ARLINGTON, Va. –
The National Guard is playing a key role in integrating a Department of Defense initiative to reinforce the importance of equal gender participation in all aspects of global peace and security.
The 2020 Women, Peace and Security Strategic Framework and Implementation Plan stresses the inclusion of women in preventing and resolving conflicts, peace negotiations, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and post-conflict reconstruction efforts.
“Representation matters,” said Air Force Maj. Alicia Lacy, the women, peace and security adviser with the National Guard Bureau’s International Affairs Division.
“When it comes to gender, some things affect men and women and girls and boys in different ways,” she said. “However, I don’t want people to think that women, peace and security is just about needing more women. It’s more than that. It’s about global human rights.”
The 2020 DOD plan outlines three objectives: to exemplify diversity and meaningful participation by women across the U.S. Joint Force, encourage meaningful participation in defense and security sectors for women in partner nations and ensure human rights for all.
Lacy said it’s important for the National Guard to share these initiatives with partner nations so they may also consider gender perspectives.
The National Guard has established partnerships with countries worldwide through the DOD National Guard State Partnership Program. This program pairs National Guard elements with other nations to help build U.S. and partner capacity to meet 21st-century security challenges.
Through the SPP, Guard members train with foreign military counterparts to build trust and lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
“The State Partnership Program is the perfect opportunity for our partners to see us execute principles of women, peace and security, and also for us to encourage our partners to do the same thing,” Lacy said.
Lacy said cultural differences must be acknowledged, and globally, not all militaries have a standardized approach to including women in military planning and operations. However, the National Guard has taken an active role to encourage partners to “look at things through the gender lens.”
“We all deserve a right to have fair and equitable opportunities to excel and have our opinions considered,” Lacy said.
The Florida, Kentucky and Nevada National Guard have conducted exchanges with partner nations to involve women in peace and security efforts. The Florida National Guard and Guyana Defence Force held a women, peace and security workshop in Georgetown, Guyana, to advocate for women in 2021 and the results were swift.
“After that, they were able to improve their latrine and lodging facilities to accommodate women, which reduced health hazards for all,” said Army Maj. Kimberly Quinn, the SPP coordinator with the Florida National Guard. “They have recently deployed the first rotation of females to their border security mission, so they’re now engaging their total force in that mission. When I think about women, peace and security, that’s what it’s about – tangible effects.”
The DOD WPS plan has gained momentum since it was introduced, Quinn said, and it builds on the WPS Act of 2017 and a 2019 U.S. government strategy to include women in all peace and security efforts. These initiatives were born out of the October 2000 U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, among the first international resolutions to address the disproportionate effects of armed conflict on women and girls.
Lacy doesn’t believe change will happen immediately, but gradually. “I think we’re heading in the right direction,” she said. “Of course, it’s not going to happen overnight. However, when you look at our senior leadership, it’s more diverse than ever. We’re not only encouraging our partners to include women in decision-making processes, but we’re also showing them.”
Including women in negotiations often leads to more holistic dialogue, she said, citing U.N. data that women’s participation increases the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years by 20% and lasting 15 years by 35%.
For many, it comes down to simple interaction. The Kentucky Army National Guard held an SPP planning conference with its partner Djibouti this month. During this meeting, Army 1st Sgt. Marissa Lowe, the senior human resources noncommissioned officer with the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade, was the sole female Kentucky Guard member present but noticed another uniformed woman.
“I locked eyes with a Djiboutian female counterpart,” Lowe said. “We were the only women in the room. We didn’t have to say anything to each other. We just smiled at one another because we were glad to be a part of it.”