The month in women, peace and security: September 2018

The gender scorecard

Women in International Security has released its gender scorecard for foreign policy and international security think tanks in Washington DC, which reveals a high disparity between male and female staff members. The scorecard found that 68% of the heads of think tanks and 78% of members on their governing bodies are male. There are three exceptions to this trend, however: the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Stimson Center and the US Institute of Peace have achieved gender parity at the expert level.

Female representation in parliament in the spotlight

The levels of representation of Australian women in the federal parliament became a focus in the wake of the Liberal Party leadership spill. Bullying and intimidation were cited by Liberal MPs Julia Banks and Ann Sudmalis as contributing factors to their decisions not to contest the next election. The proportion of female lawmakers in Australia’s parliament compared to other countries’ has slipped in recent years; Australia is currently ranked 50th, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

First women-only foreign ministers’ conference

The first all-female foreign ministers’ conference was held on 22 September in Montreal, with attendees from more than 20 countries. Delegates discussed a range of topics, including how women in leadership positions can use their power to effect change. The conference highlighted that women in power are vital to strengthening democracy, maintaining security, promoting peace and eliminating gender-based violence. At the closing of the conference, Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, announced that the country would appoint its first ambassador for women, peace and security.

Cybersecurity’s blindspot

As in most tech-related industries, there’s a significant gender disparity in cybersecurity. According to Jane Frankland, the founder of Cyber Security Capital (a cyber training and mentoring company), that disparity may have safety implications. She says the lack of gender perspectives and shortage of women’s heightened aptitude in risk assessment and detailed exploration is leading to notable capability gaps in identifying and responding to security threats.

#MeToo but #NotYou

The influx of migrants to Europe is coming at a devastating cost for women. There are reports that at the Libya–Niger border—Africa’s largest migrant crossing on the way to Europe—women have been raped when they’ve been unable to pay bribes to border guards. At Croatian, Bosnian and Slovenian borders, women have also been subjected to sexual violence by uniformed personnel. Despite governments across Europe embracing the #MeToo movement, which highlights and condemns sexual harassment, migrants are often left out of the conversation.

Weaponising sexual violence

Sexual violence against women and girls has long been used as a weapon of war. It’s been officially recognised since the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and prohibited under international conventions  but is rarely sanctioned. Dutch MP Lilianne Ploumen has secured a commitment from her government to assess whether a global sanctions regime for sexual violence could be applied irrespective of borders or political will.

Gender equality prevents war

Research in the US has found indications that gender equality is a stronger predictor of peace and security than a country’s GDP, level of democracy or dominant religion. Nonprofit organisation Peace is Loud’s Marie O’Reilly says a number of studies have found that countries with more female representatives in parliament are less likely to use force against other countries, less prone to civil wars and less likely to commit human rights abuses against their own citizens.

Indian women’s quest for security

The Indian home affairs ministry has allocated nearly US$413 million to improve women’s security in eight cities. The program will fund all-female police patrols, CCTV cameras, LED lighting and emergency buttons on public transport. India is ranked as the world’s most dangerous place for women and some of the problem stems from a patriarchal culture and highly skewed gender ratio.

Gender in aid distribution

Oxfam has released a case study looking at incorporating gender perspectives into aid distribution in Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria, where households with a woman at the head have less access to aid. Oxfam has achieved some positive results, including increased gender awareness among its employees and a change in distribution processes to make them more sensitive to individuals’ needs, but the NGO acknowledges there are barriers to overcome and further improvement is necessary.

Leading by example

To mark International Day of Democracy on 15 September, UN Women highlighted countries ‘that have stepped it up for gender equality in politics and women leaders who are speaking up about what needs to be done to sustain the gains’. Rwanda, Nepal and Tunisia all have high levels of female representation, Lebanon has record numbers of women on the ballot, and Guatemala elected its first female indigenous mayor and an openly lesbian member of Congress.

Portland’s first female police chief reflects

In 1985, Penny Harrington became Portland’s first female police chief and the first female head of a police department in a major US city. This article by The Marshall Project recounts her journey and provides a good overview of challenges women in law enforcement have faced and often continue to face. Harrington tried to remove the numerous barriers she encountered, which included arguing for the change from ‘patrolman’ to ‘police officer’.

Fight for equal representation

The East African Community has launched a gender policy that seeks equal representation for women in leadership positions and female involvement in all aspects of decision-making. It is a follow-up to the gender equality and equity bill produced by the East African Legislative Assembly last year. The new policy aims to bring gender equality issues to the mainstream, address poor representation of women in business and politics, and highlight the complementary roles men and women can play in all regional activities.

Women to lead Iraq towards peace

UN Women’s director for Arab states, Mohamed Nasri, has called on the Iraqi government to enable more women to assume leadership roles in government. Iraqi women are taking the lead in brokering peace in their war-ravaged nation, through participation in organisations such as the Iraqi Center for Negotiation Skills and Conflict Management. Canada is also supporting efforts to try to increase women’s participation in law enforcement and security roles in Iraq.