Zimbabwean military observer Major Winnet Zhahare was today (Thursday, 26 May) named the 2021 United Nations (UN) Military Gender Advocate of the Year – a first for her country.
The 39-year-old recently completed a 17 month tour of duty with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) where her advocacy work on gender parity and women’s participation in own ranks, among local military and in host communities came to the attention of her superiors and the UN Department of Peace Operations.
She served in South Sudan’s Bentiu in 2021/22 and will receive her award from Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York as part of the world body headquarters commemoration of International Day of UN Peacekeepers.
As chief military information officer in the UNMISS Bentiu field office, she helped ensure patrols included women and men to improve protection efforts, as well as build trust between host communities and the mission. Her efforts contributed to an increase in gender aggregated data ensuring issues raised by local women and girls would gain the proper attention.
Advocating for gender parity and women’s participation in an environment where they are traditionally excluded from decision making, Zharare encouraged local civilian and military authorities and community representatives to involve men and women in UN meetings.
“Her diligence and diplomatic skills quickly gained her the trust of local military commanders who reached out to her on issues pertaining to women’s protection and rights. During her patrols and numerous community engagement initiatives, Zharare also successfully encouraged men and women to work together in farming and in the construction of dikes around Bentiu town to alleviate food shortages and prevent further displacement,” a UN statement said.
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 resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
“Her example shows how we all gain with more women at the decision making table and gender parity in peace operations,” Guterres said of the Zimbabwean major.