Kenyan major is UN military gender advocate of the year


A Kenyan peacekeeper back from a tour of duty in Darfur, Sudan is the 2020 UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year.

Military gender advisor Major Steplyne Nyaboga (32) served in the recently ended UN – AU hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) received the award during a virtual ceremony presided over by Secretary-General António Guterres, marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers last Thursday.

Created in 2016, the US Military Gender Advocate award recognises the dedication and efforts of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in a peace operation context, as nominated by Heads and Force Commanders of UN peace operations.

When she heard of the award the Kenyan army officer said recognition of her work in mainstreaming gender dimensions was received with thanks. Reflecting on her role as a peacekeeper, she said: “I am elated our efforts in serving humanity had impact and didn’t go unnoticed. Peacekeeping is a human enterprise: placing women and girls at the centre of our efforts and concerns will help us better protect civilians and build a more sustainable peace.”

Nyaboga deployed to UNAMID in February 2019. Throughout her two-year deployment in Zalingei, she worked on mainstreaming gender in military components by bringing awareness to gender dynamics in the field.

She specifically encouraged gender sensitive outreach to local communities to enhance protection of civilians. She also focused on gender training for her fellow military peacekeepers, training 95% of the UNAMID military contingent by December 2020. She advised the mission on how to better identify and integrate the needs of men, women, boys and girls groups in vulnerable contexts into mission analysis, planning and operations, a move that improved the mission’s understanding of and response to protection needs. Working with human rights, gender and communications colleagues, Nyaboga organised campaigns and workshops for staff and civil society activists to address issues affecting Darfuri women and girls.

Secretary-General António Guterres commended Nyaboga for her award.

“Peace and security can only be achieved and sustained if all members of society have equal opportunities, protection, access to resources and services and can participate in decision-making. Through her efforts, Major Nyaboga introduced new perspectives and increased awareness of crucial gender dimensions across the mission and helped strengthen engagement with Darfuri women. The UN remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring women sit at the political table and make a full contribution to peace. Major Nyaboga’s dedication advanced a vital cause,” Guterres said at UN headquarters in New York.

This is the first time a Kenyan peacekeeper has received this UN prestigious award.