Indian Army major selected for UN award

Indian Army major selected for UN award for her works in South Sudan

PTI/File photo of Indian peacekeepers in South Sudan for representation

Major Suman Gawani of Indian Army has been selected for the 2019 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award for her role in raising awareness about the need to protect women and children from sexual violence during conflict when she was serving as a peacekeeper in South Sudan.

She will share the award with Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo of Brazilian Navy.

Major Gawani and Commander Araujo will receive the award during an online ceremony, which will mark the International Day of UN Peacekeepers next Friday. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will preside over the ceremony.

Araujo is currently deployed as a peacekeeper in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Gawani, who is the first Indian Army officer to receive the award, recently completed her assignment as a peacekeeper with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).

Since her deployment to 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. She also trained the South Sudanese government forces and helped them to launch their action plan on conflict-related sexual violence, according to a UN press-release.

“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”, she noted, “in our interactions with colleagues as well as with communities,” she said.

Araujo has served as the military Gender and Protection Advisor in MINUSCA Force Headquarters since April 2019. During her tour of duty, she established and conducted a comprehensive training curriculum on aspects related to gender and protection. Through her efforts, the Mission significantly increased the number of gender and child protection focal points and their respective locations. She was instrumental in seeing gender-responsive patrols engaging with local communities increase from 574 to nearly 3,000 per month.

“This award is the recognition of the teamwork involving MINUSCA Force and civilian component”, said Commander Monteiro de Castro Araujo upon receiving the news of her award.

Guterres commended Araujo and Gawani for being selected for the award. “The peacekeepers are powerful role models. Through their work, they have brought new perspectives and have helped to build trust and confidence among the communities we serve”, said the UN Secretary General. “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.”

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