Action for Peacekeeping: Inspiring women lead the way, using technology to boost UNFICYP operations in support of peace across Cyprus
Maria Trimithiotou has been working in UNFICYP since 1988. When she joined the engineering unit back then, the Mission barely made use of computers and most staff would depend on typewriters to prepare their reports.
Maria had recently return to Cyprus after concluding her Bachelor studies in Computer Science and Data Processing in the United States and was looking for a job opportunity that could also contribute to peace on the island. She recalls: "I had just joined UNFICYP and heard the Mission was going to establish an Electronic Data Processing Unit, I asked my supervisor at the time if I could be part of that team as computers and technology were always my passion, he agreed and here I am ever since."
The unit was later renamed Field Technology Service, but since its establishment in the late 80s, Maria was first female staff to join and pave the way for other women to follow. For her: “Technology is growing rapidly, and it is present in every aspect of our lives. Women can bring a fresh approach and offer unique perspectives to meet challenges and solve problems in this field as we bring unique ideas to the table.”
Since then, Maria has been involved in keeping UNFICYP abreast of latest technologies and is proud of the many achievements over the almost 35 years she has been part of the UN team in Cyprus. "I remember when the Mission got its first computer, I helped create a database that would facilitate the issuing of reports where staff could edit information without having to type everything from scratch at every new report. This is the wonderful thing about technology: it helps us do our jobs better and makes lives easier."
Also serving in the Mission’s Field Technology Service we have Eirini Christidou, she joined UNFICYP two years ago in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and is providing telecommunication support to all staff serving in Cyprus. “People noticed the importance of technology when the pandemic hit and thanks to the tools we had in place, it allowed us to continue delivering our mandate. For example, meetings never stopped: it was because of the technology in place that it allowed people to meet online.”
For Eirini, joining the UNFICYP has been a combination of two passions: she is a telecom specialist with a Human Rights and Democracy background. “This is the beauty of the technology field; it can help advance different agendas. In this Mission, for instance, our peacekeepers patrol remote areas of the buffer zone where smartphone do not work, but because we have in place robust telecom tools, they can inform their commanding officers immediately in case something happens on the spot.”
In all fields of peacekeeping, women peacekeepers have proven that they can perform the same roles, to the same standards and under the same difficult conditions, as their male counterparts. For Maria, “it is very important to have more women in the technology field to act as role model and hopefully encourage more girls to pursue their interests and careers in technology.”
As we mark this year’s international women’s day, we pay tribute to Maria, Eirini, and all women in peacekeeping, who are committed to serving for peace in Cyprus and around the world.