United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane have lauded the achievements of a female Indian Army officer who has been awarded the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the year for 2019 for her role as a peacekeeper with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) last year.
Major Suman Gawani, who is from the Corps of Signals, received the award from Guterres at an online ceremony organised by the New York-based UN headquarters on May 29 on the occasion of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, an army spokesperson said.
Gawani, who was deployed to South Sudan last year, is currently posted in New Delhi. The UN gave out the award for the first time to a woman peacekeeper in 2016 for “integrating a gender perspective into peacekeeping activities.”
The Indian woman officer received the award along with Brazilian navy officer Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo.
“I’m proud to share that Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo of Brazil and Major Suman Gawani of India have been awarded the Military Gender Advocate Award. Their @UNPeacekeeping contributions highlight how women peacekeepers are vital to peace and security everywhere,” the UN Secretary-General tweeted.
India is one of the largest contributors of personnel to the UN’s peacekeeping operations and women have served in foreign missions in different capacities.
South Sudan, the world’s newest country carved out of Sudan in July 2011, represents the second-largest deployment of the Indian Army on foreign soil with more than 2,300 Indian soldiers deployed there. Major Gawani was a military observer at the mission from November 2018 to December 2019.
“Gender becomes relevant especially in the places driven by conflict. Women and children being more vulnerable are the worst hit in such situations. UNMISS is making all efforts to deploy more and more female peacekeepers in front roles such as military observers and contingent so that so they can reach deeper into the community and bring some sense of security for the survivors of conflict,” Major Gawani said in a video message released by the army.
“While at the mission, she was the principal focal point of contact for gender issues for military observers in the mission. The officer encouraged participation in joint military patrols to maintain gender balance, irrespective of the hardships under extreme field conditions. She visited various mission team sites across South Sudan to integrate gender perspective into the planning and military activity in the mission,” the army said in a statement.
“General MM Naravane #COAS congratulates Major Suman Gawani for receiving prestigious United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award (2019). Major Suman received the award during an online ceremony presided over by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres,” the army tweeted on Saturday.
Major Gawani was selected to attend a specialised training on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) in Nairobi and also participated in various UN forums to demonstrate how a gender perspective can help in protecting civilians, especially from CRSV, a spokesperson said.
“Apart from supporting the UNMISS force initiatives, she also trained the South Sudan government forces on CRSV-related aspects. The officer also commanded the UN Peacekeepers Day Parade organised at UNMISS,” he said.
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