Trained as a chemical engineer and a lawyer, one would have thought that Viola Hoxha and Valentina Korbi would be tucked somewhere in the comfort of home in Tirana, the capital of Albania. However, now at the ranks of captain and major respectively, and with considerable experience in the Albanian Army, the two would end up as the first-ever Albanian female United Nations Peacekeepers.
Their mission, they say, “is to help others while facilitating the establishment of contacts with the local female population, develop their capacity and make them relevant to society.”
On how it feels like being the first Albanian female soldiers in a UN peacekeeping operation, the two ladies have ready responses.
“It is not easy!” says Valentina. “The military organization has its own arrangements. But being the first UN peacekeepers, we feel proud,” she adds.
“It is a mission; a difficult assignment that carries a lot of responsibility,” notes Captain Viola Xoxha, now with an 11-year military experience. “The best thing I like is to help others and being here [South Sudan] is one of my dreams, to serve and to help,” adds Viola.
For Valentina, seeing her father in his military uniform inspired her to join the army. Now, though, it is more than just that.
“I must point out that I am in this mission willingly with the intention to contribute modestly to the peace in South Sudan,” she says. “I have been in the Albanian army for 15 years as Legal Advisor to the Albanian Armed Forces, and even though my father was also in the army, the joy of having an opportunity to serve my country was what motivated me,” she elaborates, before adding, “And to be selected to serve in a UN peacekeeping operation such as this, was like an icing on the cake.”
In Bor, the two women work in the intelligence unit of the UN Mission.