Captain Cecilia Erzuah Photo: © UNISFA
Captain Cecilia Erzuah Photo: © UNISFA

Ghanaian peacekeeper named United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year 2022

Captain Cecilia Erzuah, a Ghanaian peacekeeper serving with the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA), has been selected as the recipient of the 2022 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award.

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The 32-year-old Captain, who has been stationed in Abyei since March 2022 as the Commander of the Ghana Engagement Platoon, will receive the prestigious award from Secretary-General António Guterres during a ceremony commemorating the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on Thursday, May 25, 2023.

Established in 2016, the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award recognizes the dedication and efforts of an individual military peacekeeper in promoting the principles outlined in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

United Nationa General Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement praised Captain Cecilia Erzuah. He said: "Resolution 1325 reminds us that our women peacekeepers are not only supporting global peace and security. They are leading the way. By every measure, Captain Cecilia Erzuah of Ghana is one of those leaders. On every front, Captain Erzuah's work has set the standard for ensuring that the needs and concerns of women are reflected across our peacekeeping operations."

Captain Erzuah expressed her gratitude for being chosen to receive the award, emphasizing that it is an honour for her entire platoon. She is known for her advocacy of gender equality and community engagement.

Captain Erzuah ensured that her 22-member platoon, comprising equal numbers of men and women, conducted regular patrols and engaged with local leaders, women's groups, and youth groups to better understand and address community concerns and needs. Collaborating with civilian UN colleagues, she also organized discussions on topics such as domestic violence, gender equality, and childcare. These conversations resulted in increased participation of women in Community Protection Committees, previously dominated by men, and facilitated better early warning systems for threats of violence against civilians and broader security issues.

Captain Erzuah's battalion also organized monthly market walks, which fostered strong and lasting relationships between traders, local residents, and the UN.

In January 2023, when violence escalated in the village of Majbong in southeast Abyei, Captain Erzuah's platoon intensified its presence and regularly checked on the well-being of displaced people in the volatile area, enabling the mission to provide the necessary support. Gradually, community members who had sought refuge in the surrounding bush began returning to their homes in the village, reporting an increased sense of safety. Traditional chief Deng Paul Mankuol of Majbong commended the mixed patrols, stating, "The patrols are boosting the confidence of community members to engage in daily activities safely."

Captain Erzuah is the first Ghanaian peacekeeper and the first recipient from a contingent or unit to be honoured with this prestigious award. Ghana currently holds the distinction of being the largest contributor of women military peacekeepers to the United Nations, with 375 currently deployed.

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