India is committed to increasing the number of women peacekeepers to the United Nations and to meeting the targets in this regard within the specified timelines, Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Tuesday delivering a keynote address at an event organised by the UN and Vietnam.

Speaking on the topic " Future of Women in Peacekeeping" at the International conference on Women Peace and Security, Swarup said that India strongly believes that more women in peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping. "As we all know from experience, women suffer the most in any conflict situation. Obviously, more women in peacekeeping means more effective peacekeeping. Women peacekeepers have greater access to communities, help in the protection of the most vulnerable, and inspire other women to play a meaningful part in peace and political processes," he said.

He said, India stands ready to engage with its partners to work towards ensuring meaningful participation of women and mainstreaming of women, peace and security considerations in order to build inclusive, peaceful and resilient societies.

The MEA Secretary spoke on India's contribution to the UN engagement with countries facing or recovering from prolonged conflicts through the deployment of uniformed women contingent, recalling instances such as in 1960 when women of Indian Armed Forces Medical Services going to the UN peacekeeping mission in the Republic of Congo to assist with the setting up of a 400-bed hospital, and deploying the first-ever all-female Formed Police Unit (FPU) in 2007, which served in Liberia for a decade.

"Women peacekeepers obviously serve as powerful mentors and role models for women and girls in post-conflict settings in the host community, being examples for them to advocate for their own rights and pursue non-traditional careers," he said.

He also recalled the efforts of Indian Army officer Major Suman Gawani, who was awarded the UN Military Gender Advocate of the year for 2019 for her role as a peacekeeper with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Speaking on India's focus on women empowerment, Swarup said: "India has been an active participant in the deliberations on issues focusing on women empowerment and gender mainstreaming at various UN bodies. During the past two decades, the normative frameworks on Women, Peace and Security have been strengthened considerably.

Today, there is a greater awareness about the centrality of meaningful participation of women in UN's peace and security efforts including peacekeeping."

He further stated that India is committed to increasing the number of women peacekeepers and to meeting the targets in this regard within the specified timelines.
"In order to fulfill its commitments, India has already deployed a Female Engagement Team at the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of the Rapidly Deployable Battalion in MONUSCO. We have also pledged a Women Formed Police Unit (FPU) under the Peacekeeping Readiness Capability System," he added.

The Secretary further expressed full support towards UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' zero-tolerance approach towards sexual exploitation and abuse.

"India was the first country to contribute to the Secretary-General's Trust Fund for Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and also signed the voluntary compact on SEA with the Secretary-General in 2017. The Indian Prime Minister has joined the "Circle of Leadership" on the prevention of and response to sexual exploitation and abuse in United Nations operations," said Swarup. (ANI)