Panafrican News Agency

Burkinabe top woman prison officer with UN Mission in CAR wins first ever Trailblazer Award

New York, US (PANA) - The creator of a women-only rapid intervention team who leads riot control activities inside the Central African Republic’s biggest all male high-security prison, was named the winner of a prestigious new UN award on Tuesday.

Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana, of Burkina Faso, serves with the UN Mission in  the Central African Republic (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.

A UN statement said the Chef de Cabinet 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 Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and Executive Director of UN Women, Sima Sami Bahous, also delivered remarks.

Ms. Zoungrana was 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 demilitarization of the prison system in CAR, said UN Peacekeeping, in a press release announcing the award.

She also leads and coordinates rapid-intervention and riot-control activities at the all-male Ngaragba Central Prison in Bangui, the largest and most volatile prison in CAR with a population of detainees classified as high-risk. It has some 1,335 inmates, accounting for just under 70 per cent of the entire prison population of the country.

With her vast technical expertise in crisis intervention, Ms. Zoungrana has mentored many UN colleagues and national prison staff, and created a women-only rapid intervention team.

Prison security has long been characterised by stereotypes that have hindered the development of women prison administrators,” Ms. Zoungrana said, after being told about her selection for the new award.

“I am very pleased that today opportunities are given to women to work in prisons, and to perform all roles without distinction, and I feel empowered,” said Ms. Zoungrana as she was notified of the award.

Last month, the newly minted award winner spoke to UN News in a special profile on her pioneering work, noting that women are “often placed second or even ignored”, when they work as corrections officers.

Among her achievements, she integrated rapid intervention training into the national policies for prisons and detention centres, and helped improve the effectiveness and accountability of CAR penitentiary institutions,  leading to a significant reduction in the number of escapes at the prison.

“United Nations corrections officers, such as Ms. Zoungrana, work hand-in- hand with national corrections staff to ensure public safety. Corrections Officers carry out this work under difficult circumstances,” explained UN Peacekeeping chief, Jean-Pierre Lacroix.

-0- PANA MA 8June2022