Liberia — “We see you as family,” Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf recently told the women of the all-female Indian police unit serving in her country under the United Nations flag.
The Indian contingent is not just controlling crowds; the women have earned the respect of Liberians thanks to their engagement within the community on many levels. For example, they gave map reading lessons to their peers in the Liberian National Police. More broadly, they taught Liberian women self-defence skills, conducted classes on sexual violence and HIV/AIDS, and provided medical services. Some got involved with a local orphanage and school in Congo Town.
“If I had my will, I would have recommended for another unit of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to leave, so that the Indian Formed Police Unit (FPU) would continue its stay in the country for the time being,” she said, speaking to a large crowd at their recent farewell ceremony, organized to coincide with India’s Republic Day.
Since 2007, there have been nine rotations of all-female police units from India, whose primary responsibilities have been to provide 24-hour guard duty and public order management and to conduct night patrols in and around the capital, Monrovia, while assisting to build the capacity of local security institutions.
On Sunday, 125 women and supporting personnel that constitute the unit will pack their bags and return home to all corners of India following their one-year rotation in the post-conflict nation. Since the civil war ended in 2003, UNMIL has been supporting Liberia to rebuild its institutions so it can maintain stability without its presence.
When the local women see the female peacekeepers, they get inspired by them.
“When the local women see the female peacekeepers, they get inspired by them – [they see] ladies can perform the same role as male counterparts,” Colonel Madhubala Bala, the contingent’s commander, told the UN News Centre in an interview.
And the proof is in the numbers. Liberian women now make up 17 per cent of the country’s security sector, as compared to 6 per cent nine years ago before the arrival and influence of the all-female Indian contingent.
“They’ve served as role models for the local girls, and the effect on Liberian women was very significant,” added the Colonel.
In a statement issued today in New York ahead of this weekend’s departure, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to the FPU’s “unwavering performance, professionalism and discipline,” and commended its contributions in creating an environment for the Government of Liberia to assume fully its security responsibilities by 30 June 2016.
“Through their work, they managed criminality, deterred sexual and gender-based violence and helped rebuild safety and confidence among the population,” said the statement, in which Mr. Ban also underscored that the conduct of the FPU served as an example of how the deployment of more female uniformed personnel can help the UN in its efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse.
“The Secretary-General thanks all the women who served in the FPU for inspiring all Liberians, as well as current and future generations of female police officers, and becoming role models for gender equality,” the statement added.
Courtesy of http://www.un.org/