Inclusive Security to US Congress: Women’s Inclusion Key to Combatting Violence Against Women

   •    June 25, 2014

Inclusive Security’s Director Jacqueline O’Neill advised the US Senate yesterday to pursue two goals to reduce global violence against women: bring more women to the peace table to end conflicts, and recruit and promote more women as police and security officers.

Invited by Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN), O’Neill testified Tuesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues.

Inclusive Security Director Jacqueline O'Neill testifies before a US Senate sub-Committee on Foreign Relations

Inclusive Security Director Jacqueline O’Neill testifies before a US Senate sub-Committee on Foreign Relations.

“Women’s security requires their participation in defining the future of their state — as formal decision makers and as contributors to public discourse,” O’Neill said.

During a hearing chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), O’Neill highlighted why women’s full and meaningful participation in peace and security processes is critical to ending the violence and discrimination often perpetrated against them. Read her full testimony here.

O’Neill called on Congress to take a range of actions to increase women’s participation in peace negotiations and security forces. Evidence shows that, when present at the peace table, women not only raise the issue of sexual violence, but broaden the discussion to address the root drivers of conflict.

“It’s often at this stage that the most troubled countries lay the foundation for their future, she said. “As one woman told me recently, ‘If we’re not at the table, you can be sure we’re on the menu.’”

The second priority, she said, involves women’s roles in security forces.

“In Pakistan, women make up less than one percent of the police force. In Afghanistan, they’re less than a third of one percent of the National Army. Worldwide, women are only about ten percent of police.”

The recruitment, retention, and professionalization of women in security forces around the globe increases the effectiveness of these forces and the women they are tasked with protecting. This has tremendous implications for reducing violence against women, but also contributes to other areas of national security such as countering violent extremism and terrorism.

To support more women in peace and security processes, O’Neill urged Congress to take the following steps:

  1. Pass the bipartisan Women, Peace, and Security Act, championed by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Mike Honda (D-CA), and Niki Tsongas (D-MA). This bill would speed up implementation of the US National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. Read more about this legislation here.
  1. Hold a hearing on the US National Action Plan with heads of government agencies, including the Secretaries of State and Defense, to evaluate progress on this strategy to ensure women are equal participants in conflict prevention and resolution.
  1. Support appropriations and policy bills that specifically resource the recruitment, retention, professionalization, and safety of women in military and police forces. Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which prioritized these efforts for women in Pakistan’s police forces and recognized the importance of recruiting more women into security forces to combat gender-based violence. Any final legislation should retain these important provisions. Additionally, last year—for the first time ever—Congress reserved $25 million for women in the Afghan National Security Forces. O’Neill urged Congress to maintain this funding in any defense spending or policy bills that are passed by Congress this year.

As Secretary of State John Kerry remarked at this month’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, “no team can possibly win leaving half of the team on the bench.” If the global community truly wants to combat violence and discrimination against women, it must get serious about making sure they are full and equal participants in all areas of peace and security decision making.

Also testifying were:

  • Catherine Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues;
  • Susan Markham, USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment;
  • Gary Barker, International Director of Promundo;
  • Hauwa Ibrahim, Nigerian activist and Senior Partner at Aries Law Firm; and
  • Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Patty Murray (D-WA).

In addition to Sen. Boxer, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, as well as Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Edward Markey (D-MA), were in attendance.

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