A platoon of female peacekeepers from India’s Indian Battalion in the UN Interim Security Force was deployed on Friday in Abyei, on the border between Sudan and South Sudan.
Two female Army officers are on it: a Captain from the Corps of Engineers and a Major from the Corps of Signals.
According to top defence sources, the contingent consists of 25 female troops from the Assam Rifles and the Corps of Military Police (CMP). In 2021, the CMP became the only Army branch that would accept applications from female troops.
Since it sent the first-ever all-female contingent from the Central Reserve Police Force to Liberia in 2007 as part of the United Nations Mission in Liberia, this is India’s largest single unit of female peacekeepers in a UN Mission (UNMIL).
The first exclusively female police team to be deployed in any UN peacekeeping mission was a fully organised Female Police Unit with CRPF members in the African nation in 2007. The then-President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, had praised the expedition and claimed that India was to thank for the country’s increase in the proportion of women in security positions, from less than 1% to 17% now.
The soldiers won’t be playing CMP roles, a top defence official informed The Deccan Era; instead, they’ll be doing regular work.
In order to address scenarios affecting women and children who suffer the most in a conflict situation, the UN had asked member states to deploy female engagement teams (FET) with infantry battalion groups in UN Missions, the official added.
The official stated that the tasks assigned to FETs included leading joint patrols, having conversations with local women or girls, assisting during humanitarian situations, acquiring information, and managing perceptions.
Earlier that day, India’s Permanent Representative in New York stated the soldiers would specialise in community engagement and carrying out numerous security-related duties.
The contingent will spend six months on deployment in Abyei.
According to a different defence official, the UN wants at least 19% of the Army’s total officer openings to be filled by women. The source stated, “However, the Army had dispatched a more significant share of women officers, raising the percentage to 21.
Women officers have also previously taken on difficult jobs as part of UN Missions in various war-torn nations, including medical responsibilities and serving as military observers.
On a UN mission, an all-female Army contingent hasn’t previously been sent to Abyei, though.
According to a female Army officer who deployed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, serving in a conflict area as part of a mission is challenging, rewarding, and fulfilling.
“Among the roughly twenty officers of the Indian Army contingent were a few women officers. The officer stated, “However, we have an advantage in such assignments since we can better contact the public, especially the women and children significantly impacted by wars.
The officer stated, “We served there for 14 months, learned to communicate with the people and NGOs in French and native Swahili, and participated in numerous quick impact projects, including enabling the functioning of vocational training centres in the country and building up of power connections.”
She stated that the Army’s duty there is to assist the local population and empower them as well as the local Army there by UN resolutions 6 and 7, stating that the role of police and other paramilitary contingents in the UN is law enforcement in situations like rioting and stone-pelting.
Only female officers were dispatched for the missions since doors for female soldiers in the Army had not yet opened. However, she added, “we did come across female soldiers from several countries serving as peacekeepers.
According to government representatives, the action is in the UN’s quest for gender parity, and the deployment of similar engagement teams in other UN Missions is scheduled to take place soon.
The deployment will also signal India’s intention to increase the proportion of women in peacekeeping contingents, the Permanent Representative of India in New York said in a statement.
According to the statement, their arrival will be particularly appreciated in Abyei, where a recent uptick in violence has given rise to several complex humanitarian issues for women and children living in the war area.
It emphasised how highly valued female peacekeepers are in peacekeeping deployments around the globe for their capacity to engage with and assist women and children in the local community, particularly those who have experienced sexual assault in crisis areas.
“There is a tradition of Indian women participating in peacekeeping. Shakti Devi, Major Suman Gawain, and Dr Kiran Bedi—the first police adviser for the UN—have all earned names for themselves in UN peacekeeping. Incorporating women and children into grassroots community and social development projects has been a significant accomplishment for our teams in the Congo and South Sudan, the statement continued.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the action and expressed his pride in it. He claimed that India has a history of actively participating in UN peacekeeping operations. He wrote on Twitter, “The involvement by our Nari Shakti is even more gladdening.”
In a tweet, S Jaishankar, the minister of external affairs, wrote: “Our cherished tradition of UN Peacekeeping reflects #NariShakti again. Sure that they will carry out their blue helmet duties to the best of their ability and represent the country with honour.