Gender mainstreaming is “key to operational effectiveness, local ownership, and strengthened oversight and legitimacy of security providers,” not just an exercise in political correctness.
This was one of the conclusions of a workshop held from February 17-19, 2010 by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) and h the Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defence Academies and Security Studies Institutes (PfP) in Geneva, Switzerland, focusing on gender and SSR in light of the upcoming anniversary of the UN Security Council’s resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. The workshop was organized around seven different sessions for policy-makers and practitioners, each with a moderator or a panel of experts.
Participants in these sessions found that integrating a gender perspective in the daily work of armed forces, defence ministries, and peacemakers makes these institutions more inclusive and democratic, and improves operational effectiveness . The dual purpose of the workshop was to show that first, men, women, and children each have different security needs and taking those different needs into account in the SSR process will produce inclusive security institutions that are capable of providing security and justice to an entire population. Second, oversight mechanisms can only be effective when addressing a whole population, not just half.
Some of the highlights from the different workshops include the following:
- Six blind people and the elephant metaphor. “A proper assessment of what ‘security’ means to the different groups in a given population requires consulting with members of those groups, including women” (4).
- The ‘Line’ Exercise. Participants in this session were asked to place themselves on a line (spectrum) based on their understanding of gender issues.
- The Stereotype Exercise. During this session stereotypes such as “Male bonding is an important element of well-functioning armed forces; this bond will be broken if women are included”, “Women reduce the effectiveness of the armed forces; they are weak and just can’t do the same things”, and “Having women in the armed forces living in close proximity to men will only distract or lead to sexual tension; it will encourage sexual assault” were all addressed.
- Available Resources. The session focused on education and training spent time discussing different resources available regarding gender and SSR. Resources included a toolkit, resource website, and resource package.
Feedback from the workshop was very positive with nearly every participant’s understanding of the relationship between gender and SSR improving. Some of the key things learned by the participants were why gender matters in SSR, the ongoing challenges facing gender in SSR, and what gender means. For the full report, including a list of participants, feedback results, and summaries of the workshops, please see the PfP Consortium Workshop on Gender & Security Sector Reform Workshop Report.