When Commander Carla Monteiro de Castro Araújo arrived in the Central African Republic to work as a gender adviser at the United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINUSCA), people joked that lightning does not fall twice in the same place. In the country, sexual violence against women and children is a weapon of war.
Navy officer Carla, 50, arrived in April 2019 to replace corvette captain Marcia Andrade Braga, also a Brazilian, who had received that year the UN Award for Military Defenders of Gender Equality, the highest honor dedicated to those working in this area at the UN.
"They told me: it is no use working so much because you are not going to win the prize," she said, laughing. "It was liberating. Because I did what I thought I had to do, following my instinct. I came up with some crazy strategies; the general looked at my face. I didn't think he would accept it. But he said: you can do it."
A year later, the lightning struck the same spot: the UN picked Carla as the winner of this year's edition alongside Indian Major Suman Gawani, who served in South Sudan.
The Brazilian woman focused on training key people within the troops to work with gender and childhood protection in their daily lives with the population. The number of these "focal points" increased from 36 to 91. In total, 3,349 UN military personnel received training. There are 11,000 in the country.
Translated by Kiratiana Freelon