In a first, an Indian Army officer and woman peacekeeper has been chosen for the prestigious United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award (2019). Major Suman Gawani, who has been recognised for her outstanding contribution with peacekeeping during her tenure with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), will be conferred with the honour on May 29, the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.
She will be presented with the award, which coincidentally is shared by two women this year, along with Brazilian Naval Officer Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, during an online ceremony presided over by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“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,” UN Chief Guterres was quoted, commending Suman and Carla on their incredible contribution.
He added, “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.”
Major Suman, who hails from the Pokhar village in Tehri Garhwal, in Uttarakhand, joined the Indian Army in 2011. A graduate with a degree in Telecommunication Engineering and Education from the Military College of Telecommunication, Suman works as a Military Observer.
Suman will now become the first Indian peacekeeper to bring home the coveted UN Military Gender Award.
Under her leadership, more than 230 UN Military Observers (UNMO) have been mentored on conflict-related to sexual violence. Suman has been instrumental in ensuring the presence of women military observers in each of the Mission's team sites. She has also played an active part in training the South Sudanese government forces and helping them come up with an action plan to mitigate conflict-related to sexual violence.
“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,” the Indian Army Major said, commenting on the achievement.
(Edited by Megha Reddy)