Keepers of peace in a foreign land
The year was 2007. An all-women team descends upon war and strife-ridden Liberia. Their job? To combat violence and maintain peace. Surprised? Don’t be. Last year, these 105 Indian police officers became the United Nations’ first all-female peacekeeping force after Liberian locals accused the UN’s male peacekeepers of rape and abuse.
An year later, in January 2008, after the team’s stay was extended from the initial six months, Seema Dhundia, Contingent Commander, Indian Formed Police Unit (FPU), United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) recalls, “My aim was to keep my troops safe and also to live up to the expectations of the UN, my own organisation and the Liberians too. ”
Dhundia, 40, is a master in martial arts and combat weaponry, skills that has ensured that the rest of her team are well versed with too. Her soldiers, dressed in the blue peacekeepers cap and uniform, were expected to control riots, patrol the capital 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 finally getting their due in Liberian society and their overall security scenario has improved,” she says.
So successful has been Dhundia’s foray into Liberia that a new team is being sent to the country, as soon her enterprising team returns.
She says, “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 attention to troop welfare.”