New Delhi [India], May 30 (ANI): 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 bestowed with 'United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year award'. She becomes the first Indian peacekeeper to win the prestigious award.

"Congratulations to the Military Gender Advocate of the Year Awardee, Major Suman Gawani of India serving with @unmissmedia in South Sudan," UN Department of Peace Operations tweeted.

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Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave away the award to Gawani and Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo from Brazil in a virtual ceremony, commemorating the International Day of Peacekeepers on Friday.

"Working towards peace as a military observer in South Sudan has been a life-changing experience. Serving under the blue helmet and wearing my country's flag on my uniform is a matter of pride," Major Suman said.

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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, according to a statement by the Defence Ministry.

She visited various mission team sites across South Sudan to integrate a gender perspective into the planning and military activity in the mission. The officer was selected to attend 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, the statement read.

"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 twelve contingents of UNPOL, Military and Civilians," the Defence Ministry release said. (ANI)

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