The month in women, peace and security: October 2018

The UN debates women, peace and security

The month of October marked 18 years since the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on the women, peace and security agenda. At the annual Security Council open debate on WPS last month, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on nations to match their rhetoric with action to achieve gender equality. The debate focused on the Guterres’s recent WPS report, which shows that ‘significant challenges persist with regard to the meaningful participation of women in conflict resolution’.

At the debate, the NATO secretary-general’s special representative for women, peace and security, Clare Hutchinson, highlighted NATO’s commitment to the WPS agenda. Germany emphasised that WPS would be its priority when it joins the Security Council as a non-permanent member next year, and Sweden forwarded recommendations to the UN related to peacekeeping and political missions, outlining its aims in leadership, strategy, training, reporting and financing.

Afghanistan failing to meet female recruitment targets

Afghan women in uniform face an uphill battle to achieve gender equality and acceptance from their male colleagues and the wider society. Encouraging more women to join the Afghan armed forces has been a key focus area for NATO and its allies. However, the war-ravaged nation has ‘never come close’ to meeting its recruitment targets for women. Afghanistan’s highly patriarchal culture and derisive attitude towards women, and towards the armed forces in general, present a stark challenge for those trying to increase women’s participation in conflict resolution.

Gender provisions lag in Colombian peace deal

The PRIO Centre on Gender, Peace and Security released a policy brief on the implementation of Colombia’s final peace agreement. The agreement is considered a model for the inclusion of gender-based provisions, though their implementation is lagging. The brief calls for better ‘economic support, capacity building and political pressure’ to ensure the agreement aligns with UN Security Council resolution 1325.

Australian women still cut off from national security debates

In a piece for Broad Agenda, Bec Strating and Jasmine-Kim Westendorf argue that the continued exclusion of women’s voices from commentary on and analysis of Australia’s national security and foreign policy needs to be addressed urgently. The absence of women’s perspectives is attributed to a patriarchal bent in Australian strategic culture which tends to favour realist theory and approaches. More importantly, it discourages the next generation of women analysts from contributing to the field.

Keeping the peace in Canada

Women, Peace and Security Network (Canada) is lobbying a key defence committee in Ottawa to ensure female peacekeepers are treated fairly and safely while deployed. Coordinator Beth Woroniuk said, ‘It’s important that the only dangers women encounter are the ones they signed up for.’ The committee is reviewing Canada’s contribution to peacekeeping, aligned with UN frameworks and the Elsie Initiative, which was launched last November to further women’s participation in peacekeeping operations.

Women punished over links to male terror suspects

Iraq is collectively punishing women for their male relatives’ alleged links to ISIS. Iraq claims that these women are guilty and that the trials are in keeping with international law, but human rights advocates claim that Iraq’s actions are unlawful. The International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq is monitoring the trials but can’t enforce rights, and many countries including the US have largely steered clear of the issue. History demonstrates that women’s inclusion in post-conflict reintegration is essential and there must be a deeper debate on how to address the issue.

Trafficking of Rohingya women and girls

Women and girls have become the largest group of trafficking and forced-labour victims from Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. The UN migration agency reported that families desperate to earn money are operating on the rationale of ‘sacrificing one family member for the sake of the rest’. But the UN and partner agencies are struggling to address the situation, which is made more difficult by the vulnerability of the Rohingya community as a whole.

The economic key to reducing domestic violence

A pilot program in Tajikistan has had positive results in combating the country’s serious domestic violence problem. The Zindagii Shiosta (Living with Dignity) project, funded through the UK government’s What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls initiative, combined relationship counselling with small business training. By the end of the 18-month trial, domestic violence rates had dropped from 64% to 34%, suicide rates decreased and women’s earnings and savings increased. The economic aspect was a key element in the pilot’s success as financial problems are often a contributing factor to domestic violence.

Australian support for curbing domestic violence in PNG

Stephanie Copus-Campbell, the wife of the chief of the Australian Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, has been leading an initiative to provide support and counselling to victims of domestic and gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea. An estimated 90% of PNG women jailed for murder were acting in self-defence against domestic violence. It’s believed that two-thirds of PNG women are subjected to violence from their partners.

Reclaiming space

In Zanzibar, the Reclaim Women’s Space project is creating safe spaces for women to gather. Men and women have long been separated in the 99% Muslim country, but it’s a jump in tourism that’s been causing female-only spaces to disappear. The project is not just creating spaces for women to gather but is also providing classes teaching small business and other skills.

Ethiopia elects first female president

In a historic move, the Ethiopian parliament has voted to elect Sahle-Work Zewde as the first female president of the country and human rights lawyer Meaza Ashenafi as its first female Supreme Court chief. In another significant move, Ethiopia has become the first African nation to allocate 50% of cabinet seats to women following a decision from  reformist prime minister Abiy Ahmed.