'Indian women peacekeepers an inspiration for Liberians'

United Nations: Indian women peacekeepers are an inspiration for young Liberian girls to join the West African nation's law enforcement agencies, a top UN official said here.

"The inspiration you have provided to Liberian girls and women will be among the many lasting impressions of your work here in Liberia, which will leave a positive legacy in the rule of law in Liberia," Ellen Margrethe Loj, Special Representative of Secretary General to Liberia, said yesterday while decorating 125 Indian women peacekeepers.

The group serving with the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was awarded peacekeeping medals for their contribution to peace and stability in Liberia. Among the top brass of the UN and Liberian government attending the medal ceremony was Indian ambassador to Liberia, Shamma Jain.

During its 15-year-long civil war, Liberian women have suffered from rampant rape and other forms of sexual violence. The peacekeeping unit, comprising of Indian women, is the first all female UN police unit, which has been stationed in Liberia since 2007, and will return in 2010.

Women presently compromise eight per cent of the 10,000 UN police officers, and two per cent of the 80,000 military personnel. The UN is making efforts to engage more women peacekeepers in their missions all over the world.

Speaking at the Security Council on protecting women against sexual violence, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently cited Indian women peacekeepers in Liberia as an example that must be replicated in UN peacekeeping missions all over the world.

"It is also very important that in Liberia, United Nations mission includes an all women police unit from India. That all women police unit has helped motivate more Liberian women to become police officers and the mission has launched a joint UN-Liberian campaign against rape," Loj said.

She observed that in sending all-female Police Unit to the peacekeeping Mission, India was complying with Security Council resolution 1325 that mandates women should play a more active role in peacekeeping efforts.

The top UN official lauded Commander Annie Abraham for her leadership. "The unit hit the ground running on arrival and showed itself a capable force, protecting UN officials and VIPs, as well as protecting various installations," she said.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, "be the change that you want to see in the world", Loj noted Indian policewomen had infused a culture of tolerance, a tradition of respect and a natural inclination towards peaceful co-existence in UN operation.

"Our behaviour must be a demonstration of our commitment to uphold the essential qualities of trust and respect in our daily interactions with our Liberian brothers and sisters," she said.

"Your medical outreach and awareness campaigns to promote proper hygiene and sanitation have touched the lives of many community members in Congo Town; you have adopted the pupils of Hebron Orphanage and Victory Chapel School, and you have positively changed their lives," the UN representative said.

India remains one of the largest troop contributors to the UN with its personnel stationed in warn-torn countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Haiti and Liberia.

Bureau Report