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Women on top in peace force

There's just a handful of them but the Army's women peacekeeping troops stationed in some of the most dangerous conflict zones around the globe are doing a truly remarkable job.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2006 02:35 IST

There's just a handful of them but the Army's women peacekeeping troops stationed in some of the most dangerous conflict zones around the globe are doing a truly remarkable job.

The count of women officers serving in various UN missions currently stands at 18, the highest ever deployment of Indian women in international peacekeeping. The figure is an example of how Indian women are playing a greater role in promoting peace, resolving conflict and post-conflict reconstruction. It also reflects the Army's commitment to assign more women to peace missions, something the UN has consistently been asking of its member states.

Given this opportunity, women officers are out to prove their mettle. According to an officer at the Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping (CUNPK), women officers have proved to be quick on the uptake during foreign missions and their contribution as military observers, doctors and in organisational and logistical roles has been significant.

And since Indian women are doing such a good job, their participation in UN missions is expected to increase further.

Set up in 2000, the CUNPK plays a key role in training military personnel headed for UN missions. Till now, it has trained over 800 peacekeepers, including contingents from about 70 friendly nations.

The Army's eagerness to send in more women peacekeepers doesn't only have to do with gender equality. Women have deservedly made a place for themselves. Col Anil Shourie (Retd), a faculty member at CUNPK, says their ability to pick up local languages with ease facilitates peacekeeping, as does their knack for integrating their own culture with new ones. With their ability to befriend locals, especially womenfolk, women officers also help strengthen intelligence network.

The government is now working towards increasing the number of women police personnel sent for UN operations to about 30 per cent of the total forces contributed by India, based on suggestions by Kiran Bedi, who earlier served as civilian police advisor to the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

With peacekeeping contingents frequently facing allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation, the presence of women naturally inspires confidence, says a lady officer.

The Indian Army is currently participating in peace missions in Sudan, Lebanon, Congo, Golan Heights, Ethiopia and Eritrea.