A United Nations peacekeeper from South Africa on Tuesday awarded the United Nations’ Military Gender Advocate of the Year in Vancouver, Canada.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, presented the award to Major Seitebatso Pearl Block as part of the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial taking place from 14-15 November for her outstanding work on the frontlines of UN peacekeeping.
Created in 2016, the United Nations Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award recognises the dedication and effort of an individual peacekeeper in promoting the principles of UN Security Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security.
“Major Seitebatso is an inspiration to us all and a strong example of how peacekeeping is about our personnel taking personal initiatives and interacting with local communities to help find solutions to their problems, better protecting civilians and, in turn, saving lives,” said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.
Serving as an Information Operations Officer with the United Nations Stabilization mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) from July 2016 to July 2017, Major Block developed a Mission-wide SMS campaign on conflict-related sexual violence to reach communities who would otherwise not be easily accessible.
Based in the eastern city of Goma, Major Seitebatso interacted extensively with Congolese women, men, girls and boys to better understand their concerns. She invested her personal time to train fellow staff officers and troops to be more aware of gender dynamics within the peacekeeping mission. This led the military component to develop more inclusive community engagement projects as part of the Protection of Civilians strategy combating illegally armed groups in Eastern Congo.
Upon receiving her award, Major Block said she was “honoured and privileged” and hoped the award would encourage other women to serve as peacekeepers. “I knew I had to take action from the many conversations I had with women’s groups. As a peacekeeper, and as a woman, I think we have much to contribute to making the UN more inclusive and in tune with the communities we serve”, she added.
The UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial brings together defence ministers and other senior representatives from more than 80 countries and organizations to discuss the challenges facing UN Peacekeeping including the under-representation of women, and how to work together to find solutions.
Major Block is thirty-two-years-old and married to a fellow South African army officer. They have two daughters and are based in Pretoria.
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