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Indian peacekeeper is UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year

World Wednesday 29/May/2024 10:40 AM
By: ANI
Indian peacekeeper is UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year

Geneva: An Indian peacekeeper deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), who helped establish networks for local people to voice their security and humanitarian concerns, is the winner of the 2023 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award, the UN announced on Tuesday.

Major Radhika Sen served in eastern DRC with the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, from March 2023 to April 2024 as the Commander of the Engagement Platoon for the Indian Rapid Deployment Battalion.

She will receive the award from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a ceremony on Thursday.

Guterres congratulated Major Sen for her service, describing her service as "a true credit to the United Nations as a whole."

"In an escalating conflict environment in North Kivu, her troops actively engaged with conflict-affected communities, including women and girls," he explained, noting that she earned their trust "with humility, compassion, and dedication."

Upon receiving news of the Award, Major Sen expressed gratitude for being selected and reflected on her peacekeeping role.

"This award is special to me as it gives a recognition to the hard work put in by all the peacekeepers working in the challenging environment of DRC," she said.

"Gender-sensitive peacekeeping is everybody's business - not just us, women. Peace begins with all of us in our beautiful diversity!"

Major Sen led mixed-gender engagement patrols and activities in a volatile environment, where many people, including women and children, were fleeing the conflict.

"Major Radhika Sen will be honored with the UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award on May 30th for her outstanding service in DR Congo. Her dedication and bravery highlight the invaluable role of #women peacekeepers in building a better world. We are incredibly proud of her achievements and inspired by her commitment to peace and equality," said India's Permanent Representative to the UN, Ruchira Kamboj in a post on X.

The Community Alert Networks she helped create in North Kivu served as a platform for community leaders, young people and women to raise their security and humanitarian concerns, which she would in turn help address together with her colleagues at MONUSCO.

As a Platoon Commander, she fostered a safe space for men and women to operate together and quickly became a role model for both women and men peacekeepers.

She also ensured that peacekeepers under her command engaged in a manner sensitive to gender and socio-cultural norms.

Major Sen facilitated English classes for children, and health, gender and vocational training for displaced and marginalized adults. Her efforts directly inspired women's solidarity, providing safe spaces for open dialogue.

As a gender advocate, she encouraged women in the village of Kashlira to address issues collectively, advocate for their rights and amplify their voices within the community, in particular in local security and peace discussions.

Major Sen is the second Indian peacekeeper to receive the award, following Major Suman Gawani, a co-recipient for 2019. Other past honourees were from Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

India is currently the eleventh largest contributor of women military peacekeepers to the UN, with 124 now deployed.

Born in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh in 1993, Major Radhika Sen joined the army eight years ago. Major Sen graduated as a biotech engineer and was pursuing her Master's degree from IIT Bombay, when she decided to join the armed forces. She deployed to MONUSCO in March 2023 as the Engagement Platoon Commander with the Indian Rapid Deployment Battalion and completed her tenure in April 2024.