Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana, from Burkina Faso, serves with the UN mission in CAR, MINUSCA. She received the United Nations Trailblazer Award for Women Justice and Corrections Officers at a special ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York.
The Chief of Staff of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, Courtenay Rattray, presented the award to Ms. Zoungrana on behalf of the Secretary-General.
The head of UN peacekeeping operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and UN Women’s executive director, Sima Sami Bahous, also made comments.
Ms. Zoungrana, first deployed to the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, between 2014 and 2017 and began her current tour with the mission, in 2020.
She supports one of MINUSCA’s most difficult tasks – the demilitarizes the prison system in CAR, UN peacekeepers said in a press release announcing the award.
She also directs and coordinates rapid intervention and riot control activities at the all-male Ngaragba Central Prison in Bangui, the largest and most unstable prison in CAR with a population of inmates classified as high risk† It has some 1,335 inmates, accounting for just under 70 percent of the country’s total prison population.
With her extensive technical expertise in crisis intervention, Ms. Zoungrana has mentored many UN colleagues and national prison staff and created a rapid response team just for women.
†Prison security has long been characterized by stereotypes that have hindered the development of female prison officerssaid Ms Zoungrana, after being told about her selection for the new award.
“I am very happy that women today have the opportunity to work in prisons, and to… fulfill all roles indiscriminately, and I feel empowered”, said Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana when informed of the award.
Last month, the newly minted award winner spoke to UN News in a special profile about her pioneering work, noting that women are “often placed second or even ignored” when working as corrections officers.
Among her achievements, she integrated rapid intervention training into national prison and detention center policies, and helped improve the effectiveness and accountability of penitentiary institutions in the CAR, leading to a significant reduction in the number of escapes at the prison.
“United Nations correctional officers, such as Ms. Zoungrana, work hand in hand with national chaplains to ensure public safety. Corrections Officers perform this work under difficult circumstances,” said Jean-Pierre Lacroix, head of UN peacekeeping.
UN Women Executive Director Ms Bahous noted that we are facing “intersecting global threats to peace, justice and gender equality and increasing curbing that threatens years of progress, it is more important than ever that the UN reflects its core values of fairness and equality. This starts with ensuring that more women have access to leadership and decision-making roles.”
Breaking another barrier
The UN Trailblazer Award was created in 2022 by the Justice and Corrections Service in the Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions, part of the Department of Peace Operations.
It aims to highlight outstanding female prosecutors and corrections officers who have broken down gender barriers in difficult and dangerous contexts and have proven that women are a critical part of any peacekeeping operation’s mandate to create lasting peace.
The other outstanding nominees who made the shortlist for the Trailblazer Award were Mboahangy “Fana” Rakotoarisoa from Madagascar, deployed to MINUSMA; Wedji Mbengue of Senegal deployed to MINUSCA; Beatrice Were from Kenya was previously broadcast to MONUSCO; and Karima Dannauda Mohammed from Nigeria, posted to MONUSCO.