16 November 2017

On Wednesday 15 November, 2017, Major Seitebatso Pearl Block (South Africa) was awarded the UN Military Gender Advocate of the Year Award in Vancouver, Canada. Present at the ceremony were Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

(The pictures shown Major Block (center) is holding the award she received from Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau (left) and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General Juan-Pierre Lacroix (right).)

This article is based on a press release sent to us by the Public Affairs Section of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the United Nations.

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.

Major Seitebatso created an SMS campaign on conflict-related sexual violence while 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. The campaign made it easier to contact communities across the nation who would have been uncontactable otherwise.

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.