Nepalese peacekeepers promote the important role of women in the military as they end their service in South Sudan

13 Feb 2020

Nepalese peacekeepers promote the important role of women in the military as they end their service in South Sudan

Tonny Muwangala

Some may think that joining the army is all about meeting the physical demands of the profession.

But female military personnel serving with the Nepalese peacekeeping contingent in South Sudan say it is so much more than that.

“The military is much more than just the physical demands. It takes resolve and determination, psychological strength and discipline. These are qualities that anyone can have regardless of their sex,” said Captain Sunita Parajuli, the highest-ranking female Nepalese officer serving with the United Nations Mission in the Great Lakes region.

Captain Sunita Parajuli, together with her Nepalese military counterparts have just received their UN medals of service, after a year of protecting civilians and building peace in the conflict-affected country.

Nepbatt1, as they are code named, has a strong presence of women military personnel with a full platoon in South Sudan.

Captain Sunita Parajuli and her female peers have led many peacekeeping field missions during their careers.

“There is order in the army, if you are heading a mission it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or woman. This is sometimes hard for civilians to comprehend, but it’s understandable,” she said.

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to serve in the peacekeeping mission here in South Sudan, a totally different part of the world from where I come from, with different challenges. I have gained a lot of experience.”

This mother of one says the biggest challenge was communication back home especially with the unstable mobile telephone and internet network in South Sudan.

“I have to call my daughter and my husband at least two or three times a day but sometimes you go to the field where there is completely no mobile telephone network. I, however, have my husband’s support. When I don’t call, he calls and we communicate,” said Captain Sunita Parajuli.

This force has served in six peacekeeping missions including Lebanon, Yugoslavia and Sierra Leone.  

“This battalion lost one of their soldiers in the first week of their reporting for duty in Rumbek,” said the acting Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Rumbek, Gibril Allan Turay. “However, this didn’t break their resolve to defend UNMISS’ mandate in this area, which is to do its best to deter conflict, including inter-communal violence, deadly cattle raids, revenge killings and road ambushes among others.”

The most trying moment for this force came in December when they were called upon to intervene and restore calm in Maper when fighting broke out between the Manuer and Gak communities leaving more than 70 people dead and many others seriously injured.

The UNMISS Force Commander, Lieutenant General, Shailesh Tinaikar, says it was at this moment that Nepbatt1 set an example that should be emulated by others.