This year was the first time the UN Military Gender Advocate award went awarded to two UN peacekeepers: Brazilian Naval officer Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo and Major Suman Gawani of the Indian Army.
The award, created in 2016, recognises the dedication and effort of individual military peacekeepers in promoting the UN principles on women, peace and security in peace operations. Women peacekeepers are nominated by heads and force commanders of peace operations.
Commander Monteiro de Castro Araujo serves as military fender and protection advisor for the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). During her tour of duty, she conducted training on gender and protection and was instrumental in seeing a major increase in gender-responsive patrols engaging with local communities. These went from 574 to three thousand a month.
For the Brazilian officer the award is recognition for a team effort: “It’s gratifying for me and the mission to see our initiatives bearing fruit,” she said.
Gawani – the first Indian peacekeeper to win the award – is a military observer, formerly deployed to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), where she mentored over 230 UN military observers on conflict-related sexual violence and ensured women military observers at each of the Mission team sites. She also trained South Sudanese government forces and helped them launch an action plan on conflict related sexual violence.
Expressing happiness at seeing her work recognised, Gawani said: “Whatever our function, position or rank, it is our duty as peacekeepers to integrate an all gender perspective into our daily work and own it, in interactions with colleagues and communities”.
Commending the pair, UN chief António Guterres described them as powerful role models: “Through their work they brought new perspectives and helped build trust and confidence in the communities we serve. Through their commitment and innovative approaches they embrace excellence that is an inspiration to blue helmets everywhere”.
There was no Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage, the world body’s highest peacekeeping award, made this year.