Captain Tanvi Shukla of India is our peacekeeper of the day. She is the commander of an all-female team of the Indian contingent in the DRC.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Captain Tanvi Shukla, Indian Female Engagement Team (FET) Commander, Indian contingent with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).
Growing up, influenced by my mother, I developed the habit of reading, and a love for music.
After high school, I opted for Geography, Political Science and Public Administration for my graduate degree. I eventually joined the Armed Forces in 2014 and got married to a batchmate, a year later.
What are your responsibilities in this mission and what is your typical day like?
I and my team of 22 women have been deployed as part of the Rapidly Deployable Battalion. As leader of the FET, my responsibility is to ensure we are physically and mentally ready for deployment in all the operational activities and carry out as much meaningful engagement with the local people as possible.
A typical day for the team starts early morning with physical training together with the soldiers of the contingent, followed by deployment and movement of sub teams for different operational tasks. Afternoons consist of Swahili classes for the team so that they have an advantage while interacting with the local people.
How long have you been a UN peacekeeper and how did you become one?
I have been in the mission for over nine months now. I was selected as the leader of the FET as part of the Indian Infantry Battalion. The selection process was based on merit and had various stages, starting with a physical efficiency test, followed by a written exam and finally an interview.
What did your family and friends back home think about your decision to leave your country and work for a UN peacekeeping mission?
I am the first in my family to join the armed forces and the first to leave the country to serve in a UN peacekeeping mission. Though a little apprehensive, especially my mother, my family and most importantly my husband are very proud and supportive of my decision.
What are three things you like most about the mission and the country?
The three things I like best are that I get to meet so many people from diverse backgrounds and learn from them, and that I developed strong friendships.
I like the beautiful weather and country that has suited me so well that I feel I belong to Africa.
I also like the challenges of the work I must put in to getting accepted by the local people, to win their confidence and find happiness in it when it happens.
What part of your job do you find most challenging and why?
Though technology has made it very easy to stay in touch, I miss my family. Our fellow contingent members have been very supportive and helpful whenever we move out for operations, but language has been a barrier while trying to win the confidence of local people. We could have had more training in that.
Do you think female peacekeepers serve as role models for the local population?
I strongly believe in this. Not only for the women. We also serve as role models for the young male population, in the way they see women and the roles they associate with them.
What would you say to female soldiers considering a career in peacekeeping?
I will tell them to work hard, to work on their strong points because that is what makes us such an important component of peacekeeping missions. And I will tell them to be the change they want to see.