Public lecture: Gender equality is a security issue

13 March, 2019

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

In commemoration of Women’s History Month, on 5 March IPSS organized a joint public lecture with the 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 Adeto, Associate Academic Director at IPSS. The featured guest speaker was Professor Joan Johnson–Freese, Professor and Charles F. Bolden, Jr. Chair of Science, Space & Technology at the Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, Rhode Island, US.

Prof. Johnson-Freese delivered a presentation focusing on the issue of women, peace and security not as a social justice programme and also a security issue. The importance of women is reflected in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions. The presentation 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 emphasized as method to closing the gender power gap.

Women’s issues are security issues
Studies have shown that gender equality goes beyond the social justice narrative, and qualifies as an issue of national, regional and international security. The security of women can range from being free from domestic violence to having a political voice and being included in peace processes. These facets can 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 legislations have embodied the important role to be played by women in peace and security, many countries lag behind in the implementation of these legal frameworks. Member states ought to prioritize the domestication of UNSCR 1325 pillars as they provide for 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 postconflict repatriation, resettlement, and rehabilitation.

The challenges of implementing the women, peace and security agenda include the discrepancy between rhetoric and reality in communities. These challenges are both structural (legislative and policy barriers) and cultural (traditional barriers).

To address these challenges, competence, confidence and mentorship were proposed as three necessary 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;
  • The importance of women to network among themselves as well as with others;
  • To ensure transitional leadership, women in leadership positions ought to prioritize mentorship of
    young women;
  • Professional women should learn the importance of negotiating in and for their space;
  • Lessons can be drawn from the bravest women in history;
  • 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.