India’s Radhika Sen Wins 2023 United Nations’ Military Gender Advocate of Year Peacekeeping Award

Winner of 2023 United Nations’ Military Gender Advocate of Year Peacekeeping Award, Major Radhika Sen. PHOTO : Courtesy UN

United Nations – Major Radhika Sen, Indian military peacekeeper serving with the United Nations Peacekeeping, was presented the 2023 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year award by the U.N. Secretary General António Guterres in a special ceremony Thursday, May 30, 2023, which was part of the celebrations of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers at the UN headquarters in New York.

Sen served from March 2023 to April 2024, as the Commander of the Engagement Platoon of Indian Rapid Deployment Battalion to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

The United Nations “Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award” was created by the Office of Military Affairs in 2016 to recognize the dedication and efforts of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. The award recipient is selected from candidates nominated by the Force Commanders and Heads of Mission from all peace operations.

UN’s ongoing Peacekeeping efforts began 76 years ago with contributions from member countries. UN peacekeepers have helped countries to transition from war to peace, and saved and changed lives in the world’s most fragile political and security situations.

Major Radhika Sen working with children in North Kivu during her 2023-2024 UN mission to the Republic of the Congo. PHOTO : Courtesy UN

Sen received many congratulatory messages when the awards were announced. Chief among them were the ones from India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ruchira Kamboj and UN Secretary-General Guterres, praising Sen and appreciating her hard work.

Sen had joined the army eight years ago when she decided to leave her master’s degree from IIT Bombay halfway to be a UN Peacekeeper. Born in Himachal Pradesh in 1993, Sen already had a biotech engineering degree at the time.

In North Kivu, Sen worked with a team of mixed-gender engagement patrols in the midst of women and children fleeing from the conflict-ridden area. Sen helped them stabilize, creating a Community Alert Networks for voicing their humanitarian concerns locally, and working to address them with help of her team. Sen also facilitated English classes for children and health, gender and vocational training for displaced and marginalized adults.

Sen’s work as a gender advocate involved encouraging women in the village of Kashlira to address issues collectively, advocate for their rights and amplify their voices within the community and in local security and peace discussions.

International Day of UN Peacekeepers 2024 poster featuring Major Radhika Sen.
PHOTO : Courtesy UN

Sen is the second Indian woman peacekeeper to receive this prestigious award. Major Suman Gawani, who served in the UN Mission to South Sudan, was a co-recipient of the 2019 award.

India is currently the eleventh largest contributor of women military peacekeepers to the United Nations with 124 now deployed, according to UN Peacekeeping. Its first all women contingent in peacekeeping missions, a Formed Police Unit, was deployed in 2007 to the UN Operation in Liberia.

India has been contributing to UN peacekeeping and peacebuilding from the 1950s. Over the years, India has contributed more than 253,000 troops, participated in more than 49 missions, and lost 175 Indian peacekeepers while serving in UN missions, according to information on the Permanent Mission of India (PMI)’s website (

Today, India is the fifth largest troop contributor with 5,323 personnel deployed in 8 out of 13 active UN Peacekeeping Missions. Of these 166 are police personnel, according to PMI website.

However, the contributions of India’s think tanks also should be noted alongside, Kamboj said in a video message posted on X. India’s think tanks have a valuable wealth of experience and contribute innovative and effective ideas and strategic thinking to UN Peacekeeping, according to the message.

UN observes the International Day of UN Peacekeepers every year to pay tribute to its uniformed and civilian Peacekeepers. This year’s theme ‘Fit for the future, building better together’ symbolizes creating an equitable, just, and sustainable world for all.



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