Retired GDF officer lone female on peacekeeping mission to Haiti shares her story
By Stacy Carmichael-James
News Room caught up with an extraordinary woman, retired Guyana Defense Force Officer, Agnes Duke during her short visit to Guyana. She participated in the veteran’s walk from Bank of Guyana to the Durban Park stadium.
We got the opportunity to watch her interact with her former colleagues as they reminisced about their days in the Army and how things are different now to then.
Miss Duke, now retired, joined the Guyana Defense Force in 1975, served for a few years, returned to civilian life and then once again returned to the GDF and served until the year 2013.
A hockey player at the time, Miss Duke said she needed a challenge and the army seemed like the most appropriate place to satisfy her adventurous side.
But that is not all, the young officer was the lone female from a CARICOM country on a UN peacekeeping mission to Haiti in 1995. She was selected to be a part of the Mission by her then Battalion Commander presently Brigadier Edward Collins. Her duties spanned from being a secretary, a driver, an escort and even patrolling but according to Agnes, she enjoyed every moment of that mission.
She said while there were other female officers, the CARICOM countries other than Guyana, did not send any female officers.
Nevertheless, the experience, she said was one to be remembered for a lifetime as she got the opportunity to mingle and interacted with female officers from other countries on the peacekeeping mission, like the United States.
According to research, Haiti’s democratically elected President, Jean Bertrand Aristide, (elected with 67 per cent of the vote in UN-observed elections in 1990) was overthrown in a military coup d’etat on 30 September 1991. The coup brought with it an alarming level of violence in the country, including political murders, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and other grave violations of human rights. Many of those killed were supporters of President Aristide. The UN General Assembly and the Security Council condemned the coup and the illegal regime’s use of violence, military coercion and the violation of human rights, while calling for restoration of the legitimate Government.
At the end of June 1996, the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Haiti came to an end, concluding a major phase in United Nations efforts to help the Haitian people restore democracy, stability and the rule of law in their country.
Asked about her experience as a female in the Guyana Defense Force, Agnes said it was life changing, making reference to the training and discipline which she has taken with her throughout her life.
Agnes is a mother of one and resides in the United States and she advises any young person, whether male or female interested in joining the GDF to just go for it!
And while she opted not to mention, the retired officer said there is room for improvement within the army.