Impressed by the recent success of the all-women contingent in Liberia, the United Nations has sought women military observers from India.
India’s permanent representative to the UN, ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, told FE, “UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his talks with Army chief General Dalbir Singh earlier this week requested for women military observers from India.”
Notwithstanding the focus on deploying women in peace and security operations, “women and girls continue to be major victims despite being non-combatants” in conflicts, said Akbaruddin.
On UN peacekeeping operations, where India has been the single-largest contributor, Akbaruddin pointed out the country’s efforts to raise the number of women in an area where there has only been “a marginal increase”. He noted that India had provided the first-ever UN women police unit for peacekeeping.
India is also providing training to women officers from various countries for the UN – the Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping in New Delhi is running the third United Nations female military officers course for 40 military officers from 26 countries.
The all-women unit of over 100 personnel chosen from the Central Reserve Police Force was first deployed in 2007 in Liberia. Several teams discharged their duty on a rotational basis till early this year, with the UN now is slowly winding down operations in the west African nation scarred by a brutal civil war.
According to the UN estimate, India has been an unequivocal supporter of promoting women in peace and security worldwide. It is currently the fourth-largest police-contributing country with 1,009 officers, and the third-largest contributor of female police officers with the number being 115, just behind Bangladesh and Nepal.
To increase the presence of women in peace operations, the UN relies on its member states to recruit them first at the country level. To support the effort, the organization has helped train over 555 female police officers in five countries, leading to 174 additional women being deployed last year. They’ve served as role models for local girls, and the effect on Liberian women was significant.
The Indian contingent was not just controlling crowd; women officers earned respect of Liberians thanks to their engagement with the community. For example, they gave map reading lessons to their peers in the Liberian National Police. They also taught Liberian women self-defence skills, conducted classes on sexual violence and HIV/AIDS.
After the pullout of the police unit in Liberia, around 25 Indian women are now participating in various capacities in peacekeeping operations.