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Gender equality is a security issue

The overall presentation looked at the issue of women, peace and security not just as a social justice programme but rather a security issue.


13 March 2019

On 5 March, IPSS in commemoration of Women's History Month held a joint public lecture with United States Mission to the African Union (USAU) on “Women, Peace and Security: Implications and Challenges.” The session was chaired by Mr. Chris Meade, Political-Public Diplomacy Officer at USAU and moderated by Dr. Yonas Adaye, Associate Academic Director at IPSS. The featured guest speaker was Professor Joan Johnson–Freese, a Professor and the Charles F. Bolden, Jr. Chair of Science, Space & Technology at the Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, Rhode Island.


The overall presentation looked at the issue of women, peace and security not just as a social justice programme but rather a security issue. The importance of women is reflected in the UNSCR 1325 pillars and subsequent resolutions. The presentation also highlighted the difference between rhetoric and reality and recognized that is only when implementation embeds a community-based approach that effective results are achieved. The need for women to gain competence, confidence, mentorship was mentioned. Gender equality was emphasized as an issue of power.


Women issues are security issues

Studies have shown that gender equality is beyond the social justice narrative, but rather an issue of national, regional and international security. The security of women ranges from being free from domestic violence to having a political voice and being included in peace processes. All these facets of women’s security influence the security of a community, country and beyond. Addressing them guarantees sustainable peace.

Frameworks and challenges

Despite the fact that both UN declarations and national legislation have embodied the important role to be played by women in peace and security, many countries lag behind regarding the implementation of these legal frameworks. Member states ought to prioritize the domestication of UNSCR 1325 pillars as it embeds the inclusion of women and gender perspectives in the full spectrum of conflict-related issues, i.e. conflict prevention, participation in peacemaking, protection during and after a conflict, and post-conflict repatriation, resettlement, and rehabilitation.


The challenges of implementing the Women, Peace & Security agenda include the discrepancy between the rhetoric narratives and reality in the communities. These challenges are both structural (the legislation and policy barriers) and cultural (the traditional barriers).  However, there is light at the end of the tunnel with case studies from Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda in bringing women to the top position. However, countries like Kenya are a reminder that more needs to be done in concretizing the political will to implement the gender-based legislation.


To address these challenges, three areas of competence, confidence and mentorship were proposed as the fundamentals for women towards the realization of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda.


Inputs from the participants emphasized that:

  • Women need to play more active roles in policy formulations;

  • Compliance in women should be addressed through building confidence for women to seize available opportunities;

  • The importance of women to network amongst themselves as well as with others, although, caution was placed on the intrusive bias;

  • To ensure transitional leadership, women in the leadership positions ought to prioritize mentorship for young women;

  • Women as professions to learn the importance of negotiating in and for their space;

  • Drawing lessons from the bravest women in Women’s history and take a lesson for a better tomorrow;

  • There is a need to build the resilience of women in conflict areas, particularly those in refugee and Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) camps;

  • Enhancing women participation in the mediation process.


In conclusion, the lecture, on the one hand, underlined the journey to realizing the Women, Peace and Security Agenda at the national level by drawing lessons from the United States, and on the other,  emphasized the need to draw lessons from best experiences from Africa and beyond.