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Major Sen

Indian peacekeeper bags UN Military Gender Advocate award

By Cecilia Ologunagba

New York, May 29, 2024

Major Radhika Sen, an Indian Peacekeeper deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has won the 2023 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year award.

Sen was honoured for helping establish networks for local people to voice their security and humanitarian concerns.

Sen served in eastern DRC with the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, from March 2023 to April 2024 as the Commander of the Engagement Platoon for the Indian Rapid Deployment Battalion.

She will receive the award from UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, during a ceremony on Thursday.

Guterres congratulated Major Sen for her service, describing her service as a true credit to the United Nations as a whole.

“In an escalating conflict environment in North Kivu, her troops actively engaged with conflict-affected communities, including women and girls,” he explained, noting that she earned their trust with humility, compassion, and dedication.

Upon receiving news of the Award, Sen expressed gratitude for being selected and reflected on her peacekeeping role.

“This award is special to me as it gives a recognition to the hard work put in by all the peacekeepers working in the challenging environment of DRC.

“Gender-sensitive peacekeeping is everybody’s business – not just us, women. Peace begins with all of us in our beautiful diversity!” she said.

Sen led mixed-gender engagement patrols and activities in a volatile environment, where many people, including women and children, were fleeing the conflict.

The Community Alert Networks she helped create in North Kivu served as a platform for community leaders, young people and women to raise their security and humanitarian concerns, which she would in turn help address together with her colleagues at MONUSCO.

As a Platoon Commander, she fostered a safe space for men and women to operate together and quickly became a role model for both women and men peacekeepers.

She also ensured that peacekeepers under her command engaged in a manner sensitive to gender and socio-cultural norms.

Sen facilitated English classes for children, and health, gender and vocational training for displaced and marginalised adults. Her efforts directly inspired women’s solidarity, providing safe spaces for open dialogue.

As a gender advocate, she encouraged women in the village of Kashlira to address issues collectively, advocate for their rights and amplify their voices within the community, in particular in local security and peace discussions.

Sen is the second Indian peacekeeper to receive the award, following Major Suman Gawani, a co-recipient for 2019.

Other past honourees were from Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Niger, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

India is currently the eleventh largest contributor of women military peacekeepers to the UN, with 124 now deployed. 

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