The month in women, peace and security: August 2018

What’s so important about WPS?

The fact that women make up at least half the population should be reason enough to include them in peace and security processes, but the ‘emphasis on women’ continues to be questioned. In response, the International Peace Institute released analysis addressing five FAQs on the importance of including women in peace processes. Questions such as ‘What difference does it make?’, ‘Why so much emphasis on women?’ and ‘What does inclusion look like?’ are answered. The article is a good introduction to the issues commonly faced by WPS practitioners and is a handy resource to have up your sleeve the next time someone asks, ‘Why women?’

A month of firsts

Women in security and politics racked up several path-breaking achievements during August. The Kenyan Defence Force welcomed its first female major general after Fatma Ahmed was appointed assistant chief of the defence forces in charge of personnel and logistics. Japan inducted its first woman fighter pilot, and the US appointed its first female Border Patrol chief. An all-female SWAT team guarded the Red Fort during India’s Independence Day celebrations in New Delhi. And the city of Tunis elected its first female mayor, who is now also the first woman to become mayor of a capital city in the Arab world. Nonetheless, a lot remains to be done to curb gender-based discrimination and address cultural hurdles for women in the politico-military arena.

Leading the pack

First Lieutenant Marina A. Hierl is the first woman to lead an infantry platoon in the history of the US Marine Corps. She initially faced scepticism, but has proved herself to be a physically and mentally tough leader and impressed her critics. She is a graduate of the Marine Corps’ infantry officer training and is one of only two women to have completed the 13 weeks of combat evaluations (despite 37 women commencing the training). Hierl says she doesn’t think of herself as a trailblazer.

Indigenous women face violence crisis

Violence against North American indigenous women is a transnational crisis. Native American women are more likely to be raped or murdered than non-indigenous women. It’s estimated that four out of five Native American women encounter violence in their lifetimes. The layering of state, federal and tribal jurisdictions is partly at fault: federal departments fail to act on information, and tribal resources are insufficient. A historical reluctance to address the problem also fuels the epidemic.

New WPS training course in East Africa

The British Peace and Security Training Centre in Kenya has a new gender training course for the security sector. Army personnel from Kenya and other nations are expected to undertake the training, which will cover responses to and prevention of sexual violence in conflict zones. It is part of a wider program of cooperation between the UK and East African nations to increase defence, promote prosperity and address WPS and security issues in the region.

Myanmar used rape as a ‘tactic of war’

The UN has released its Report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. A member of the UN fact-finding committee remarked that the Myanmar military used rape as a ‘deliberate strategy’ and a ‘tactic of war’ to terrorise Rohingya women and men. The use of sexual violence during war is not a new phenomenon and mostly targets women. Around 30,000 women who fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh last year were pregnant when they arrived.

On a slightly more positive note, the first local election at a Bangladeshi refugee camp yielded a majority of women leaders. UN Secretary-General António Guterres briefed security council members on the situation in Myanmar and the findings of the human rights report during a meeting on 28 August, which marked a year since the Rohingya crisis began.

A new offence in US military law

Domestic violence is now a separate offence under US military law. On 14 August, President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorisation Act, which includes several sections relating to domestic violence. Previously these crimes were prosecuted as assaults, which made it difficult for military officers and non-military authorities to share information about offenders and track them after they left the military, as demonstrated by the Texas church mass shooting last year

Indian servicewomen eligible for permanent commissions

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that female officers in the armed forces recruited under short service commissions are now eligible for permanent commissions, like their male counterparts. The policy improves the career prospects of 3,700 women and could lay a foundation for women’s entry into combat positions.

Push to change police culture

The International Association of Women Police (IAWP) conference was held in Calgary, Canada, in August with the theme ‘Leading change’. Topics discussed by delegates included workplace culture, leadership and recruiting, and how to overcome challenges in those areas. The IAWP provides a range of professional development opportunities and recognition for female law enforcement officers and civilian support staff and aims to increase the numbers of women in policing.

Timor-Leste moves towards gender equality

The National Police of Timor-Leste unveiled its first strategy to promote gender equality. The strategy, which will run from 2018 to 2022, aims to increase female participation in the police force and train officers on gender-based violence. The strategy was developed in cooperation with UN Women and with the support of Australia, Japan and the UN Development Programme.

Women breaking ground

The Kenyan government has launched a gender-affirmative policy to preference women-owned agricultural businesses. Women in the industry face gender-based obstacles to owning land and getting access to agricultural markets, farming technology and financial education. The policy is a positive step for women’s empowerment, state development and the global economy.

Countering counterfeit drugs

Five Nigerian girls launched an app that enables anyone with a smartphone to authenticate pharmaceuticals—combating Nigeria’s ‘fake drug’ crisis. For years, fake drugs have presented a major global problem, and deaths from malaria in Nigeria have been linked to counterfeit tablets. The teenagers’ app won a gold award at the 2018 Technovation World Pitch Summit, which engages girls from across the world to learn and apply the skills needed to solve global issues through technological innovation.