United Nations, May 30 (PTI) Indian Army Major Suman Gawani, honoured with the prestigious UN gender advocate award, has underscored the importance of female peacekeepers in the front ranks, saying it helps bring a "sense of security" among the survivors of a conflict.

Gawani, a Military Observer formerly deployed with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) received the 2019 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award from UN chief Antonio Guterres during a virtual ceremony on Friday on the occasion of International Day of UN Peacekeepers.

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Accepting the award, Gawani said in an audio message that it is a "great honour and privilege” for her to receive the award and she expressed gratitude to the UNMISS and India for the opportunity.

She said that UMISS is making all efforts to deploy more female peacekeepers in front ranks and roles such as military observers and contingents “so that they can reach deeper into the society and bring some sense of security to the survivors of conflict.”

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“With great pride, I accept this award on behalf of all the Indian peacekeepers and remember those who have made the supreme sacrifice for the cause of peace,” she said.

“I would like to say we are the change that we want. And we are the ones we were waiting for,” she said.

Gawani underscored that women, peace and security are the most important aspects of a society.

“Gender becomes relevant especially in the places driven by conflict. Women and children, being more vulnerable, are worst hit in such situations,” she said.

Describing South Sudan as a “beautiful” country, she said working towards peace as a military observer in South Sudan has been a life changing experience for her and thanked her colleagues in the Indian Army.

Created in 2016, the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award recognises the dedication and effort of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security in a peace operation context, as nominated by Heads and Force Commanders of peace operations.

Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araujo, a Brazilian Naval officer working in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), was also honoured with the award.

For the first time, two peacekeepers were jointly awarded for their contribution to this important cause. This is the first year the prestigious award has gone to a peacekeeper from India.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres applauded Gawani and Araujo for their “inspiring work” in promoting gender equality, saying their contributions underscore the importance of increasing the number of women in UN peacekeeping.

Guterres underscored the essential role played by women peacekeepers for the success of UN peace operations. He lauded Gawani and Araujo, saying their “inspiring work has made a remarkable difference in promoting gender equality and empowering local women and your own colleagues. Your contributions are proof that women peacekeepers are vital to peace and security everywhere.”

The UN Chief noted that during her deployment with the UN Mission in South Sudan as a Military Observer, Gawani mentored more than 230 Military Observers on conflict-related sexual violence and ensured the presence of women military observers in each of the Mission's team sites. She also trained the South Sudanese government forces and helped them launch their action plan on conflict-related sexual violence.

India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti, in his message on Peacekeepers Day, said that Gawani “epitomises, in many ways, the rich values of Indian peacekeepers.”

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