Yeshiwas Belay: Researching the Gender Dynamics of Ethiopian Peacekeeping Amidst a Civil and Regional Conflict

12 July 2023
Yeshiwas Belay: Researching the Gender Dynamics of Ethiopian Peacekeeping Amidst a Civil and Regiona…

Yeshiwas Degu Belay received a GRÓ GEST scholarship in 2021 to support his PhD programme. He is a GEST alumnus since 2017 and is now halfway through his PhD research, which is a joint degree programme of the University of Iceland and Erasmus University of Rotterdam.

Mr. Belay’s participation in the GEST programme in 2017 offered him important research skills and knowledge on gender and enabled him to connect with experienced academics and researchers. The programme also shaped his research trajectory by stimulating an interest in international peacekeeping and its gender dimensions. Under the supervision of his current PhD supervisor Dr. Valur Ingimundarson, Mr. Belay wrote a final assignment titled "Breaking Barricades and Making Peace: Women in Ethiopian Peacekeeping," which laid the basis for his doctoral research.

The PhD dissertation investigates Ethiopian experiences with international peacekeeping missions and the gender dimensions. The research also focuses on women's participation by integrating global, domestic, and mission-level factors into a multilevel analytical framework. Special attention is given to the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), to demonstrate how the introduction of global WPS agenda has shaped Ethiopian peacekeeping in a structural environment based on masculine norms. A gender lens is used to examine the gender underpinnings of country-specific peacekeeping – from historical and contemporary perspectives – to better understand power relations, roles and responsibilities, and gender policies, as well as representations of men and women in Ethiopian foreign policy making.

Mr. Belay is currently going through government reports, interviews (held with government officials, military officers, and former peacekeepers), as well as archival material collected during his six-month fieldwork in Ethiopia. After processing the information and identifying the gaps, he will determine whether to collect data on a second round of field work. The PhD candidate himself says that he “has found the fieldwork experience to be both interesting and challenging at the same time. Along with improving my research skills, the fieldwork enabled me to develop meaningful connections with military and diplomatic personnel”.

Several state officials and former peacekeepers have acknowledged the research, citing its importance in drawing attention to what they portrayed as Ethiopia's significant contribution to regional peace and stability and improving future engagements. Access to government offices and interviewees was difficult, not only because of Mr. Degu Belay’s civilian status and military secrecy, but also because of Ethiopia’s internal war between the national army and the TPLF (Tigray People Liberation Front). In some of the government institutions where he was permitted to collect data, his movements and interactions with staff members were restricted and monitored by security guards. Research in a country facing ethnic-political conflicts has been challenging and the candidate expects to present his experience in detail at a later stage.

Mr. Belay hopes to complete the PhD research within the two years.