International Day of Peace

Bearing the message of goodwill and peace: meet Captain Layaly Al-Athameen, Jordanian Peacekeeper deployed in Darfur

Date: Monday, September 21, 2020

Captain Layaly Al-Athameen, Head of Personnel Administration Unit – UNAMID MHQ, Jordan Goodwill Ambassador for Conflict Zones during her mission in Darfur. Photo courtesy: Layaly Al-Athameen

Captain Layaly Al-Athameen, 37 and mother of two children, is a Senior Officer for the Public Security Directorate, serving as one of the 51 International Peacekeeper from Jordan currently deployed under the United Nations (UN) - African Union Hybrid Operation, UNAMID, in Darfur, Sudan.

"Pursuing a career with the Public Security Directorate was a major turning point in my life," explained Captain Layaly Al-Athameen. In 2008, at 25-years-old, Capt. Al-Athameen became the first woman in her village (Al-Taybah), to venture into the security sector and become an International Peacekeeper. "After joining PSD, I quickly became a model for other women in my community. My decision inspired them to follow in my footsteps."

Throughout her career, Capt. Al-Athameen has contributed her extensive knowledge in communication and information technologies to expand PSD’s operations across various fronts and departments in Jordan, including the Police Academy at Muta University and within the Police Directorate in Karak, before undertaking her position as the Head of Human Resources for United Nations Peacekeeping missions.

During her twelve years of service, Capt. Al-Athameen undertook her first international peacekeeping mission with the United Nations African Union Hybrid Operation, UNAMID, in Darfur, Sudan. "The first time I served my country as a peacekeeper was a unique learning experience that shaped my career path," she recalled. During the 15 months spent in Darfur, Capt. Al-Athameen was exposed to a wide array of experiences that developed her understanding of international diplomacy and the crucial role of women in preventing conflict and building peace, which fueled her motivation to further her career in PSD. Her work also contributed to change attitudes about women serving in international missions, “I received significant support and encouragement when I was assigned senior roles on this mission. Even those with preconceptions changed their views over time” she recalls.

In 2019, out of approximately 95,000 peacekeepers, women constituted 10.8 per cent of formed police units in UN Peacekeeping missions. Under Jordan’s National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (JONAP), PSD in partnership with the Jordanian National Commission for Women and UN Women are working to promote the meaningful participation of women and to mainstream gender in peace operations, in Jordan and internationally, with the support of the Governments of Canada, Finland, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.

In January 2019, Capt. Al-Athameen returned to Darfur as a Senior Officer supervising personnel affairs and assignments. "My dream to undertake an international mission to bear the message of goodwill and peace has come true twice," she affirmed.  A year into her deployment, Capt. Al-Athameen and her team had to adapt and redefine their operations to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Captain Layaly Al-Athameen, Head of Personnel Administration Unit – UNAMID MHQ, Jordan Goodwill Ambassador for Conflict Zones during her mission in Darfur. Photo courtesy: Capt. Layaly Al-Athameen

The pandemic brought Capt. Al-Athameen and her team to the frontline of the response in Darfur, assisting up to 51 Jordanians and 38 various nationalities with access to critical information and support services. Given the specific needs of women and girls throughout the response, the presence of qualified women responders has proven to be fundamentally necessary to providing gender-responsive services, particularly within communities with stricter social norms and restrictions that limit the mobility of women and girls. "As a department, we are responsible for closely following the developments of this crisis around-the-clock to inform our colleagues and the local community on potential cases or infectious zones," explains Capt. Al-Athameen.

As a result of the air travel restrictions, Capt. Al-Athameen was not able to return Jordan since February and, like other parents, had to adapt and support them remotely to cope with the situation and with the online education system. Her determination and commitment remain unchanged throughout such uncertain circumstances, "I am proud to serve my country and to carry the message of peace, both within Jordan and abroad," affirmed Capt. Al-Athameen.