Indian Peacekeeper to be Honored with UN Military Gender Advocate Award

by Manjari Singh

In a testament to her exemplary service and dedication to peacekeeping, Major Radhika Sen, an Indian woman peacekeeper who served in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO), is set to be honored with the prestigious ‘2023 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award’. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed her as a “true leader and role model,” praising her outstanding contributions towards promoting gender equality in conflict zones.

Major Sen, hailing from Himachal Pradesh, India, embarked on her journey of service eight years ago when she joined the Indian Army, deftly balancing her academic pursuits as a biotech engineer with her military aspirations. Her commitment to fostering positive change led her to the heart of conflict-stricken regions in the DRC, where she served as the Commander of MONUSCO’s Engagement Platoon for the Indian Rapid Deployment Battalion from March 2023 to April 2024.

This esteemed accolade marks Major Sen as the second Indian peacekeeper to receive such recognition, following in the footsteps of Major Suman Gawani, who was honored in 2019 for her service in South Sudan. Her tenure in the DRC was marked by proactive engagement with conflict-affected communities, embodying humility, compassion, and unwavering dedication.

UN Secretary-General Guterres lauded Major Sen’s leadership amidst escalating conflict in North Kivu, where she spearheaded mixed-gender engagement patrols and activities. Her efforts earned the trust of local communities, particularly women and girls, as she navigated the complexities of a volatile environment with resilience and empathy.

Reflecting on her forthcoming accolade, Major Sen expressed gratitude for the recognition bestowed upon her, emphasizing the collective endeavor of peacekeepers in effecting positive change. “This award is special to me as it gives 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 society,” she remarked.

Gender-sensitive peacekeeping, Major Sen asserted, is a collective responsibility transcending gender boundaries. Her sentiment underscores the inclusive ethos driving her mission, encapsulating the essence of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security.

Established in 2016, the United Nations ‘Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award’ celebrates individuals who champion the principles of gender equality within peacekeeping operations. Major Sen’s recognition underscores India’s steadfast commitment to UN peacekeeping efforts, with the country ranking as the 11th largest contributor of women military peacekeepers.

Major Radhika Sen’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of leadership and inclusivity in fostering peace and stability amidst adversity. As she prepares to accept this prestigious honor, her legacy serves as an inspiration for future generations of peacekeepers, embodying the spirit of unity and resilience in pursuit of a more peaceful world.

Manjari Singh

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