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A Ghanaian peacekeeper, Captain Cecilia Erzuah, will be the recipient of the 2022 United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award.

Captain Erzuah, who has been serving the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) since March, 2022, will receive the award from the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

It will be at a ceremony to mark International Day of UN Peacekeepers on Thursday, May 25.

“Resolution 1325 reminds us that our women peacekeepers are not only supporting global peace and security,” said Secretary-General António Guterres.

“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.”

On her part, Captain Erzuah expressed gratitude to the authorities for being selected to receive the prize which she called “an award for all of us,” referring to her platoon members.

Capt. Erzuah is said to have made sure that her 22-strong platoon, composed equally of men and women, conducted regular patrols and outreach to local leaders as well as women’s and youth groups, to better understand and address community concerns and needs.

Together with civilian UN colleagues, she also hosted discussions on domestic violence, gender equality and childcare.

Those conversations are said to have resulted in an increase in the number of women enlisted in Community Protection Committees, which were initially male dominated.

According to reports, the engagement with community members led to improved early warning about threats of violence against civilians and broader security issues.

The monthly market walks she initiated with her battalion is said to have contributed to build strong and enduring relationships between traders, local residents and the UN.

In January 2023, following a spike in community violence in Majbong, a village in southeast Abyei, Captain Erzuah’s platoon stepped up its presence, regularly checking on the plight of displaced people in the volatile area and enabling the Mission to provide necessary support.

Community members, who had sought sanctuary from the fighting in the surrounding bush, gradually began returning to their homes in the village and women reported feeling much safer.

A traditional chief in Majbong, Deng Paul Mankuol, is quoted as saying: “The mixed patrols are boosting the confidence of members of the community to go about daily activities safely.”

Captain Erzuah is the first Ghanaian peacekeeper, and the first recipient from a contingent or a unit, to receive this prestigious award.

The 32-year-old joined the Ghana Armed Forces in 2016. One year later, she was posted to the Directorate of Military Records as a Records Officer. She served for the first time under the UN flag with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as a Records Officer from July 2019 to August 2020.

In March 2022, she was deployed to the United Nations Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) as Commander of the Ghanaian Engagement Platoon. Ghana is currently the largest contributor of women military peacekeepers to the United Nations with 375 now deployed.

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