New Delhi, May 26: An Indian Army Officer and woman peacekeeper, Major Suman Gawani who recently served with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan scripted history after being chosen for the prestigious United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award (2019). This is the first time that an Indian peacekeeper is being given the UN Military Gender Advocate award.
Gawani is being honored for her immense involvement in peacekeeping efforts in the UNMISS. She will be receiving the award during an online ceremony presided over by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on Friday, 29 May 2020.
Created in 2016, the award honors the dedication and effort of individual military peacekeepers in promoting the UN principles on Women, Peace, and Security in peace operations as nominated by Heads and Force Commanders of peace operations.
Along with her, Brazilian Naval Officer Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo will receive the award by United Nations Secretary-General Guterres on May 29, the International Day of UN Peacekeepers.
"I was supposed to go to New York at the United Nations headquarters for this award, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I will be honored in an online ceremony on May 29. I am the first Indian to get this award," she noted.
Since her deployment to UNMISS in December 2018, Major 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 an 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.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres commended Commander Monteiro de Castro Araujo and Major Gawani for their award. “These 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”, 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.”
In 2011, Major Gawani joined the Indian Army where she graduated from the Officers Training Academy, and then joined the Army Signal Corps.
Gawani completed her schooling in Uttarkashi and holds a Bachelor of Education degree from the Government Post Graduate College in Dehradun. She hails from Pokhar village in Tehri Garwhal. While her father is a retired government officer, two of her three siblings are serving in the Indian Armed forces. Presently, Major Gawani is posted in Delhi.