Indian Army officer and woman peacekeeper, Major Suman Gawani has been selected for the prestigious United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award (2019). Major Gawani, who has served with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), and Brazilian Naval Officer Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo will receive the award during an online ceremony on May 29, the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.
The ceremony will be presided over by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who described the two women as "powerful role models."
Military Observer Major Gawani recently completed an assignment in South Sudan apart from her stint with the UNMISS while Commander Araujo is working in the United Nations' Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
"These peacekeepers are powerful role models. Through their work, they have brought new perspectives and have helped build trust and confidence among the communities we serve," said Guterres. "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."
This is the first time the UN Military Gender Advocate award has been given to an Indian peacekeeper.
Created in 2016, the award recognises the dedication and effort of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 which is on women, peace and security in a peace operation as nominated by Heads and Force Commanders of peace operations.
Major Gawani joined the Indian Army in 2011 where she graduated from the Officers Training Academy, then joined the Army Signal Corps. She holds a Bachelor of Telecommunication Engineering and a Bachelor of Education degrees from Military College of Telecommunication, and the Government Post Graduate College in Dehradun respectively.
Since her deployment to the UNMISS in December 2018, Major Gawani has 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.
She also trained the South Sudanese government forces and helped them launch their action plan on conflict-related sexual violence.