Gender integration in the armed forces and security forces in education, recruitment and development was one of the topics of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) seminar organized by US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and the Chilean Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center (CECOPAC ) in Santiago, Chile, 27.-29. April.
“This seminar is of great importance for the exchange, discussion and generation of ideas to increase and promote the important participation of women in the development, management and use of collective forces, as well as the inclusion, retention and advancement of women to expand gender within the armed forces,” said Chilean Army Colonel Moises De Pablo López, CECOPAC Director, in his opening address to the more than 50 participants from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and the United States.
Paraguayan Deputy Defense Minister Gladys Ruiz de Pecci, who attended the seminar, said it helped “promote the empowerment of women so that military institutions understand the role they play within their armed forces.” She emphasized the role that institutional communication plays in developing new mechanisms of action and in communicating to military leaders the importance of the presence of women in all military institutions. “Institutional communication must be strengthened so that men and women can work and train together so that the institution in general and the women come out stronger.”
WPS in use
The WPS program is part of a global effort to support the contributions of women in the defense and security sectors. The program follows the guidelines of UN Council Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000, for the full and equal participation of women in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian action and conflict resolution.
WPS is at the heart of SOUTHCOM’s mission. US Air Force Lt. Col. Duilia Turner, SOUTHCOM WPS Chief, and Jennifer Typrowicz, SOUTHCOM WPS Gender Advisor, explained the program’s importance in transforming the region’s armed forces and encouraged participants to be multipliers in their countries.
dr Fabiana Perera of the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies chaired the academic event, while US Air Force Colonel Gregory Green, chief of the Office of Security Cooperation at the US Embassy in Chile, provided regional coordination. The goal of the seminar, said Col. Green, is “to increase understanding and share best practices among the armed forces and security forces in the region through principles of gender inclusion.”
The three-day seminar included group work, debates, individual presentations and recommendations on how to break down institutional barriers to women’s inclusion.
Argentine Army Lieutenant Colonel Luz Ivonne Perdomo, of the Department of Gender Equality, said that it is fundamental for women from different armed forces and countries to share their experiences, progress and setbacks in the field of defense equality. “One of the biggest advances is that thanks to the implementation of gender policies, we have increased the number of women in the armed forces.” The major challenge they still face has to do with “the career advancement of women in the military, to reach the highest positions in decision-making,” she said.
For Chilean Carabineros captain Maricarmen Mediavilla Castro, Head of the Equal Opportunities Department, the seminar opened his eyes to the different realities countries experience when developing professional careers. “Women have been an integral part of Carabineros since 1962 and today we are suitable for all positions at a strategic and operational level. Women take all specializations and we are in positions like commissioners, checkpoint chiefs, prefects and generals.”
The third and final day of the seminar was attended by senior military, police and civilian dignitaries.
Chile’s Defense Minister Maya Fernández Allende highlighted the importance of the WPS agenda and the valuable contributions of the 299 Chilean women in the armed forces who have participated in peacekeeping operations. “At the national level, the progressive integration of women into the armed forces and their involvement in international cooperation is part of the defense policy aligned with foreign policy goals, which positions Chile as a promoter of peace.”
“As we gather today, we are sending a strong message that Women, Peace and Security is not just a ‘nice to have’ program or an ‘add-on’ to our usual military business. Women, Peace and Security are a core principle to make our armed forces more operational, resilient and effective in keeping our citizens safe,” said US Army Gen. Laura J. Richardson, SOUTHCOM commander, at the end of the event.
“When our nations open up the talent pool to the other 50 percent of our population, we make our organizations more competitive, more efficient and more successful. There is no doubt that in countries where women have more freedoms, countries are more prosperous,” concluded General Richardson.