“It’s very gratifying for me and the Mission to see that our initiatives are bearing fruit,” said Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, a Brazilian Naval Officer working with MINUSCA in the Central African Republic (CAR) upon being informed of her selection as the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year for 2019.
She will receive the award from the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres during an online ceremony marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers today, 29 May 2020.
The United Nations “Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award” recognizes the contribution of individual military peacekeepers in championing the ideals of UN Security Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in a peace operation context. Commander Araujo will share the award with Major Suman Gawani of the Indian Army, a military observer who has served with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). It is the first time that two peacekeepers have been nominated as joint winners of the award since its creation in 2016, and the second consecutive year that a MINUSCA peacekeeper has taken home the prize.
Commander Araujo was born in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro in 1969 and joined the Brazilian Navy Health Corps in 1997. Following her post-graduate studies at the Universidade Federal Fluminense, she served with the Brazilian Marines for 17 years. During this time, she worked as Deputy Director for the Navy Expeditionary Medical Unit for five years– it is along this path that her interest in humanitarian work and gender issues was triggered.
As a MINUSCA Military Gender Advisor since April 2019, her efforts to promote gender equality have left a positive mark. Her work has seen the Mission significantly increase the number of gender and child protection focal points across the Central African Republic. She has created an extensive training curriculum on gender and protection issues and advocated more gender-responsive patrols engaging with local communities.
Her overriding goal is to rally the 11,000 military peacekeepers on the ground to put on gender-coloured lenses in carrying out their work. “We encourage the Mission’s senior leadership and personnel to include a gender perspective in all their activities. Through our network of focal points within all military contingents, we work to increase awareness on the importance of being sensitive to the different ways in which men and women are affected by conflict,” she noted.
The award also recognizes her achievements in training military staff to understand the unique protection needs of men, women and boys and girls in the local community. She has contributed to expanding the Focal Point (FP) network from 36 FPs in 10 locations to 91 FPs in 45 locations and conducted comprehensive Training of Trainers (ToT) workshops on gender, child protection, protection of civilians, Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) and Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) for 53 senior FPs – 30 percent of Mission military personnel have already received basic training delivered by these FPs as of February 2020.
A typical workday will see her liaising with military gender advisors in all MINUSCA sectors and task forces in the field to collect information and analyze reports to identify the best course of action. She relishes field visits: “I just returned from a risk assessment mission to Bangassou and Pombolo in South Eastern CAR where we met with military components deployed in the Mbomou region and the local community. We discussed how to strengthen the Community Alert Network (CAN) – a platform for women to play a key role in informing the local population on how they can reach out to the Mission for assistance.”
“Women are a key step to long-lasting peace,” said Commander Carla Araujo, echoing the spirit of UNSCR 1325 and the WPS mandate – on whose principles the Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award is rooted. The resolutions recognize that women’s participation is imperative to the success of peace and political processes and call for incorporating a gender perspective in all areas of peacekeeping, the expansion of women’s role in peacekeeping operations and increased numbers of uniformed female peacekeepers. Over 6 percent of the 85,000 uniformed peacekeepers in missions are women today.
The Gender Advocate of the Year Award recipient appealed to Member States to believe in their female personnel and train them to be fully qualified. “We need them on the ground,” she emphasized. She urged female military personnel to believe in their own strength and capacity. “We, as female peacekeepers, have a unique opportunity to empower the local population when we are seen working side by side with our male counterparts.”
As she nears the end of her deployment, she reflected on the remarkable journey that has led to this day, “on all the times I was in doubt about being on the right path and being away from my loved ones,” as she put it. “Without the support of our leadership and civilian counterparts and the commitment of our military personnel, nothing could be accomplished,” she added.
The UN Secretary-General commended Commander Monteiro de Castro Araujo and Major Gawani for their work: “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.”
October 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 – a landmark milestone for the inspiration behind the UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award.