Captain Shichan Moktan from Nepal: “Inspiring other women to pursue their dreams makes my work worthwhile”
‘’I want my son to be proud of me. Whenever I face a difficult situation, I think of him, and that it is important that I make a difference here, to show him that a woman can be whatever she wants to be, and that he should think of other women in that way,” says Captain Shichan Moktan from Nepal.
On this particular day, she and her 699 fellow peacekeepers and compatriots serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan have surely brought pride to her mountainous native country. They are all based in Rumbek, and they have all received UN medals for their outstanding work in the name of peace.
Shichan may have begun her adult life by studying environmental science, but perhaps it was always written in the stars, or at least engraved in her family tree, that Captain Moktan would be one of the 30 Nepalese women receiving the much-coveted, shiny piece of metal. Not only did her father serve with the national army, but she is also enjoying the privilege of having a trailblazing sister to look up to.
‘’I was lucky to have an amazing role model in my family. My older sister was the first female officer in the Nepalese army. Even today, there are not so many women in our army, but I always wanted to be one of those who bumped up that percentage,” she says.
At 32, Captain Moktan is young, but having joined the Nepalese army already in 2012, she fills her uniform with a significant amount of experience. This has been recognized by her Commander in Rumbek, who appointed her to lead the contingent’s female engagement team on South Sudanese soil.
Leaving her family, friends, husband and 3-year-old boy was not an easy decision to make, but when the world’s most well-known peacemaking body came calling, Shichan knew she had to grab the opportunity. So, she did, with both hands.
‘’These Blue Helmets represent hope for a better future, and to be one of them, contributing to global peace and security, is a dream come true, as much as that may sound like a cliché,” she says with a beaming smile.
As we speak, Captain Moktan often returns to her desire to inspire others. She thinks that anything is possible if one believes in oneself, and that an encouraging “tap on the back” will make even the seemingly impossible doable.
“I very much want to be that enabling ‘tap on the back’ for girls and women in South Sudan, and to be honest, I think we are exactly that,” she says, referring to her female engagement team, which is often observed and approached by these girls and women when they are patrolling or engaging in their other duties.
“Our South Sudanese sisters seem fascinated by us. I believe they think we are courageous because we don’t live up to traditional stereotypes,” Captain Moktan ponders as she recalls a transformative moment of her fledgling peacekeeping career.
‘’We were conducting a class on female hygiene issues for women in Maper when I noticed a young girl looking at me with this incredible spark in her eyes. When I talked to her, I realized that she was impressed by the existence of female peacekeepers, and that’s when I understood that if I can inspire at least one girl to pursue her dreams, my time in South Sudan will have been worthwhile.”
One aspect of Captain Moktan’s outreach activities with the female engagement team, soon to end its mission and return to Nepal, has been to raise awareness among the host community’s women on the UN’s zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
“That is one reason why we need more uniformed female personnel in peacekeeping: local women are much more likely to trust and open up to us about their struggles. With us, they dare to speak up about gender-based violence, which unfortunately is very common here,” she says.
Guang Cong, UNMISS Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and participating in the medal-pinning ceremony, praised this particular part of their work, but concluded his speech with the words the peacekeepers had all been waiting for.
’’These medals serve as recognition of your personal sacrifices for peace. Wear them with pride and dignity wherever you go, as worthy ambassadors of the United Nations.’’