Major Suman Gawani, an Indian Army officer who served as a women peacekeeper with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) in 2019, has been awarded the prestigious “United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award”. She received the award from the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres during an online ceremony organised at the UN headquarters. Major Suman received this award along with a Brazilian naval officer commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo.
Major Suman served as a Military observer in UNMISS from November 2018 to December 2019. 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 officer was selected to attend a specialised training on Conflict Related Sexual Violence (CRSV) at Nairobi and participated in various UN forums to demonstrate how a gender perspective can help in protecting civilians, especially from conflict related sexual violence. 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, where she commanded 12 contingents of UNPOL, military and civilians.