National Defense University Puts the Spotlight on Women, Peace, and Security

   •    September 10, 2014

A full room of military officers awaits the start of a National Defense University panel on women and security. NDU prepares military and civilian leaders for high-level command and policy posts.

Late last month, Ambassador Carol Rodley, Director of Inclusive Security’s Resolution to Act program, spoke to the incoming class at National Defense University (NDU) about women’s roles in peace and security. The packed auditorium included 600 military and government personnel from 64 countries around the world.

Joining Ambassador Rodley on this expert panel were:

  • Dr. Robert Egnell, Capt., Swedish Army Reserves and Visiting Professor and Director of Teaching, Georgetown University
  • Col. Niave F. Knell, US Army
  • Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Cathy Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, US Department of State
  • Ambassador Wanda Nesbitt, Interim President, NDU (moderator)

As Ambassador Nesbitt stated in her opening remarks, “Women, peace, and security is not a women’s issue, it’s a leadership issue.” Gender should be woven through every activity of military and government institutions, rather than, as one speaker phrased it, viewed as “irrelevant or dangerous.” Ambassador Russell affirmed that it is in the strategic interest of the US to “get women involved and make peace processes more sustainable.”

Ambassador Rodley leads a participatory activity to stimulate discussion on gender. The mostly male audience was challenged to rethink their perspectives on women’s roles in peace and security.

As part of her presentation, Ambassador Rodley led an interactive exercise to get the audience thinking about gender perspectives. Volunteers arranged themselves on opposite sides of the auditorium based on whether they agreed or disagreed with a given statement, such as “Women and men have an equal chance to reach the highest leadership levels in my organization.” They were then asked to explain their positions. The discussion illustrated that gender is a cross-cutting issue—one that must be mainstreamed throughout security operations.

NDU has a history of facilitating meaningful discussion on women’s roles in peace and security and sponsors an award for students who research this issue. Watch Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton talk about NDU’s commitment to women’s leadership in this video.

Inclusive Security works regularly with NATO and the US Department of Defense to train military personnel and connect them with women leaders in conflict areas. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly, we advocate for the inclusion of women and gender perspectives in security operations.

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