Trine in Mali

As personnel officer for the UN in Mali, Trine Jørgensen gets close to a lot of people, cultures and nations. And death.

Text by Anders Fjellestad • Photo by Torbjørn Kjosvold and private • Video by Line Bie

When a soldier is killed, someone has to inform his or her national military representative. In Mali, that "someone" is Trine Jørgensen.

“That part of my job is challenging. In the past few months, we have lost seventeen soldiers. It touches me when I see UN flag-draped coffins being carried into memorial ceremonies”, says Colonel Lieutenant Jørgensen.

For the past year, she has been working at the MINUSMA headquarters in Bamako, Mali. She is deputy head of the HR department. The department assists UN troops with everything from housing, enrolment, leaves and salaries. But the security situation in Mali is unstable and dangerous, and sometimes the department have to assist when soldiers are killed.

“We are the ones who coordinate all the information when a soldier dies: names, photos, transport, and speeches. In addition, we rehearse the memorial ceremony the day before. So in a way I get a double dose of funerals”, she says.




Contributing to peace

Jørgensen grew up in Kirkenes, northern Norway. Situated next to the Russian border, Kirkenes is a town with a strong military presence. This paved her way into the Armed Forces and Jørgensen wanted to prove that women too can be soldiers.

She has a varied experience, including operations in Lebanon and Afghanistan. For the last years, she has worked with HR and administration, and now she gets to do that in Mali.

“I want to contribute to something bigger than myself. I want to be a soldier who works for securing peace and stability in another country. I also wanted to work in a multicultural environment”, she says.

With 55 nations participating nations, MINUSMA gives her plenty of opportunities to do so. At Jørgensen's office alone, they are eleven people from ten nations.

“The best thing is getting to know people from different cultures. It is also exciting to learn the culture of Bamako. There are so many happy people and so much to see and experience”, she says.

Culture and language

At the same time, the cultural differences within the UN can also be frustrating from time to time.

“Work procedures are different from home. There is a lot of bureaucracy and you meet many different types of people. It is exciting – but also demanding – trying to get everyone to work towards a common goal”, she says.

Language is another challenge. The official MINUSMA language is English, but not everyone speaks English.

“Sometimes you have to work with someone who does not understand what is written or what you are saying. And they cannot express their opinions or suggestions in return. In some cases, you need a colleague as interpreter”, she says.

She usually works ten hours a day, and days are busy and intense. That makes her appreciate her spare time even more.

“I hang a lot with my Swedish neighbours. Every Saturday there are hikes in various places around Bamako. We also have time to enjoy the city life of Bamako, and every other Friday we have barbeque and dance inside the camp.”

Jørgensen was never in doubt that she wanted to go abroad and work for the UN.

“If you want a challenging job and to do something bigger than yourself – you should take a military education and embark on a UN mission. I have served almost two years in the UN and it gives you memories for life. You also get valuable experience that is useful at home. But the most important thing is that you contribute to creating peace.”

She says more women should join UN operations. In MINUSMA, women comprise just 3 per cent of the total troops. The UN wants to increase the number of women in its peace missions. 

"And just as important”, Jørgensen says, adding: “If you want to achieve long-term peace, then the local women too must be allowed to participate in the peace talks.”

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en_245_trineinmalien_242_theunwantsmorewoment/en/newsroom/the-un-wants-more-women-to-serve/media/PubImages/kvinner-fn-tobb.jpgThe UN wants more women to serveJust 4 per cent of the personnel in UN missions are women and more than 30 countries do not have a single woman in UN service. The UN now takes steps to increase the number of women in its organisation. en_245_trineinmali

Published 23 August 2019 13:37.. Last updated 04 September 2019 11:47.