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Top Woman Prison Officer in CAR Bags First UN Trailblazer Award

Burkina Faso’s Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana leads riot control activities inside the Central African Republic’s biggest all male high-security prison

Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana is presented with the United Nations Trailblazer Award by Chef de Cabinet Courtenay Rattray at a special ceremony. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Téné Maïmouna Zoungrana, of Burkina Faso, serving with the UN Mission in Central African Republic (CAR), MINUSCA, has received the United Nations Trailblazer Award for Women Justice and Corrections Officers at a special ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York.

Zoungrana supports one of MINUSCA’s most difficult tasks, i.e., the demilitarisation of the prison system in CAR. She is the creator of a women-only rapid intervention team who leads riot control activities inside the CAR’s biggest all male high-security prison, Ngaragba Central Prison in Bangui. The prison is also the most volatile prison in CAR with a population of detainees classified as high-risk.

The prison officer also leads and coordinates rapid-intervention and riot-control activities at the all-male prison. It has about 1,335 inmates, accounting for just under 70 per cent of the entire prison population of the country.

“Prison security has long been characterised by stereotypes that have hindered the development of women prison administrators,” 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,” she added when notified of the award.

Zoungrana, first deployed to the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic from 2014 to 2017, began her current tour with the mission in 2020. With her vast technical expertise in crisis intervention, she has mentored many UN colleagues and national prison staff, and created a women-only rapid intervention team.

The Chef de Cabinet of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, Courtenay Rattray, presented the award to 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.

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