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Commander of Indian female UN police unit arrives in Liberia with advance team

Commander of Indian female UN police unit arrives in Liberia with advance team

The commander of an all-female Indian United Nations police unit has arrived in Liberia as part of an advance team that will pave the way for the landmark deployment of a 125-strong force later this month, the first time the world body has sent an all women specialized police unit to a peacekeeping operation.

Commander Seema Dhundiya, who will head the Formed Police Unit (FPU), arrived in the capital Monrovia on Sunday along with logistics and engineering specialists who will prepare for the rest of her unit, which is expected to arrive around 29 January, said UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) spokesman Ben Dotsei Malor.

The FPU contingent will consist of 125 personnel, made up of 103 female officers and 22 male staff serving in logistics roles. The women will be formed into three platoons of 30 women each, comprising one platoon leader and 29 officers, and while the contingent will be based in Monrovia they may be deployed anywhere in the country.

India’s decision to send the all female officers to assist the UNMIL operation was announced last September and over the past few months the team has been undergoing intensive training. The UN has had increasing success with FPU’s over the past few years as a means of bridging the gap between regular and lightly armed police and fully armed blue helmets.

The FPU, which will be better armed than a regular unit, will provide general support to UN police activities in Liberia, including protecting UN officials and civilian police as they perform their duties, plus also acting as a rapid reaction force for crowd control and helping train local police officers, the world body said.

The female FPU represents further effort by the UN to attract women police officers into their peacekeeping operations worldwide, because as of the end of 2006 while there were around 8,482 staff serving worldwide, only 454 – around four per cent – were women officers.

In a related development, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Liberia Alan Doss today urged all young women who are interested in joining the country’s police to apply to a UN-backed programme that aims to bring the educational level of potential recruits up to a high enough standard that they can apply to join.

“This is an opportunity to not only enhance your education, but, if you successfully pass the test, you can join the LNP (Liberia National Police) and help make a difference to your country, especially the women of this country,” he said.

The Vice-President of Liberia, Joseph Boakai launched the pioneering Education Support Programme for potential female recruits of the LNP at the Education Ministry in Monrovia today, a programme that was planned and implemented by the UN Police, the LNP, and the Ministries of Education, Justice and Gender & Development.

Mr. Doss said that the programme was initiated to meet the target of 20 per cent female representation in the LNP, adding that it is not about lowering standards but about helping women raise their standards of education so that they can join the national police force.

In a separate development, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Recovery and Governance, Jordan Ryan, travelled with Liberia’s Minister of Finance, Antoinette M. Sayeh, to Maryland County on Saturday to assess the reconstruction needs after the devastation caused by 14 years of civil war.

“We are delighted to join forces with the Government of Liberia and have this fact-finding visit to see how the Government and the United Nations can work together to address the needs of the county,” Mr. Ryan told UNMIL Radio.