"No Better Way To Serve Humanity, India": Major Set To Be Honoured By UN

Major Radhika Sen will receive the 2023 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

'No Better Way To Serve Humanity, India': Major Set To Be Honoured By UN

Major Sen graduated as a biotech engineer.

New Delhi:

Major Radhika Sen, a peacekeeper who served with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was pursuing a career in biotechnology before she joined the Indian Army. Major Sen said it was after she made the switch that she realised there was no better way for her to serve humanity and the country.

Speaking exclusively to NDTV, the Major, who will be honoured by the United Nations with the prestigious 2023 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award, also said that being part of the Indian Army made the challenges faced by her in the Congo easier because soldiers in the force work in different regions of the country and are exposed to different environments.

Major Sen will receive the award, which recognises a military peacekeeper who has best integrated a gender perspective into peacekeeping activities, from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Asked about the challenge of ensuring that peacekeepers under her command recognised the importance of gender and socio-cultural norms in the country, Major Sen, who served with the Organisation Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), said, "The country has a long history. It has its own culture. It has its own tradition. There are many socio-economic issues that happen. But, I would say, being a part of India, which is a culturally rich and a diverse country, and especially being a part of the Indian Army, helped.

"Because all my soldiers have been working in different regions of the country, and they have served in different terrains, they have seen different environments, it was not really challenging for me to have a team. I would say it was their support and cooperation which has motivated me and helped me to get the information and the concerns of the people better. So, (it was) because we are from India and the Indian Army gives you all the opportunity and exposure possible (that) it was easy for me," she asserted. 

On rape and violence being used as an implement of warfare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Major Sen said it is very important for peacekeeping forces to have a gender perspective because it helps build an inclusive and sustainable peace process.

"In any conflict, it is always the women and the girls who are more affected and who face increased risk of abuse. So, I would say, why should any human being suffer? As women peacekeepers, we try and address their concerns and encourage them to raise their voices," she said. 

The officer explained that they realised that talking to the country's leadership wasn't enough and they began to speak to local communities to get a better idea of issues facing the people in the country. 

"We had also involved ourselves into creating awareness about many topics that concern women, like women's health and education on sexual violence in conflict. We also engaged with people on creating employment training, like baking and tailoring for women and English training for children. So there were multiple things that we tried to do in order to engage with people which could help us address their concerns better," she said. 

The major also spoke about misinformation spread against MONUSCO and said there were times when they were engaging with people that they had to get into vehicles and return because stones were thrown at them. 

The Major Switch

Major Sen graduated as a biotech engineer and was pursuing a Master's degree from IIT Bombay when she decided to join the Army. 

When she was asked about what made her make the switch, she said, "I always wanted to serve humanity and India, but I always thought I would I'll be a scientist and do it. In my last year of college, I applied for an SSB (Service Selection Board), just for the sake of it. And I went for the SSB just to see Allahabad, I thought I will see a new place and, somehow, I just cleared it."

"I was enjoying studying - I love science. I love to study. It was my parents who have taught me there are many ways of serving mankind and the country, and I think there's no better way for me to do it than what I'm doing now. And I cannot be happier that I chose this field and it's just really good to be a part of the armed forces," she emphasised.