LIBERIA/INDIA: Indian Women Peacekeepers Inspire Liberian Women

Thursday, September 12, 2013
Western Africa
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New Delhi, Sep 12 (IANS): An all-women police unit provided by India, as part of a UN peacekeeping force, inspired many Liberian women to join the West African nation's police and security services.

This was disclosed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in her welcome address for Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who was conferred the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development at a ceremony at the Rasthrapati Bhavan Thursday.

Expressing confidence that her visit will be a landmark in the growing relations between the two countries, Gandhi said: "I would like to make mention here of the peace-keeping contribution made by India in Liberia and especially of the role played by the United Nations first-ever all-women police unit provided by India of which we are particularly proud.

"I was gratified to learn Madam president, that you felt this unit would demonstrate to Liberian women that they need not only be victims of violent conflict but can also be a source of security and succour, and that its exemplary performance has led many Liberian women to join your country's police and security services," Gandhi said to applause from the distinguished audience.

This point was also made by President Pranab Mukherjee later in his address when he said: "I recall, Madam president, that during a visit to this all-female Indian unit in 2011, you announced that due to the inspiration drawn from them, your government has targeted 20 percent woman recruitment in your security forces."

More than a hundred female officers and about 20 men engaged in logistics work from India went to Liberia in 2007, to strengthen the rule of law and maintain peace in a country wracked by civil wars.

Liberia elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the first female head of state in Africa in 2006 after two civil wars in the 1990s devastated the country, displacing hundreds of thousands of people in a country of just four million.

"We hope that the presence of this all-female contingent will serve as an incentive and an attraction to encourage young Liberian women to join the Liberian National Police," United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Police Commissioner Mohammed Alhassan had then said.