The month in women, peace and security: September 2019

Wargaming needs more female strategists

Becca Wasser, a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation, has penned an article for The New York Times Magazine on her experience as a female defence strategist and wargamer. The article outlines the hurdles faced by women wanting to get involved in wargaming, noting that they’re often sidelined into administrative roles instead of learning to design and participate in the games. Wasser writes that female wargamers ‘exist in spite of the system, not because of it’, and are often discounted on the basis of their gender. The article highlights the need for more women in the field, noting the differences that emerge when the design or running of a game isn’t dominated by men and the benefits of diversity for strategic thinking.

Gender equality as a security issue

Despite increasing awareness of issues facing women’s rights today, Joan Johnson-Freese claims that gender equality is still isn’t taken seriously in the US as a security issue and the WPS agenda remains largely unknown to the public as well as to government officials and security practitioners. Because of this, even after the US implemented the WPS Act in 2017, a gendered perspective that considers women is still missing from America’s security institutions, resulting in inaccurate assessments of both the domestic and international security environments. Johnson-Freese warns that the lack of recognition of gender equality and the sustaining of prejudices against women will harm the US’s strategic influence and endanger global security.

Towards a feminist foreign policy in the US

Some actionable recommendations for the US government are detailed in a new policy brief by Stephenie Foster, Susan Markham and Sahana Dharmapuri, which sets out how to incorporate a feminist perspective in US foreign policy.

Strategies for increasing female representation in the tech industry

In this Scientific American article, Nahal Shahidzadeh explains how to increase gender equality in the technology field, which has traditionally been dominated by men. She notes that women are under-represented at the executive level in tech, particularly when it comes to cybersecurity. Shahidzadeh argues that gender stereotyping in primary and secondary school often discourages young women from participating in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and is a key cause of the imbalance. The solution, she says, involves not only investing in STEM, but presenting it as gender-neutral. That needs to include providing young women entering the field with scholarships, role models and opportunities.

Remaining vigilant on WPS in the US

In their joint article, Sahana Dharmapuri and Hans Hogrefe argue that the US Congress must stay engaged with the WPS agenda if it’s to further promote women’s participation and agency in conflict regions. They note that the US published its WPS strategy in June and warn that it’s in danger of failing its first ‘real-life test’ in Afghanistan. US engagement with the Taliban, who have committed horrific crimes and violence against women, not only excludes Afghan women from the narrative, but also jeopardises the US’s commitment to protecting women’s rights under the new strategy. They argue that elected representatives must remain vigilant in upholding the WPS agenda.

Role of WPS in ASEAN

The WPS agenda can provide ASEAN countries with the guidance they need to achieve sustainable development and prosperity, according to Noeleen Heyzer. She argues that countries will require women’s leadership to ‘identify those attributes and assets that have sustained social cohesion, inclusive development, human rights and human security … that together contribute to a sustainable, peaceful and just society’. ASEAN recently held a multi-sectoral dialogue on WPS issues in the region to support its 2017 statement recognising the importance of women’s participation in the ‘political, security and justice sectors and … in peace processes as negotiators, mediators, and first responders’.

Women’s place in counterterrorism considerations

King’s College London launched Joana Cook’s new book, A woman’s place: US counterterrorism since 9/11. Cook examines women’s changing roles in US counterterrorism considerations after the September 2001 terror attacks, focusing on how different administrations integrated women into their understanding of peace and security in the context of the war on terror. The book analyses the role of women as agents, partners and targets of terrorists, and examines how and why women’s roles have changed in al-Qaeda and Islamic State, and the impact that those changes have had on conceptions of and responses to counterterrorism. Cook argues that to effectively understand and respond to counterterrorism, the role and experience of women must be considered.

Taking stock of the WPS agenda

The International Peace Institute published an assessment of the state of the WPS agenda ahead of the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325. The global pushback on women’s rights: the state of the women, peace and security agenda examines the challenges for women’s rights presented by recent geopolitical shifts, such as the changing nature of conflict and trend towards populism. The authors, Sarah Taylor and Gretchen Baldwin, argue that to be effective in the current geopolitical context, the WPS agenda needs to ‘move beyond rhetoric and be woven into actionable policy’, requiring more resources and improved accountability from the international community.

Using the WPS agenda to protect the ecosystem

In this article, Mohbuba Choudhury and Louise Arimatsu consider the applicability of the WPS agenda to the protection of the ecosystem. Recognising that the consequences of mass displacement are gendered, the authors argue that the ‘relief and recovery’ pillar of the WPS agenda provides an ‘entry point’ for the protection of the ecosystem.

The nexus between feminist research and climate change

This article by Maria Tanyag explains the role of feminist research in solving the climate crisis. Tanyag identifies the three key analytical, ethical and methodological tools of feminist research—intersectionality, ethics of care and situated knowledge—and explains how they can help with conceptualising and responding to the climate crisis. Similarly, an article published as part of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit acknowledges the importance of women’s knowledge and understanding of how to adapt to changing environmental circumstances and their role in supporting practical solutions to tackle climate change.