For the first time, the UN Military Gender Advocate award has been awarded to two UN peacekeepers: Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, a Brazilian Naval officer, and Major Suman Gawani, of the Indian Army.
The award, created in 2016, recognizes 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 the heads and force commanders of peace operations.
Commander Monteiro de Castro Araujo serves as the military Gender and Protection Advisor in the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). During her tour of duty, she has conducted training on gender and protection, and was instrumental in seeing the number of gender-responsive patrols engaging with local communities increase from 574 to nearly 3,000 per month.
For the Brazilian officer, the award is recognition of a team effort: “It’s very gratifying for me and the Mission to see that our initiatives are bearing fruit”, she said.
Major 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 the presence of women military observers in each of the Mission’s team sites. She also trained South Sudanese government forces, and helped them to launch their action plan on conflict-related sexual violence.
Expressing happiness at seeing her work recognized, Major Gawani noted that, “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, in our interactions with colleagues as well as with communities”.
Commending the two women peacekeepers, UN chief António Guterres described them as powerful role models: “Through their work, they have brought new perspectives and have helped to build trust and confidence among the communities we serve”, he said. “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.”