The month in women, peace and security: July 2017

Gender perspectives in the ADF

In response to the increasing demand for gender advisers, the Australian Defence Force delivered its first gender adviser course in June. Headquarters Joint Operations Command conducted the pilot course at the Peace Keeping Operational Training Centre, preparing gender advisers ‘to provide advice to a commander and staff on the implementation of Resolution 1325 into the planning and conduct of operations’. Gender adviser Colonel Amanda Fielding highlighted the key role of gender in ‘engagement, interactions and operations with local populations, other partner forces and agencies’. You can check out a piece Fielding wrote for The Strategist on the issue earlier this year here.

A little more insight into gender’s impact (and what it means to serve in the army as a woman) is provided by Major Elizabeth Boulton in an interview following the publication of her report (PDF) Teaming: an introduction to gender studies, unshackling human talent and optimising military capability for the coming Era of Equality: 2020 to 2050.

WPS in US professional military education

Dr Joan Johnson-Freese has written for Small Wars Journal on the lack of integration of women, peace and security (WPS) education into the core curricula of professional military education institutions in the United States. As Johnson-Freese points out, the National Defense College offers only one elective that includes WPS in the course description, and the Naval War College and Air University each offer a single elective that addresses WPS-related material. Yet, being electives, those courses are mostly taken by individuals who are already familiar with the issues.

Losing the victim status

Political science professor Alexis Henshaw wrote an introduction to her new paper, ‘Making violent women visible in the WPS agenda (PDF), for the London School of Economics last week. Henshaw argues that negating the role of women as combatants is damaging for the WPS agenda because it perpetuates the idea that women are simply victims. This story about a Danish woman fighting against ISIS with the Kurds shows the complexities of reintegrating female fighters back into society.

Returning IS brides

Linda Wenzel, a 16-year-old German girl who joined ISIS a year ago in Iraq, was arrested in mid-July by Iraqi forces. She allegedly admitted to having killed Iraqi soldiers, which could, as well as her involvement with a terrorist organisation, result in a death sentence if she were to be convicted at a trial in Iraq. However, as a reported missing minor, she could also potentially be extradited to Germany. Her case underlines a growing challenge for governments: how to deal with returning female foreign fighters. Another test will be the handling of families of foreign fighters, and particularly children, as the case of a French woman and her children in Iraq demonstrates.

Bride prices and conflict

A report by Valerie Hudson and Hilary Matfess published in International Security has linked the practice of paying for brides to violent conflict. Polygamy in bride-price societies allows wealthy men to accumulate brides, creating scarcity and pricing a group of low-income young men out of the market. Some of those young men join violent groups as a source of income so they can marry. One of the report’s case studies is about Boko Haram recruitment in Nigeria. The group abducts young women to provide cheap brides for its fighters. The release of the report coincides with a tour of Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo by UN deputy secretary-general Amina Mohammed, during which she vowed to ensure the ‘dignity and humanity’ of internally displaced women in those countries.

Rebuilding Mosul

The cause of rebuilding the shattered city of Mosul has been taken up by the women of Iraq’s parliament. Led by Dr Farah Al-Saraj, the nine female parliamentarians of Mosul’s Nineveh province have produced recommendations for a ‘community peace process’. The initiative aims to rebuild the social fabric by creating a committee to oversee the peaceful reconciliation of Mosul’s society, take the pressure off the courts and prevent a slide into vengeance and vigilantism. In their efforts, the parliamentarians have avoided many of the partisan political pitfalls that have hindered such projects elsewhere.

Rwandan women boost economy

Women in Rwanda are being recognised for their influence on the economy, which has vastly improved since the 1994 genocide that devastated the nation’s social and economic framework. The Council on Foreign Relations reports that the economy is now growing at a rapid pace, which is a testament to the positive contribution that women make in post-conflict situations. Abahizi Dushyigikirane, an enterprise established by Kate Spade & Co., has contributed to the country’s economic recovery by employing women from local villages, allowing them to create a viable product.

Other news from Africa

While Rwanda has enjoyed a high proportion of female participation in politics, the only female candidate for last week’s presidential election, Diane Shima Rwigara, was disqualified from the race after she reportedly fell just short of the 600 signatures required to run.

On a more positive note, the case of five Kenyan girls shows that the next generation doesn’t shy away from overcoming hurdles to participate in public discourse. They received the exciting news this week that they’d made the finals in the Technovation competition sponsored by Google in California. The girls created an app to help end the practice of female genital mutilation, which the World Health Organization has shown can have not only severe physical implications for girls, but also social and economic impacts on their communities.