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    India’s Female Peacekeepers Inspire Liberian Girls

    Indian peacekeepers drilling in Liberia. / Credit: Christopher Herwig/UN Photo

    Indian peacekeepers drilling in Liberia. / Credit: Christopher Herwig/UN Photo

    By Tamasin Ford and Sonnie Morris*

    MONROVIA, Oct 24, 2010 (IPS) – It is break time at the Victory Chapel School in Congo Town. Children dressed in their royal blue uniforms with bright yellow and white trim fight to get under the shade of the only mango tree in the yard. It is the start of the dry season and the scorching sun will soon be almost unbearable to stand in.

    This small school, on the outskirts of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, is much like any other in the city until you see what stands beside it. More than a hundred female peacekeepers patrol the grounds of a big white fenced compound, the first all-female unit of UN police in history.

    The women are an arresting sight: dressed in their blue army combat uniform, black boots, the signature United Nations blue cap and each carrying an AK-47. But the school children are so used to their presence they barely give them a second glance.

    “It surprised me at the beginning because it is my first time to see different people come around me,” says Wokie Sarchie, a fifth grade student at the school.

    The Indian peacekeepers arrived in Liberia in 2007. Their main role is guarding the president’s office on Capitol Hill on the other side of the city. When they are not protecting the president, they are often here helping the teachers at the school.

    According to Jickson Sargeor, the principal of Victory Chapel School, the Indian peacekeeping contingent provides the children with medication, lessons on using computers and Indian dance and self defense. In addition, the principal believes the Indian women have brought a much more important message to the children.

    “It has made the girls to believe that they are not just people to sit at home, they are people to get out there,” he says.

    Sandra Weah, an eighth grade student, toyed with the idea of following her peacekeeper role models into the security field, but her new love for dancing and music made her change her mind. “For me I wanted to be an army woman but then when I saw my friends doing music, I decided to leave the army to go and be a musician.”

    The female contingent of peacekeepers came to Liberia in response to the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Liberia is the first African country to complete a National Action Plan to implement the resolution.

    Fourteen years of civil war in the West African state saw some of the worst atrocities women and children have ever experienced on the African continent. More than 60 percent of women say they were raped, according to the U.N. Mission in Liberia, UNMIL.

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