Top UN award for Ghanaian female peacekeeper


Ghana’s position as the largest contributor of female military personnel to United Nations (UN) peacekeeping efforts received another boost when Captain Cecilia Erzuah was named the world body’s Military Gender Advocate of the Year.

Erzuah (32) served in Abyei since March 2022 as the Commander of the Ghana Engagement Platoon with the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA). She was presented with the award by Secretary-General António Guterres during a ceremony marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers yesterday (Thursday, 25 May).

Created in 2016, the UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year award recognises the dedication and efforts of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

“Resolution 1325 reminds us women peacekeepers are not only supporting global peace and security – they are leading the way. By every measure, Captain Erzuah is one of those leaders. On every front, her work has set the standard for ensuring the needs and concerns of women are reflected across our peacekeeping operations.”

She expressed her gratitude at being selected for the prize which she called “an award for all of us,” referring to her platoon members.

An advocate for gender equality and community engagement, Erzuah made sure her 22-strong platoon, composed equally of men and women, conducted regular patrols and outreach to local leaders as well as women’s and youth groups, to better understand and address community concerns and needs. Together with civilian UN colleagues, she hosted discussions on domestic violence, gender equality and childcare. Those conversations resulted in an increase in women enlisted in community protection committees, initially male dominated.

Engagement with community members led to improved early warning on threats of violence against civilians and broader security issues.
Monthly market walks she initiated with her battalion further contributed to strong and enduring relationships between traders, local residents and the UN.

In January 2023, following a spike in community violence in Majbong, a village in south-east Abyei, Erzuah’s platoon stepped up its presence, regularly checking on the plight of displaced people and enabling the mission to provide support. Community members, who sought sanctuary from the fighting in the surrounding bush, gradually returned homes and women reported feeling much safer.  “Mixed patrols boost the confidence of community members to go about daily activities safely,” said Deng Paul Mankuol, a traditional chief in Majbong.

Erzuah is the first Ghanaian peacekeeper to receive this prestigious award. Ghana is currently the largest contributor of women military peacekeepers to the UN with 375 now deployed.