WED 22 - 5 - 2019
Mar 6, 2019
The Daily Star
Evolving perspectives on women and security
Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine
There are countless examples of leading women who have changed the stereotypes and stood out to improve the many fields of life. It is the time of year to express gratitude toward these outstanding women and shed light on the contributions they have made to society. From experts, researchers, writers, industry leaders, game-changing startups, social entrepreneurs, gender equality activists, women innovators or heads of states, these women have made a difference in our world. They continue to show us why we need International Women’s Day.
It has been over 40 years since the United Nations dedicated March 8 as the day to celebrate the power and efforts of women worldwide. Friday marks IWD, the day when the entire world will celebrate women’s contributions in politics, as well as on the social, economic and cultural fronts. Exceptional women from every region in the world are showing us that International Women’s Day is as valid today as it was 108 years ago.
How many times have we heard, “Women are too weak to be great leaders” or “All the best designers are men?” And it is very hard to break stereotypes, such as about women not being able to have a career and a family, or of women not “getting” technology and how they should “leave programming to the boys.”
The 2019 International Women’s Day campaign theme is “Balance for Better.” It focuses on equal rights, equal responsibilities, equal opportunities and fairness of treatment. It calls for creative ways to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, stressing innovation and technology as an exceptional opportunity for women and girls to play an active role in building more inclusive systems.
One of the prevailing barriers is women’s limited participation in achieving peace and security at all levels despite the growing global recognition that women are essential to bringing about lasting peace and security. This global gap needs to be addressed in formal policies that are designed to integrate and empower women in leadership, especially women working in national security.
Gender equality means more security and more stability for all people. Research shows that gender inclusion and equality as well as involving women in policymaking processes are connected to sustainable peace processes and more security. Women’s vital role in preventing and resolving conflict is increasingly recognized. Therefore, they should be supported and empowered to challenge violence that threatens their communities. It is critical that women are prioritized in the implementation of peace and security agendas.
After nearly 20 years, the global fight against terrorism has reached a consensus, which is that in order to stop endless wars, a new approach is needed, one that seeks to prevent extremism by tackling the root causes of extremism and addressing the conditions that have enabled it to spread.
Violent extremism has renewed the discussion around women and peace. Broadly, peace, gender equality, women’s leadership in prevention, as well as protection and peace-building efforts are all linked.
This accord was articulated 19 years ago by U.N. Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, later reiterated by several women, peace and security resolutions, and reaffirmed in 2016 by the U.N. secretary-general’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism.
To create more peaceful and just societies and help address the grievances that allow violent extremism to grow, statements, words and ideas need to be matched with real actions; frameworks need to be translated into projects, programs and policies that deliver concrete developments in people’s lives.
The pool of potential extremists and terrorists are not only angry men but also women. The number of women recruited by violent groups is on the rise. In this process, women move across complex roles. They are not just victims of violent attacks. They are used by extremist groups as facilitators, martyrs and recruiters.
They may join extremist movements voluntarily, or by force.
Women relate to fighters as mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. Women may be on the front lines of prevention efforts as peace builders, and play a vital role in deradicalization and rehabilitation from extremism.
Reinforcing the conversation around women, conflict and peace will ensure that policies around preventing violent extremism and countering terrorism are gender-sensitive and gender-responsive, while also allowing the framework of the women, peace and security agenda or the lessons learned from gender in disaster risk reduction to be built up.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we would like to thank Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has taken a huge step toward changing the face of female political representation in Lebanon by naming Raya El Hassan as the first female interior minister. Hassan, a resilient woman and the first in several positions, is in charge today of security, which demonstrates a broader will by state representatives to improve the representation of women in politics.
The prime minister declared on Feb. 10 that “Lebanon needs to get used to women taking on big roles in the country.”
Hassan is also the first female interior minister in the Arab world, and strives to prove that she can accomplish security goals as well as any male counterpart. She might be a new phenomenon for the Arab region in taking on the important role in safeguarding security.
Sixty-five years after being granted their political rights, women in Lebanon are breaking barriers and presenting a modality that we hope will be repeated elsewhere.
“No peace without women” is a statement we are all keen to agree with. However, to what extent are women participating in establishing and maintaining peace today? And how can their roles be reinforced, both at the national peace table and as agents of change in their communities?
Having women in the security sector paints a powerful image of an inclusive society, and is an indicator of the evolution of the sector as a whole, which is usually a male-dominated industry.
Rubina Abu Zeinab-Chahine is executive director at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 06, 2019, on page 3.
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