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“Once a peacekeeper, always a peacekeeper”

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“Once a peacekeeper, always a peacekeeper”

— Major Monira Mowri, from Bangladesh, serving in South Sudan
19 June 2020
Major Monira Mahjabeen Mowri, from Bangladesh, serving in South Sudan
Major Monira Mahjabeen Mowri, from Bangladesh, serving in South Sudan

Our peacekeeper of the day is Major Monira Mahjabeen Mowri Staff Officer at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS)

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Major Monira Mahjabeen Mowri. I have been serving with the Bangladesh Army for some 11 years. I am the first from my family to serve in the Armed Forces, though my educational background was focused on aeronautical engineering. I’m married to an army officer and I love travelling, meeting new people and learning about different cultures across the world.

What are your responsibilities in the mission and what is your typical day like?

I work as a Staff Officer at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) headquarters in the capital Juba and my daily responsibilities involve coordinating and liaising with different contingents, military observers and, on occasion, our humanitarian partners serving across South Sudan, for a varied range of operational tasks, including regular patrols.

Despite the fact that I have a largely desk-oriented role here, I make it a point to accompany ground patrols in Central Equatoria state whenever I find the time—I believe that the only way I can ensure that the operational requirements of our peacekeepers on patrol are met swiftly and efficiently is if I actually experience on-ground realities with them!

How long have you been a UN peacekeeper and how did you become one?

This is my first deployment as a UN peacekeeper; I joined UNMISS a year ago. As you may know, Bangladesh has been contributing troops to UN peace operations since 1988 and ever since I joined the Bangladesh Army, it has been my dream to serve under a blue helmet.

I went through a stringent selection procedure in my own country and was very proud to be deployed as a staff officer to UNMISS. Originally, I was supposed to serve for a year; however, with COVID-19, the mission has granted me an extension.

What did your family and friends back home think about your decision to leave your country and work for a UN peacekeeping mission?

Honestly speaking, I think it’s a difficult decision for anyone to move abroad, leaving loved ones. It was the same for me. However, I’ve been very lucky--my husband who, as I mentioned earlier,

also comes from a uniformed personnel background, my parents, my in-laws and my siblings were extremely supportive. They all knew how much being a UN peacekeeper meant to me and understood my need to serve a cause that transcends national and personal boundaries.

What are three things you like most about the mission and the country?

My role at UNMISS puts me in daily contact with a cross-section of military, police and civilian peacekeepers from different countries. It has been a life-altering experience. I think it has made me a better officer and I’m going to carry much of my enhanced skillset when I return home to share with my colleagues in Bangladesh.

On the personal front, I have managed to forge genuine bonds with colleagues who live across the world. Additionally, I’ve had many opportunities to interact with our host communities since we organise a regular cleaning campaign in Juba as part of the mission’s civilian-military cooperation activities.

I have discovered that the South Sudanese people are very friendly and supportive of us as peacekeepers. They are genuinely committed to making their country a better place. This is what inspires and motivates me to do my best for this country every single day.

What part of your job do you find most challenging and why?

I think a major challenge any newcomer being deployed to a peace operation faces is learning the breadth and scope of how the task at hand contributes to the overall mandate of the mission.

I have spoken about the multicultural work environment – this too can, at times, come with its own set of challenges because as military personnel we are used to working within country-specific rules and regulations which may differ widely from each other. It takes time, dedication and a willingness to embrace change if one wants to be successful peacekeeper.

Do you think female peacekeepers serve as role models for the local population?

Yes, I firmly believe that. Female peacekeepers often forge a deeper connection with women and children in the communities we serve. I’ve experienced this first-hand in my interactions with local women here—we can forge real connections based on our shared experiences of the range of feminine roles we fulfil as wives, daughters, sisters…Moreover, women constitute 50 per cent of any society and I’m glad that peace operations worldwide are looking to recruit more women.

What would you say to female soldiers considering a career in peacekeeping?

Go for it! I acknowledge that it’s an uncommon choice of career for women in many parts of the world, but it is extremely rewarding as we get the chance to not only empower ourselves but make lives safer and, hopefully, a little better for people who need our help the most. Once you have served as peacekeeper, you’ll always be a peacekeeper. In my opinion, it’s a value system, an ethic that will stay with me long after my deployment with UNMISS ends!