Finnish officer at KFOR aims to encourage by example

Finnish Army second Lieutenant Kethlin Piirma joined up with a Liaison Monitoring Team (LMT) in Kosovo for a 12-month mission last November. (Photos by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Patton)
30 Jan 2017

Story by French Capt. Eloise Rossi

PRISTINA, Kosovo -- "50 percent of the population is female. They feel more comfortable to speak about their experience or domestic violence with me, as a female officer”, explained Finnish Army second Lieutenant Kethlin Piirma.

The 29-year-old reservist joined up with a Liaison Monitoring Team (LMT) in Kosovo for a 12-month mission last November. Member of the Finnish LMT reside in downtown Glogovac, far away from the headquarters of Kosovo Force, or KFOR. The team is integrated into the local population where their mission is information gathering and liaising with local authorities in political, economic and social fields (schools, health issues, corruption and more). They aim to detect issues, in coordination with local authorities, so they can enhance the welfare of the population. For example, Piirma attended a recent roundtable meeting - along with police officers, municipal officials and legal experts - with victims of domestic violence.

Piirma pointed out small things that make a difference in interacting with the population, such as using first names instead of last names on their military uniforms. People call them by their first name, and it’s also a way to be closer to them and develop a relationship of trust.

"I have already dealt with domestic violence issues in Finland, meeting victims and offenders,” said Piirma. "I can provide them some kind of relief, psychological or judicial. I am feeling very useful in this kind of situation.”

It is important to involve females on operations in leadership with men

The second Lieutenant graduated in 2012 with a Master of Laws with a specialty in international criminal law. Piirma explained that many law firms are set up in Kosovo, and she appreciates using her knowledge to read and understand official documents and share feelings with specialists about the inclusion of women in the country’s affairs.

"You need to understand a country to help her, understand her behavior to provide her solutions,” added the Finnish officer. "It is not only a male and female question. It is important to involve females on operations in leadership with men. I always remember hearing about Bill Gates’ speech for a business meeting in Saudi Arabia. Females and males were separated in different sections in the conference room. Mr. Gates pointed out that if you use only 50 percent of the population and its capacity, you are not going to be successful. I am convinced about his statement.”

The young lady dreams of justice. In future, she would like to work in the international court specialized in the law of armed conflict. She also explains the need to understand how military structures work. Comprehending how armed forces deal with crisis gives her credibility in the legal field. Piirma pointed out that she wants to improve her career by gaining a practical view of things, not only theoretical.

I want to give my contribution as a peacekeeper

KFOR is Piirma’s second mission. In 2014, she participated in the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon mission to restore international peace and security. But in Kosovo, the operational situation is different. The environment is quite steady and people have freedom of movement. According to her, a woman serving in a peacekeeping mission in her country’s Army is an important position. So when she was offered the opportunity, she accepted.

"I wanted to be one of them and contribute with my skills to rebuild a country”, confessed Piirma.

She also touted the importance of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security adaption in 2000. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in conflict and post-conflict situations, and it urges participants to increase the female presence and incorporate gender perspectives in peace and security efforts.

"Before joining the Finnish Army, I read the Resolution 1325,” said Piirma. "I have read how women, children and other vulnerable groups are suffering after war. Nature of warfare has changed; nowadays more civilians are killed in conflict. They pay the biggest price. I want to do something for them. I want to give my contribution as a peacekeeper.”

With braided hair that looks more structured than it seems at first glance, Piirma has pale complexion and a steel blue look. With a fixed gaze and flawless posture, she’s determined while speaking in her soft and clear voice.

"I thought a lot about this mission and as a female, I can bring gender equality,” said Piirma. "By taking part in this mission, I can be active in my dream. It is a way to show all is possible. I want to encourage local people by my own example”.

Proud to be a female officer and to be deployed

Since 1995, the Finnish Army has allowed female conscripts in the ranks. This is in large part thanks to Elisabeth Rehn, the first female Minister of Defense in Finland.

In fact, Piirma was so impressed by Rehn that she wrote her a letter thanking her for the opportunity to be in the Army.

"I am very proud to be a female officer and to be deployed,” said Piirma.

She explained that being the first of her family to enter the military came as shock to her relatives, and it became even more of one when she was deployed in Lebanon. Piirma said her family is now less fearful that she’s serving with KFOR.

"My boyfriend is also very proud of me,” said the young lady. "He is supporting me 100 percent as well. They give me the courage to accomplish my mission.”

When she’s not out interacting with the citizens of Kosovo as part of the LMT, she likes to bake cakes with creative designs. But this philanthropist and Soldier’s mind is never far away from humanitarian purposes, such as keeping in touch with an orphan children’s organization in Estonia.

Piirma concluded with a statement that she hopes will resonate with the folks she interacts with on a daily basis.

"I guess if you are passionate for something, you can make it possible. I would like to send this message to the local population in Kosovo. I am also here for my own passion.”

• Allied Joint Force Command Naples will publish a series of articles highlighting female KFOR troops and their accomplishments. The articles will be released on the following dates:
Feb. 7, 2017: U.S. Army 1st Lt. Erin Schneider
Feb. 14, 2017: Italian Army Warrant Officer Sara Sapienza
 
Previous articles in the series are available here:
 

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