An Indian Army officer and woman peacekeeper, who has served with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and a Brazilian woman commander have been selected for the prestigious United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award (2019), with UN Chief Antonio Guterres describing them as "powerful role models."
Major Suman Gawani and Brazilian Naval Officer Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo will receive the award during an online ceremony presided over by United Nations Secretary-General Guterres on May 29, the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.
Military Observer Gawani has recently completed an assignment in South Sudan apart from her stint with the UNMISS.
Araujo is working in the United Nations' Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
Guterres commended Gawani and Araujo. "These peacekeepers are powerful role models. Through their work, they have brought new perspectives and have helped build trust and confidence among the communities we serve," he said.
"Through their commitment and innovative approaches, they embrace a standard of excellence that is an inspiration to all blue helmets everywhere. As we confront today's challenges, their work has never been more important or relevant."
This is the first time the UN Military Gender Advocate award has gone to an Indian peacekeeper. This is the second year in a row that a Brazilian peacekeeper has received this honour.
Created in 2016, the award recognises the dedication and effort of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 which is on women, peace and security in a peace operation as nominated by Heads and Force Commanders of peace operations.
For the first time, two peacekeepers will receive the award jointly.
Gawani expressed her gratitude for her work being recognised. "Whatever our function, position or rank, it is our duty as peacekeepers to integrate an all-genders perspective into our daily work and own it in our interactions with colleagues as well as with communities," she said in a statement issued here.
Gawani joined the Indian Army in 2011 where she graduated from the Officers Training Academy, then joined the Army Signal Corps.
She holds Bachelor of Telecommunication Engineering and a Bachelor of Education degrees from Military College of Telecommunication, and the Government Post Graduate College in Dehradun respectively.
Since her deployment to the UNMISS in December 2018, Gawani mentored over 230 UN Military Observers (UNMO) on conflict-related sexual violence and ensured the presence of women military observers in each of the mission's team sites.
"By providing support, mentoring, guidance and leadership, she helped to create enabling environment for UN Peacekeepers, the statement said, adding that Gawani also trained the South Sudanese government forces and helped them launch their action plan on conflict-related sexual violence.
The Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award is underpinned by the principles outlined in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and follow-up resolutions on women, peace and security.
The resolutions call on actors to mainstream a gender perspective in all aspects of peacekeeping and peacebuilding and to ensure women's participation in peace and political processes.
They also call for the protection from and prevention of conflict-related sexual violence and for an expansion of the role and contribution of women in UN operations, including of uniformed women peacekeepers.
The statement said that about 6.4 per cent of the 85,000 uniformed peacekeepers serving currently in the UN missions are women.
The UN is working with member states to increase the number and percentage of women military, police and justice and corrections personnel.
It added that in this context promoting the participation of women, both in peacekeeping and within the societies in which we serve, is at the centre of the UN's efforts.