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A true leader and role model: Major Radhika Sen honored with UN peacekeeping award

NRI PULSE STAFF REPORT & IANS

United Nations, June 3, 2024: Major Radhika Sen, a peacekeeper with the United Nations (UN) mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has been honored for her outstanding efforts in empowering local communities, particularly women.

“Receiving this prestigious award on behalf of all the peacekeepers working in MONUSCO as well as my country, India, is just amazing. I cannot describe it in words,” said Major Sen, who served with the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented Sen with the 2023 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award on Thursday, observed as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

The award recognizes the efforts of a military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of the 2000 Security Council resolution that calls for protecting women and girls from conflict-related sexual violence and sets gender-related responsibilities for the UN.

Congratulating her, Guterres called her “a true leader and role model. Her service is a true credit to the United Nations as a whole”.

Sen served with the Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), where she helped create the Community Alert Networks in North Kivu as a platform that brought in community leaders, young people, and women “to voice their security and humanitarian concerns,” according to the UN.

With her MONUSCO colleagues, she worked to address those concerns.

Guterres said that “with humility, compassion, and dedication,” she earned the trust of “conflict-affected communities, including women and girls” as her troops engaged with them “in an escalating conflict environment in North Kivu”.

Earlier, Sen said, “Gender-sensitive peacekeeping is everybody’s business – not just us, women. Peace begins with all of us in our beautiful diversity.”

“This award is special to me as it recognizes the hard work put in by all the peacekeepers working in the challenging environment of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and giving their best to bring a positive change in society,” she added.

Hailing from Himachal Pradesh, Sen is a biotech engineer who was studying for a master’s degree at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay when she decided to join the Army.

She was assigned to MONUSCO in 2023 as the Engagement Platoon Commander with the Indian Rapid Deployment Battalion and completed her tenure in April 2024.

Sen is the second Indian peacekeeper to receive the honor after Major Suman Gawani, who served with the UN Mission in South Sudan and received the award in 2019.

Of the 6,063 Indian personnel in UN peacekeeping operations, 1,954 serve with MONUSCO, 32 of them women.

The UN said that Sen, who led mixed-gender engagement patrols and activities, became a role model for both men and women by fostering “a safe space for men and women to operate together under her command”.

She also made sure that peacekeepers under her command operated with sensitivity to gender and sociocultural norms in the eastern DRC “to help build trust and thereby increase her team’s chance of success”, the UN said.

Among the activities she launched for women were English language classes for children, and health, gender, and vocational training for adults.

“Her efforts directly inspired women’s solidarity, providing safe spaces for meetings and open dialogue,” the UN said.

She encouraged women in the village of Kashlira, near Rwindi town, to organize themselves to advocate for their rights, particularly in local security and peace discussions.

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