Empowering Women in Peace and Security: Insights from a GCMC Panel
The George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies held a panel discussion, as part of their Program on Applied Security Studies, on Oct. 19 centered around the pivotal role of women in the realms of peace and security.
Dr. Ankica Tomic, Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Migration Asylum, Refugees Regional Initiative in North Macedonia, and Lt. Col. Olatoke Olubo, Staff Officer Gender at the Nigerian Defence Academy, shared their perspectives during the session with Marshall Center professor Dr. Sebastian von Münchow moderating.
The basis for the panel began with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, a landmark resolution by the United Nations Security Council that brought women's issues to the forefront, marking a historic moment in for peace and security concerns. The resolution, included four pillars - relief and recovery, protection, participation, and prevention - recognized the multifaceted contributions of women in peace negotiation, peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and conflict prevention.
During her presentation, Tomic emphasized the need for greater representation of women in positions of power and decision-making, and flagging that despite constituting half of the global population, women remain noticeably underrepresented, rendering their power latent.
"Women are visible but mostly unseen,” she said. “There is a lack in representation of women in power and decision-making positions, in the military, police and the governments. They are visible but not powerful even though they make up 50% of the world population."
“But,” she added, “it all comes down to a lack of comprehension.”
"The challenges we face in relation to women, peace and security start with the insufficient understanding of the importance of UNSCR 1325," Tomic remarked.
Challenges are numerous, including cultural and societal norms, exclusion from peace processes, and violence and discrimination. Women are often the primary victims of conflict, bearing the brunt of its devastating consequences. Tomic’s statement drew attention over the urgent need for proactive measures to address this stark imbalance. .
Olubo emphasized these challenges in her presentation.
"Women have always been at the receiving end of history. The violence and harassment they face has great psychological impact," said Lt. Col. Olubo.
Olubo provided a historical panorama of women's involvement in peace and security, drawing a contrast between the ancient Amazonian identity of women participating in warfare and the contemporary reality where women often find themselves at the receiving end of conflict's ramifications. During the First World War's International Women's Peace Conference in the Hague, women protested against the war, marking a significant milestone in the history of women's advocacy for peace.
She also shed light on the horrific atrocities perpetrated against women during the Rwandan genocide, underscoring the profound psychological impact of such violence and harassment.
“Human rights are women's rights,” Olubo stressed.
The panel emphasized that the fight for women’s equality in all aspects of peace and security is by no means a competition with men or a zero-sum game. It will take a joint effort to empower and include women.
Eric Nelson, Ambassador-in-Residence at the Marshall Center and staunch WPS ally, in his closing thoughts on the panel said, “You can win a battle without women but you can’t win peace without them.”
The Marshall Center panel on Women, Peace and Security served as a reminder of the invaluable contributions women make toward global peace and security. WPS is a crucial element at the Marshall Center, having committed to making significant progress in having more women at the decision-making table. While not a silver bullet for solving the world’s many complex challenges, WPS can serve as a valuable conduit for fostering multilateral dialogue and enhancing collaboration, reconciliation and peace prospects.