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Peace by peace

The 105 Indian police officers last year became the United Nations' first all-female peacekeeping force after Liberian locals accused the UN's male peacekeepers of rape and abuse.

entertainment Updated: Mar 08, 2008 16:07 IST
Nuzhat Aziz

The year is 2007. An all- women team descends upon war and strife-rid- den Liberia. Their job? To combat violence and maintain peace. And their nationality? Indian.

Don't be surprised. These 105 Indian police officers last year became the United Nations' first all-female peacekeeping force after Liberian locals accused the UN's male peacekeepers of rape and abuse. <b1>

A year later, in January 2008, after the team's stay was extended from the initial six months, Seema Dhundia, the Contingent Commander, Indian Formed Police Unit (FPU) of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) recalls, "My aim was to keep my troops safe and sound and also live up to the expectations of the UN, my own organisation and the Liberians. I also tried to leave a positive impact on the local population, so that they know that women are no less than anybody else."

Forty-year-old Dhundia has mastered martial arts and combat weaponry, skills that she has ensured the rest of her team is well versed with too.

The Indian soldiers, dressed in the blue peacekeeper's cap and uniform, were expected to control riots, patrol the Liberian capital of Monrovia, and tackle armed robberies and mob violence.

The team was also expected to mentor the Liberian national police and provide backup support to the police in their day-to-day work.

Says Dhundia; "We provided a great deal of on the-spot training to the Liberian national police officers, advising them on how to react to situations."

According to her, the women's team has also managed to inspire Liberian womenfolk, an otherwise oppressed lot. "Women are final ly getting their due in Liberian society and their overall secu rity scenario has improved," she says.

So successful has been Dhun dia's foray into Liberia that a new team was sent into the country after the original team returned in February .

"I will ask the new team to take every measure to keep the troops safe. They need to keep the troops busy and oriented. It is important to pay special at tention to the welfare of the troops," she signs off.