Military & Aerospace

Enhanced Role of Women in Conflict Zones
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Issue Vol. 30.1 Jan-Mar 2015 | Date : 24 Apr , 2015

Women have to be incorporated as equal stakeholders in the entire spectrum of the conflict cycle, to include conflict prevention, crisis management and conflict resolution. This equal-stakeholder philosophy must define an institutionalised role for women in formulating strategies and initiatives during the planning, implementing and evaluation stages of conflict intervention. Peace negotiations continue to remain largely exclusive and need to address gender inclusivity in earnest. The peace agreements concluded should specifically provision women rights on security issues, with particular reference to early warning, crisis management and conflict related sexual violence. Thus, women need to form an integral part of all programs related to peacemaking, reconciliation and rehabilitation processes.

Gender sensitive approach is our collective tool for de-confliction and post-conflict nation building…

As our world experiences a diverse proliferation in global armed conflict, one paradigm remains constant – women continue to be disproportionately impacted, ranging from death, injury, forced displacement to sexual victimisation. 2015 marks an important year for the women, peace and security agenda. In 2015, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action will celebrate its 20th anniversary and 15 years would have passed since the adoption of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. Though essential progress has been made in implementing the women security issues in the conflict zones by the United Nations, international and regional organisations, numerous challenges remain in mainstreaming the gender perspective in the prevention and resolution of conflict.

Paradigms for Gender Sensitive Approach in Conflict

Gender sensitive approach is our collective tool for de-confliction and post-conflict nation building. Gender perspective, with SCR 1325 as an overarching mandate for women peace and security needs to be enmeshed meaningfully in the entire continuum of conflict management, if we are to assure meaningful protection to women and girls in the coming future.True conflict resolution and sustainable stability can only accrue if both the cause and effect of the conflict are addressed in consonance. While robust interventions are now being increasingly attempted by the UN for controlling violence and providing humanitarian succor, long-term vulnerability and prosecution of women can only stop if the root causes of the conflict are addressed in a holistic manner.

Women have to be incorporated as equal stakeholders in the entire spectrum of the conflict cycle, to include conflict prevention, crisis management and conflict resolution. This equal-stakeholder philosophy must define an institutionalised role for women in formulating strategies and initiatives during the planning, implementing and evaluation stages of conflict intervention. Peace negotiations continue to remain largely exclusive and need to address gender inclusivity in earnest. The peace agreements concluded should specifically provision women rights on security issues, with particular reference to early warning, crisis management and conflict related sexual violence. Thus, women need to form an integral part of all programs related to peacemaking, reconciliation and rehabilitation processes.

Empowerment of women and their socio-economic progress are pre-requisites for comprehensive peace and stability…

Concurrently, awareness programs and skill training are important so that women gain the desired power balance and acquire core competencies to assert themselves as role models, in various facets of conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction. Empowerment of women and their socio-economic progress are pre-requisites for comprehensive peace and stability. We have to ensure that necessary resources are generated and dedicated funding obtained if we are to guarantee credible security to women – and provide them with an autonomous environment for unhindered access to basic services.

The UN must play the lead role in coordinating the entire political, security and development context of a particular operation, with a shared division of labor between partners. National ownership is essential, with a regional context. The evolved gender inclusive strategies and programs for conflict prevention and crisis management should accordingly encourage core role by the national government, civil society, religious leaders and women groups.

While experiences matter, we need to guard against templates. The formulated interventions must be based on local factors and context-specific realities so that the evolved solutions are culturally and economically sustainable for the transformed women-friendly post-conflict society.

Involvement of Women into Early Warning (EW) Mechanisms

By nature of their social inclusion in a conflict-ridden environment, women are not only able to better analyse societal vulnerabilities and tribal faultlines that drive conflict but can also provide a more accurate picture of long-term conflict related risks. Incorporating women in to all stages of the Early Warning cycle can thus help better identify conflict indicators and triggers to violence, including the gender related. Women’s perspectives are particularly significant on ethno-religious tensions; mobilisation of armed groups, aggressive resource competition, presence of small arms and gender based sexual violence. These inputs can help conduct a more accurate risk assessment and evolve focused violence indicators, which could in turn be usefully exploited to strengthen our Early Warning mechanisms and related responses.

Women’s civil society organisations affected by conflict could be made to play a crucial role…

Women’s civil society organisations affected by conflict could be made to play a crucial role in providing both human and technical support for collecting and verifying conflict signatures, as well as acting as an interface for community policing. Unfortunately, direct engagement and institutionalised consultation with the local population remains our weakness due to cultural and language problems. We need to specifically train on these aspects.

We must develop partnerships with women organisations and crank them into our system design at the local, theatre and regional levels, as a part of the UN’s proactive protection philosophy. The shared responsibility should facilitate ownership to women groups in collection, analysis and dissemination of conflict data based on jointly developed indicator modules. These modules could greatly help in carrying out targeted surveillance and monitoring not only to gain timely advice on potential violence but also to help execute real-time surgical interventions.

Women could be usefully engaged as advisers, monitors, arbitrators and community police/military liaison officers for collecting and verifying data related to impending community conflicts and gender-based violence. They may be employed individually or networked through organised community engagement to the UN Mission’s analysis and crisis management structures as also the mission’s protection clusters/groups/teams. A reliable communications system would need to be catered for those so employed, using a combination of satellite phones, mobiles and radios.

Though they may be technically savvy, women’s competencies are yet to be appropriately leveraged for providing technical support in our Early Warning systems. We should train women to analyse data, conduct intelligence reviews, formulate threat assessments, operate surveillance and communication devices and handle public information tools. Women working in conflict management support services like medical, counseling and social work could also greatly help in providing valuable inputs for Early Warning.

Women working in conflict management support services could also help in providing valuable inputs for Early Warning…

Within the UN system, women in the military and police components need to be gainfully employed to act as gender focal points, to communicate and share information with communities and local women organisations. The quota for women national staff in our international organisations is grossly deficient and needs to be incrementally enhanced, with requisite training. The trained local staff not only provide role models of national ownership but also become the backbone for building subsequent national capacity in the security sector.

Achieving Gender-Responsive Early Warning and Response Systems

Timely inputs on threats to peace and potential violence are essential for developing and executing appropriate response strategies to prevent or resolve conflicts. As brought out earlier, integrating gender perspective could greatly enhance timely conflict-related risk assessment and early warning, which in turn could help in evolving coping strategies and improved preparedness for addressing conflict driven violence and community/tribal disputes.

Early warning and response are inextricably linked. Early Warning is of little use if not followed up with an effective response. This warning-response gap is critical and has to be defined and bridged on priority, if we are serious in implementing robust UN peacekeeping mandates on the ground. ‘Joint protection’ is fundamental in the field – but we have still a long way to go in this regard, due to turf protection. The UN Mission must take the lead to construct a comprehensive early warning and response framework- and translate this framework into integrated operating techniques on the ground.

The Early Warning network is best developed and monitored at the local level, in conjunction with national actors and communities. For the responses to be effective, we would need to field a balanced mix of electronic surveillance devices and human monitors, with increased women participation. The network must be wired-in laterally for local response and vertically for ‘Out of Theatre’ Response. The UN pillars should be cranked into the national structures and community-based women’s organisations to collect, analyse and share information on conflict dynamics.

Women’s representation remains far below the desired levels in our military and police components…

Early Warning architecture must blend human efforts with contemporary information and communication technologies. Our present intelligence capability is primarily through the human effort (operating bases, patrols and informers), which has its inherent drawbacks. We need to increasingly induct technology as a ‘force-multiplier’ for environmental transparency, all-weather surveillance and conflict mapping. This should include satellite imagery, aerial reconnaissance by helicopters and unmanned-unarmed aerial vehicles, radars and electronic interception. A note of caution though – we should drive the technology and technology should not be allowed to drive us.

Our operational responses must be real-time for credible impact, which implies that the violence must necessarily be anticipated and pre-empted. The mantra for protection should be ‘Predict and Prevent’ with added emphasis on information management. This calls for a distinct shift from our present pattern of protection in UN Peacekeeping, which is by-and-large reactive. It is imperative that all players responsible for protection adopt a maneuver culture, both physically and mentally, to dynamically influence their roles and tasks. An environmental scan must be conducted to determine the pattern of prevailing/emerging threats and the desired responses. We have made a humble beginning in scenario building, evolving contingencies and prioritizing our interventions. However, these need to be constantly updated – and more importantly periodically rehearsed for their efficacy.

There is a pressing need to induct modern simple-to-use alarm systems for communities to raise alert in emergent situations. Where technology is sparse, women should be trained to employ non-traditional creative techniques for relaying threats, by both day and night. The adopted alarm indicators should carry innocent signatures, to blend with the prevalent societal habitat and lifestyle, so as not to alarm the predators. Many UN missions have over the period developed best practices, whose inventory could be used as guidance.

The UN military contingents need to be re-configured and re-oriented with modern surveillance and robust response capability to match the peacekeeping demands of the emerging asymmetric peacekeeping environment, where peacekeepers are being increasingly targeted. Women’s representation remains far below the desired levels in our military and police components; these must be significantly enhanced for gender value addition to address the entire implications of UNSCR 1325. We must select leaders, who are motivated for the gender cause, possess vision to anticipate – and finally, the resolve to respond under adversity. Gender sensitisation of personnel and strict Codes of Conduct, with due respect for local culture is imperative. Peacekeepers must be appropriately trained to promote healthier relationships and establish trust with local communities.

Security remains an overriding concern in the post-conflict environment and must obtain our prioritized attention…

Mainstreaming Gender Perspective in a Post-Conflict Environment

Women need to be credibly incorporated into peace building. The defined gender perspective must move beyond the narrow ‘passive vulnerable group’ and ‘victim’ characterization of women in the conflict zone – to ensure that their security concerns, human rights, economic aspirations and social justice are honorably met in the post-conflict state.

Security remains an overriding concern in the post-conflict environment and must obtain our prioritized attention, so that women experience immediate dividends of peace in both public and private life. Community and tribal faultlines as well as the underlying causes of conflict would need to be mapped – and pragmatic approaches adopted to mitigate violence against women and girls, with due emphasis on combating sexual gender based violence.

Gender inclusivity must visibly dominate all inter-organisational/government structures and initiatives for post-conflict reconstruction. These must translate into appropriate legislative reforms and safeguards, which offer women credible representation and meaningful role in decision-making, at both directional and grass-root levels.

With multiple players in the field and finite resources, there is an inescapable need for synergy, to optimise the gender effort in the field. The UN must encourage regional and international partnerships, with collaboration and context being the key words. Within the UN family, the mission military and civil components need to work closely together with the UN agencies for maximisation of effort and continuity. We must encourage systemic lead by national and local organisations, with women’s groups serving as a crucial bridge with policymakers, strengthening ownership at the local level. Practical gender inclusivity objectives must be pronounced – and targets laid down which are achievable. These should then be institutionally monitored and mid-course corrections carried out where necessary.

Gender inclusivity must visibly dominate all structures and initiatives for post-conflict reconstruction…

Gender insensitivity is an unfortunate result of under-development and prolonged conflict. Our effort should be to support social engineering initiatives to bring a long-term attitudinal change, so that primitive stereotyping and old prejudices are removed – and transformed policies and programs equally influence and benefit both women and men. The post-conflict state must endeavor to develop gender-sensitive instruments and mechanismsto address the issues of justice and accountability, as community and individual healing are a critical part of nation building.

Gender inclusivity is fundamental for democratic oversight, good governance and rule of law. Women need to be recruited and trained in the reconstructed civil, police and judicial services to facilitate gender sensitive law enforcement tasks, at both directional and practitioner levels. Finally, gender awareness frameworks must be cranked into all Security Sector Reform and Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-integration programs so that the ex-combatants are sensitized about their transformed roles in the post-conflict nation state.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Jasbir Lidder

Lt Gen Jasbir Lidder, former Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in Sudan, has extensive experience in conflict management and conflict resolution.

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2 thoughts on “Enhanced Role of Women in Conflict Zones

  1. The airforce is less than happy with the LCA . let women pilots be trained as fighter pilots and let them fly this aircraft as a border patrol , air defence , air interdiction lightweight combat patrol without crossing the international border . armed with six air to air missiles and a centreline long range feultank the lone female in her smal fighter can remain airborne for 2to three hours and in combat chase and kill any intruder crossing into the indian airspace . The lightweight fighter squadrons can be raised to 25 or thirty and the heavy and medium flown by males in su-30mki and RAFALE

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