Indian peacekeeper Major Radhika Sen to receive UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award 2023


New Delhi: Major Radhika Sen, an Indian military peacekeeper who served with the United Nations (UN) mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be honoured with the 2023 UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award. Sen is the second Indian to win this award since its inception in 2016.

“Major Sen is a true leader and role model. Her service was a true credit to the United Nations as a whole,” said António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN, in a statement on Sen’s commendation.

He added, “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.”

Sen, a native of Himachal Pradesh, has studied biotechnology and joined the Indian Army in 2016. While pursuing her Masters at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, she decided to join the armed forces. She will receive the award at a ceremony on 30 May, which is also being observed by the UN as the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

She served as a part of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) between March 2023 and April 2024, as the Commander of the MONUSCO’s Engagement Platoon for the Indian Rapid Deployment Battalion (INDRDB).

The UN, in a statement, said that as a platoon commander, Sen “helped foster a safe space for men and women to operate together under her command”, and was a “role model” for both men and women peacekeepers.

She served in the North Kivu province, where the March 23 Movement (M23) and the Islamic State-linked Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) have been on the offensive in the last few months. The M23, since February 2024, has been conducting an operation to capture the regional capital of Goma. The ADF has also been conducting raids across the province.

Sen helped facilitate English classes for children, and “health, gender and vocational training for displaced and marginalised adults”, according to the UN statement. Her efforts “directly inspired women’s solidarity, providing safe spaces for meetings and open dialogue”, the statement added.

“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,” read the statement.

Expressing her gratitude for being selected for the award, Sen said, “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.”

The first Indian to receive the award was Major Suman Gawani in 2019. Gawani served in the UN mission in South Sudan.

Currently, there are 124 Indian women military peacekeepers deployed. New Delhi is the eleventh largest contributor to the force of women peacekeepers.

(Edited by Mannat Chugh)

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