Toespraak van minister Bijleveld bij de uitreiking FMOC-Certificaten op 12 juli 2019 in Den Haag (Engelstalig)

Ladies and gentlemen,
Participants in the Female Military Officers Course, You have been trained for an important task.

Because operating in a region recovering from war and violence...
… trying to be alert to any new outburst of aggression…
… or to a cry for help.
Without having female peacekeepers…
…is like walking around with one eye closed and one ear blocked.

You’re walking past doors that are closed to men...

You’re missing out on crucial intelligence…

And you’re missing out on the chance to provide role models for change; especially for women who are oppressed and targeted by violence.

All of you here today are role models. And you are crucial to our operations.
We are proud to host all of you in The Hague for the first time.
Especially here in the beautiful Peace Palace: the heart of the international city of peace and justice.
Over the past two weeks, you have learned things that will stay with you your entire career.

How do you interact with survivors of assault? How do you obtain information? Do you follow your instinct, or do you go by the book?

You have learned it all. Often through role-playing exercises.

The fact that this group consists of 31 different nationalities is one of the things that makes this course so valuable.
Because – as you have learned – context is everything.
If you understand people’s background, you can win their hearts and minds.

And this will give you the greatest chance of success.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the team of military and civilian instructors for their outstanding work.
And of course, I want to especially thank the founder and mentor of this programme: General Patrick Cammaert.
Patrick, you are a true globalist who connects people.

Together with your team you have taught this group to be proactive, inventive and open-minded.
I cannot stress enough how important this work is.  
A few weeks ago, I received a piece of art that was made by young Afghan women: 40 high school girls.
They were asked to express their views of Afghanistan in war and peace, in a painting.
Some of the paintings are difficult to look at: lots of tanks, guns, bombs and blood.

There is one that really stuck with me: a picture of a bride and a coffin with flowers.
When asked about this, the young girl explained that if her fiancé dies… she can never marry anyone else and she becomes a slave to her fiancé’s family. 

For her – and for many Afghan girls – marriage is both a prison and an escape.
A collage of the paintings hangs in the Ministry of Defence, as a constant reminder of the tragic fate of Afghan women.

But also as a reminder that no matter how difficult the circumstances, there is always hope.
Because what you also see in these paintings, are doves and blue skies.

Even in the darkness of war and violence, these young girls manage to look for light and peace.

These girls – and many other girls and women in conflict zones – need our help.

And that is where you come in.
This course has given you the tools to help those who need it most...

To reach the unreachables…
To talk with those who are silenced…
In a way, you are pioneers. You are all ambassadors of the course. 

And in just two weeks, you have formed a sisterhood.

I hope you will use this sisterhood for your work in the service of peace.

I congratulate you all on passing this course.
And I wish you all the very best.