Major Radhika Sen's service is true credit to United Nations as a whole: UN SG Guterres

Major Radhika Sen of India is a true leader and role model and her service is a true credit to the United Nations as a whole, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said, as he conferred a prestigious award on the Indian woman peacekeeper.
Major Radhika Sen receives the prestigious ‘2023 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award' from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres
Major Radhika Sen receives the prestigious ‘2023 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award' from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

United Nations | Major Radhika Sen of India is a true leader and role model and her service is a true credit to the United Nations as a whole, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said, as he conferred a prestigious award on the Indian woman peacekeeper.

Major Sen, who served with the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), received the prestigious ‘2023 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award' from Guterres during a ceremony at the world body's headquarters on Thursday on the occasion of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

“ Major Sen is a true leader and role model. Her service is a true credit to the United Nations as a whole. Please join me in congratulating Major Radhika Sen of India. I could not be prouder to confer her with the Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award,” Guterres said, as he presided over the Dag Hammarskjold medal and Military Gender Advocate of the Year ceremony.

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).

Guterres thanked Major Sen and all peacekeepers for their service, leadership, and commitment to the Women, Peace and Security agenda. He noted that as commander of the Indian contingent's engagement platoon, Major Sen led her unit on countless patrols.

“During these patrols, in an escalating conflict environment in North Kivu, her troops actively engaged with conflict-affected communities, including particularly women and girls,” he said adding that “She earned their trust. Doing so with humility, compassion, and dedication.” The UN chief said that Major Sen provided a safe and welcoming platform for women to share their ideas and concerns so that the Mission could better respond to their needs.

“In her one-year deployment, Major Sen also served as gender focal point, and took on civil-military tasks — including vocational trainings for women and young people,” he said, adding that she was also her battalion's sexual exploitation and abuse focal point, undertaking important efforts to prevent misconduct.

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.

Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix congratulated Major Sen for receiving the award, saying that during the years she served in MONUSCO, she “always kept women at the centre of her work in line with the vision of resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. She protected civilians and supported efforts to end sexual exploitation and abuse.” "We really congratulate you. You make us and your country proud,” he said.

Lauding her “outstanding service” in DR Congo, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said that “her dedication and bravery highlight the invaluable role of #women peacekeepers in building a better world. We are incredibly proud of her achievements and inspired by her commitment to peace and equality.”

In her remarks at the ceremony, Major Sen said she is “deeply honoured and humbled" to accept the award on behalf of her colleagues in MONUSCO and “my home country, India.” Calling on the UN and member states to tap into the rich network created by the award, she expressed hope that “one day a peacekeeper of another gender” will be honoured with this prestigious award. “Gender-sensitive peacekeeping is everyone's business, not just us, the women. Peace begins with all of us in our beautiful diversity,” she said.

“Serving as an engagement platoon commander in MONUSCO has been a privilege beyond measure. This award is special to me as it recognises the hard work put in by all the peacekeepers working in MONUSCO's challenging environment,” she said, adding that the engagement team serves as the face of the contingent within the community, tirelessly striving to reach out to every segment of the DRC population.

She said that her team had the opportunity to engage with the communities on topics ranging from women's health, education, child care to gender equality, women employment and combating sexual violence in conflict, along with interactions on various skill development programmes to foster self-reliance.

"A gender perspective in UN peacekeeping is essential for effective, inclusive and sustainable peace process. Women and girls are disproportionately affected in conflict, facing increased risk and abuse. The need of the hour is to mainstream the women in nation-building, particularly in sectors of security and governance,” she said.

Major Sen emphasised that “we as peacekeepers should continue to address the needs of all those affected in the conflict and act as role models for the society to implement a gender-sensitive approach for lasting peace.” Major Sen is the second Indian peacekeeper to receive the prestigious award after Major Suman Gawani, who had served with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and was honoured in 2019.

Created in 2016, the United Nations '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.

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.

On the occasion, 64 military, police, and civilian peacekeepers were honoured posthumously with the Dag Hammarskjöld Medals for their supreme sacrifice in the line of duty.

Naik Dhananjay Kumar Singh, who served with the UN Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) and lost his life serving under the UN flag, was honoured with the medal, which was received by Kamboj.

India is the second largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping. It currently deploys more than 6,000 military and police personnel to the UN operations in Abyei, the Central African Republic, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, the Middle East, Somalia, South Sudan, and Western Sahara. Nearly 180 Indian peacekeepers have made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty, the highest number by far from any troop-contributing country.

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