Created in 2016 by the Office of Military Affairs within the Department for Peace Operations (DPO), the Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award recognizes a military peacekeeper who has best integrated a gender perspective into peacekeeping activities. Each year, the awardee is selected among candidates nominated by Force Commanders and Heads of Mission from all peace operations.
2022 Award recipient: Captain Cecilia Erzuah (Ghana)
Captain Cecilia Erzuah, a Ghanaian peacekeeper who was deployed in our mission in Abyei, the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA), won the 2022 Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award. Captain Erzuah has served in Abyei since March 2022 as the Commander of the Ghana Engagement Platoon. An advocate for gender equality and community engagement, Captain Erzuah led regular patrols and outreach to local leaders as well as women’s and youth groups, to better understand and address community concerns and needs. Also serving as Protection Officer, she hosted discussions on domestic violence, gender equality and childcare and her work has encouraged an increase in the number of women enlisted in Community Protection Committees, improving early warning systems and protection of civilians.
2021 Award recipient: Major Winnet Zharare (Zimbabwe)
A Zimbabwean peacekeeper who recently completed her assignment with the UN Mission in South Sudan, will receive the 2021 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award. Military Observer Major Winnet Zharare, 39, served in Bentiu, South Sudan in 2021-2022, and will receive the award from the Secretary-General António Guterres during a ceremony marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on Thursday, 26 May 2022.
2020 Award recipient: Major Steplyne Nyaboga (Kenya)
Major Steplyne Nyaboga, a Kenyan Military Gender Advisor officer who was deployed in our Darfur mission, UNAMID, from 2019 to 2021, won the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award 2020. During Major Nyaboga’s service in UNAMID, she brought awareness to gender dynamics in the field to mainstream gender in the military. Serving as a Gender Advisor, Major Nyaboga addressed the specific security concerns of Darfuri women through engaging in gender-sensitive community outreach. Through her efforts, the UNAMID mission increased and improved its response to the protection of civilians.
2019 Award recipients: Major Suman Gawani (India) and Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo (Brazil)
Major Suman Gawani, an Indian officer who served as a peacekeeper in our South Sudan mission, UNMISS, and Brazilian Naval Officer , Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, who was Military Gender and Protection Advisor in our mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, jointly won the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award 2019. During Gawani’s time in UNMISS, she sought to mainstream gender perspectives into mission planning and military action. She also participated in several UN forums to emphasize how gender perspectives aid in the protection of civilians. She additionally trained South Sudan government forces in matters of Conflict-related Sexual Violence (CRSV). Throughout her tour of duty since April 2019, Monteiro de Castro Araujo established and led a curriculum which incorporated aspects related to gender and protection which led to a significant increase in the number of gender and child protection focal points within MINUSCA.
2018 Award recipient: Lieutenant Commander Marcia Andrade Braga (Brazil)
Lieutenant Commander Marcia Andrade Braga, a Brazilian Naval officer working in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), won the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award 2018. In her role, Braga advocated for the use of mixed teams to conduct community-based patrols around the Central African Republic and helped create a network of gender advisors and focal points throughout MINUSCA’s military units. The engagement teams she developed contributed to the gathering of crucial information about civilian protection needs. Additionally, in ensuring that the voices of local Central African women were prioritized, Lt Cdr Braga was a strong advocate for engagement with local women’s groups.
2017 Award recipient: Major Seitebatso Pearl Block (South Africa)
Major Seitebatso Pearl Block, a South African officer who served with our mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), won the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award 2017. During Seitebatso’s time in MONUSCO as an Information Operations Officer, she created an SMS campaign on conflict-related sexual violence. She also frequently interacted with Congolese community members to better understand their needs. Major Seitebatso worked to mainstream discussions of gender dynamics in the peacekeeping mission, ultimately leading the military component to develop community engagement projects that prioritized inclusivity.
2016 Award recipient: Major Aichatou Osmane Issaka (Niger)
Major Aichatou Ousmane Issaka, a Nigerien officer who served with our mission in Mali (MINUSMA) won the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award 2016. During her time with MINUSMA, she served as a captain in the civilian-military cooperation cell in the city of Gao. Much of her time was spent developing quick impact projects that aided the local population including women and girls. She spent considerable time training fellow staff officers and reaching out to local women, thus strengthening ties between the UN and the host community. Major Isaaka also accompanied what would have been all- male patrols thus making them more approachable and accessible to the women and children in Gao.