Updated May 30th, 2024 at 23:20 IST

Major Radhika Sen Conferred With 2023 UN Military Gender Advocate of The Year Award

Major Radhika Sen, an Indian woman peacekeeper who served with the UN mission in Congo, was Thursday honoured with a prestigious military gender advocate award

Major Radhika Sen receives prestigious 2023 UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award | Image:X
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United Nations: Major Radhika Sen, an Indian woman peacekeeper who served with the UN mission in Congo, was Thursday honoured with a prestigious military gender advocate award, with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres describing her as a "true leader and role model." Major Sen, who served with the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), received the ‘2023 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award’ from Guterres during a ceremony here on the occasion of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

Major Sen served in the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from March 2023 to April 2024 as the Commander of MONUSCO’s Engagement Platoon for the Indian Rapid Deployment Battalion (INDRDB), a UN press release said.

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

Congratulating Major Sen for her service, Guterres said she is a "true leader and role model. Her service was a true credit to the United Nations as a whole." He further said in a statement that in an escalating conflict environment in North Kivu, her troops actively engaged with conflict-affected communities, including women and girls. She earned their trust, doing so with humility, compassion, and dedication.

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The statement added that upon receiving news of the award, Major Sen expressed her gratitude for being selected and reflected on her peacekeeping role.

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"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 and giving their best to bring a positive change in the society,” 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 leaving everything behind to flee the conflict, the statement said.

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

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As a Platoon Commander, she helped foster a safe space for men and women to operate together under her command and quickly became a role model for both women peacekeepers and her male counterparts. She also ensured that peacekeepers under her command engaged in a manner that is sensitive to gender and socio-cultural norms in eastern DRC to help build trust and thereby increase her team’s chance of success.

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

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As a gender advocate, she encouraged women in the village of Kashlira, near Rwindi town, to organise themselves 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 this award after Major Suman Gawani, who had served with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and was honoured with the 2019 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award.

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Created in 2016, the UN 'Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award' recognises the dedication and efforts of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Created by the Office of Military Affairs within the Department for Peace Operations (DPO), the Award recognises a military peacekeeper who has best integrated a gender perspective into peacekeeping activities. Each year, the awardee is selected from among candidates nominated by Force Commanders and Heads of Mission from all peace operations, according to UN Peacekeeping.

India is currently the 11th largest contributor of women military peacekeepers to the United Nations with 124 now deployed. India has traditionally been among the largest troop and police contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions.

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(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Republic and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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Published May 30th, 2024 at 23:03 IST