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The Kenyan Peacekeeper Championing the Ideals of the Women, Peace and Security

Major Steplyne Buyaki Nyaboga of Kenya has been named the UN 2020 Military Gender Advocate of the Year. Bestowed annually since 2016, the award recognises an outstanding peacekeeper whose work contributed to the promotion of women, peace and security.

Major Steplyne Buyaki Nyaboga of Kenya was named the UN 2020 Military Gender Advocate of the Year.

Major Steplyne Buyaki Nyaboga of Kenya was named the UN 2020 Military Gender Advocate of the Year.

UNITED NATIONS, May 28 2021 (IPS) - Major Steplyne Buyaki Nyaboga of Kenya singles out the establishment of gender-responsive military patrols in farming communities in Central Darfur, Sudan as one of the proudest moments of her two-year mission with the African Union–United Nations Hybrid Operation (UNAMID).

Before these patrols, displaced women farmers expressed crippling safety concerns over getting to their farms, which hindered their ability to provide for their families.

The patrols brought security and peace to the women – hallmarks of the UN Security Council’s resolution 1325 of 2000, which recognises the unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls.

They also represent the type of action for which Nyaboga has been named the UN 2020 Military Gender Advocate of the Year.

The award, bestowed annually since 2016, recognises the “dedication and effort of an individual peacekeeper in promoting the principles of women, peace and security”.

In a video message, she said she was receiving the prestigious accolade with “great humility and unprecedented joy.”

“With this award, I receive a high commendation to continue championing the ideals of the women, peace and security agenda, as anchored in the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325,” Nyaboga said.

She is the first Kenyan peacekeeper to receive the UN award.

Representatives of her country’s Defence Ministry congratulated her on her achievement, stating that “she performed in an exemplary manner” making all Kenyans, particularly women, proud.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres commended Nyaboga for her commitment to making life better for women who suffered greatly during Sudan’s armed conflict. He told the virtual award ceremony on May 27 that women who endured forced displacement, sexual violence and political marginalisation found their voices and an advocate in the Kenyan Peacekeeper.

“Through her efforts, Major Nyaboga introduced new perspectives and increased awareness of crucial issues affecting women and children across the Mission and helped strengthen our engagement with local communities,” he said, adding that “she organised campaigns and workshops aimed at addressing issues that affect Darfuri women.”

Nyaboga was also recognised for training the mission’s military contingent on issues such as sexual and gender-based violence.

“This helped our peacekeepers better understand the needs of women, men, girls and boys, and strengthened the mission’s bond with local communities. Her enthusiastic hands-on approach made a profound difference for her colleagues and for the people of Darfur. Her efforts, commitment and passion represent an example for us all,” the Secretary-General said.

The award ceremony is held annually on May 27th, the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. It is also the day when peacekeepers who lost their lives the previous year, are recognised for their service to the organisation. 

This year, 129 military, police and civilian peacekeepers were awarded posthumously with the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal. They came from 44 countries and died while serving the UN in 2020 and January 2021. The award is named after a former UN Secretary-General, who also died in service. He was involved in a plane crash during peace negotiations in the Congo.

According to the UN, some of the 129 fallen peacekeepers honoured this week died as a result of malicious acts, others in accidents, while some succumbed to illness – including COVID-19.

Their deaths bring to 4,000, the number of women and men who have lost their lives since 1948 while serving the UN.

Secretary-General Guterres told the ceremony that peacekeepers continue to face ‘immense’ challenges and threats.

“They work hard every day to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable, while facing the dual threats of violence and a global pandemic,” he said.

“Despite COVID-19, across all our missions, peacekeepers have not only been adapting to continue to deliver their core tasks, they are also assisting national and community efforts to fight the virus. I am proud of the work they have done.”

UN Peacekeeper’s Day was observed this year under the theme “The road to a lasting peace: Leveraging the power of youth for peace and security.” 

It focuses on the importance of youth contribution to the UN agenda and the important role of young people in peace efforts, globally.

“From CAR to DRC to Lebanon, our peacekeepers work with youth to reduce violence and sustain peace, including through Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration and Community violence reduction programs,” the Secretary-General said.

As the international organisation honours the men and women of its peacekeeping missions, the UN Chief said the world must remember them and be grateful for their bravery, commitment, service and sacrifice.


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