operations with Better World Campaign. She told how in the countries in which peacekeepers serve, the populations are primarily women, making the role of women as peacekeepers absolutely vital. Many men have died as a result of the conflict which made the peacekeeping operation necessary. Holland also described how having women in peacekeeping operation exposes the residents of the country to different roles of women; they see that women are able to serve in positions equal to men. For example, the women in Kosovo had never seen a woman driving a car before they saw Holland taking the wheel. But here is my favorite statement of hers: “If you don’t have a woman’s perspective in peacekeeping, you are not going to have the totality of perspectives that you need” to complete a successful mission (http://www.betterworldcampaign.org/news-room/web-articles/profiles-in-peace/profile-in-peace-lynn-holland.html). What a perfect perspective on international operations of any sort. These interventions can change lives and altar for decades the security of a nation and people. They are costly and require sacrifice by many. Why not, then, have a totality of perspective when undergoing such operations?
The United Nations does recognize this fact, as shown in resolution 1325 which was adopted in 2000. This statement encourages the implementation of greater protection of women and children in conflicts, but also reaffirms “the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in peace-building, and (stresses) the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security” (http://www.un.org/events/res_1325e.pdf). What an incredible statement of a common sense idea- that both genders must be allowed to express ideas, implement policy, and interact and play a role in international operations. However, as is often the case, change has been slow in coming.
Lynn Holland’s story impressed me so much for two reasons. First was what she said was her initial reaction to the news story. We have all seen sad stories on the news, or petitions for help from disadvantaged countries. But Holland said she jumped out of her chair- she was willing and ready to act. According to her description, her motive for involvement was not the adventure of going to another country, but her compassion for someone she had never met.
Nothing I have said here is in any way a new or novel idea. But this is the second reason why Holland’s story was so interesting to me. Resolution 1325 was unanimously adopted in 2000- eleven years ago- and yet the Lynn Holland story still remains unique. There are very few female peacekeepers, even with resolutions and advocates and special programs and research. Therefore, we are still lacking the totality of perspective. Even after the incredible influence and might of the United States, after its billions and trillions of dollars spent to maintain that power, the United States still lacks an essential tool in achieving complete success in international involvement- the involvement of women. Qualified, capable women should and can, as shown by Lynn Holland, be equally important as qualified and capable men in carrying out national security objectives of the United States. Hopefully in a few years, stories like Lynn Holland’s will be common and both women and men will express the importance of a totality of perspective in government.