The month in women, peace and security: October 2017

Call for gender focus for peacekeeping positions

The importance of data and analysis in combating sexual violence and promoting the WPS agenda was highlighted during the UN Security Council’s annual debate on women, peace and security. Several speakers, including Margot Wallstrom, Swedish minister for foreign affairs, drew attention to the negative effect that budget cuts may have on ‘gender expertise in UN missions’. Those concerns were echoed by Louise Allen, executive coordinator of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, who has suggested that the lack of gendered perspectives in peacekeeping is indicative of poor political determination to execute the WPS agenda. Similar points were made by Aïssata Athie and Sarah Taylor in this piece for the International Peace Institute’s Global Observatory. Athie and Taylor provide a solid summary of the history of gender expertise in peacekeeping and use examples from the Central African Republic to highlight future challenges in this area.

New Women, Peace and Security Index released

Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security has released the 2017–18 WPS Index (PDF). The index is a way to review progress on the WPS agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals and highlight areas that need improvement. It ranks 153 countries based on indicators for inclusion, justice and security. Scandinavian countries continue to be at the top of the list, while the lower end is dominated by African and Middle Eastern nations.

Israeli and Palestinian women unite to further the peace agenda

A group called Women Wage Peace has organised a united rally of Israeli and Palestinian women to promote peaceful cooperation between people of different ethnicities and political views, and to prevent further outbreaks of violence. This infographic shows that when women are involved in peace processes, there’s a significantly higher chance of long-term amity. October 2017 marked the 13th anniversary of the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which acknowledges the importance of including women in peace negotiations and security dialogues to reduce armed conflict, sexual violence and discrimination. The Council on Foreign Relations has released a blog to commemorate the occasion that connects readers to its most important WPS publications from recent years.

Women in Chinese politics

While celebrating the anniversary of Resolution 1325, it’s also important to recognise the barriers that still exist to women’s participation in decision-making. This piece from the Council on Foreign Relations discusses the lack of women in high posts in Chinese politics. Despite making up 25% of party members, women are vastly underrepresented in the party’s central bodies. The positions that women hold are ‘related to arts and culture’, leaving them out of defence- and conflict-related decision-making.

Women’s rights in West Africa

Liberians are electing a successor to long-time president and women’s rights champion Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Despite progress, the situation for women in the West African country remains dreadful: political underrepresentation and high rates of gender-based violence persist, and the law was recently amended to downgrade rape to a bailable crime. The wife of the president of neighbouring Sierra Leone, Sia Nyama Koroma, meanwhile continues her fight against child marriage. She initiated a meeting of African leaders and key actors to share best practices of the region, which took place last week in Senegal.

Gender brief on Rohingya

UN Women Bangladesh has released a gender brief (PDF) on the Rohingya refugee crisis response, highlighting how the crisis has disproportionately affected women, girls and other vulnerable groups. The document contains a set of recommendations for humanitarian actors to follow during the response.

Road bumps for the AFP’s female-focused recruitment drive

The Australian Federal Police’s use of a female-focused recruitment drive to improve the gender balance in the agency attracted considerable public scrutiny. That attention continued after the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity released a report titled Corruption and the changing opportunities for women in law enforcement (PDF). The report found that people falsely believe women are less corrupt, and that this perception could potentially damage police agencies and set back cultural progress. This one conclusion garnered more focus from the media than the section of the report dedicated to the extensive benefits of gender diversity for the AFP.

ISIS’s call to arms for women

With the self-proclaimed caliphate crumbling, ISIS has changed its rhetoric and for the first time openly told its female supporters that it was their ‘obligation’ to wage physical jihad. That’s a departure from the group’s past practice of encouraging women to support in a non-violent way, through propaganda distribution, recruitment and financing. The potential consequences of the shift are discussed in a Soufan Center’s report (PDF), which highlights the increased security risk posed by returnees from the conflict zone and particularly underlines the issue of returning women and children.

Boko Haram’s victims speak

More than 2,000 girls and women have been abducted by the rebel group Boko Haram in Nigeria. Last month, survivors of kidnappings shared their stories with the United Nations and the New York Times. According to the Economist, Boko Haram uses female suicide bombers because they arouse less suspicion, can conceal bombs within their hijabs and have higher propaganda value, and because it wants to reserve male fighters for conventional attacks.

Justice, at last

In Kosovo, UN Women and the EU have started a new initiative to support female survivors of sexual violence during the conflict of 1998–99. By providing micro-grants, the program enables women to be financially independent, which is often prevented by stigmatisation. The government of Kosovo is also taking steps to provide legal recognition and reparations for these women.

Another example shows how justice can bring peace and empower women: In a landmark ruling in 2016, a Guatemalan court convicted former military personnel of holding indigenous women as sex slaves in the 1980s during the civil war. Now, the public prosecutor has established a process ‘to monitor and facilitate compliance of the reparation order’, which allows for the introduction of health, education and awareness measures that facilitate women’s access to justice.