The first all-female United Nations peacekeeping unit sent on a foreign mission will soon begin duties in Liberia. The unit of more than 100 Indian police officers, which arrived last month, is receiving training and say they are eager to begin work. U.N. officials say they hope an all-female unit can inspire and help Liberian women. Kari Barber has more from our West Africa Bureau in Dakar.
The all-female peacekeeping contingent is preparing guns and equipment for exercises.
Commander Seema Dhundia says she is feeling pressure from the international attention her unit has drawn.
"Getting so much attention is definitely making me a bit apprehensive because now we have to exert more to prove our worth, to prove ourselves," she said.
Dhundia has been a peacekeeper for 19 years. She says she and her team are well-experienced after serving in tense regions of central India and Kashmir.
"Most of my girls are quite experienced," she said. "They were deployed in these areas and they have already put in considerable years of service. They are experienced, they are trained and I think they will be able to handle this situation."
Dhundia says expectations are steep for how effective the all women's unit will be in Liberia, a country still reeling from recent civil war.
"The biggest challenge is to rise to the expectations of the U.N. authorities as well as my own home-country people," she said.
She says morale is high among the the women as they eagerly wait for their orders.
"I am still to get whatever duties are to be assigned to us. We will carry out the orders," she said.
A U.N. spokesman says the role of the all-female unit is not particularly different from that of the Jordanian, Nepalese and Nigerian units that have been working in the country. The armed unit is to specialize in controlling difficult crowd situations.
Hopes have been high that the presence of the all-female contingent will encourage victims of rape - which is rampant in the country - to report the crime and that it will make more women interested in becoming police officers and peacekeepers.