As morning dawns, army personnel assemble at the lawn of the Birendra Peacekeeping Training Center at Panchkhal, some 45-km east of Kathmandu, for a regular Parade. The chirps of various species of birds give the drill a more natural and pleasant ambience.
The groups of participants in the parade were more or less identical but one of them appeared strikingly different. It was a battalion on its final day of the 14 week training for the peacekeeping mission, where two women –Radha Gurung (Pyuth) and Meera Pariyar Bagdas (Sipahi)– were among the participants. They flew down to join the UN mission “Peace establishment in the Central African Republic” for a year on the 5th of Chaitra.
Pyuth Radha Gurung, who belongs to the Shri Siddhi Box Gan, is an athlete and a winner of the gold medal in shooting –both at individual and group competition– representing the Nepal Army in the ninth National Sports Competition (2078). Gurung has been serving in the Nepal Army for nine years and it’s her first time in the UN peacekeeping mission.
Meera belongs to the Sainik Band, and an excellent performer, during the official ceremonies. She has been in the army for a decade, and like Radha, is heading for the UN Peacekeeping mission for the first time. Although the Nepal army has been part of the Peace Keeping Mission, it used to be exclusively ‘Men’s show’. Women got their representation only after 2000, but their number is far below the 15- per cent as peacekeepers and 25 per cent in the observers category by 2028, as suggested by the UN last year. There are only 7,000 women in the Nepal Army with a total strength of 96,000.
In the evening of 5th Chaitra, close relatives and family members assembled outside the gate of 14th Bahini at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), to see off the peacekeepers. After a touching farewell speech by Brigadier General Narayan Silwal, they (family members) offered garlands and Khada to the peace keepers wishing them all good luck and success in the mission.
Radha and Meera said “We are happy to be given the responsibility of establishing peace in another country” adding “It is also sad to be away from the motherland and relatives.” However, as every soldier, they had a mix of happiness and pleasure seen on their face. They were happy to be the soldiers representing their countries in the international mission, but sad having to leave their families.
Radha talked to her parents. Her mother hugged her tightly and her father blessed her too. Meera had embraced her son a little while ago, but as it was getting late, her parents had headed home without waiting for her to move towards the aircraft. Meera, with her eyes welled up with tears, tried to be seen composed, “I am a mother too but we have a bigger responsibility. Her husband is also in the army’s military band. Meera will reunite with her family a year after. ‘The first thing is responsibility’, she said with a smiling face “The reunion with the family will happen after the mission.”
They saw Radha’s parents taking a taxi to return. While Radha’s parents were seeing off their daughter, Meera, a mother to a son was about to depart leaving her son here. Radha’s father is a retired soldier. After his retirement, he encouraged his daughter to serve in the Nepal Army. As such, Radha has learned many things about military life from her father. “My father taught me to shoulder the responsibility for the country” she said adding, “This mission is also the responsibility of the country, we will complete it and return with pride”.
An Ethiopian aircraft was waiting for them to board in. At 11 pm Radha and Meera flew with the rest of the Battalion of 168 under the command of Major General Rit Bahadur Ranabhat.