Building Gender Equality in Ukraine

2013 protests against the Ukrainian government brought forth a new social awareness of women’s roles in conflict and peacekeeping initiatives that challenged the country’s historically patriarchal culture. This U.S. Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Policy Brief—“Building Gender Equality in Ukraine”—discusses how this shift in views on gender equality impacted the development of Ukraine’s first National Action Plan (NAP) on WPS, as well as the plan’s strengths and challenges. As a result, Ukraine’s national government has adopted international conventions on gender equality and elevated women to powerful governmental positions. Still, several factors—including insufficient data to track the progress of gender equality initiatives, and devolution to local governments that have neither the resources nor the interest in the NAP’s implementation—undermine these national efforts. Recommendations for the U.S. and international community to bolster the implementation of Ukraine’s NAP include funding for data collection on critical gender issues, and development of programs and humanitarian relief efforts that incorporate a gender equality framework. Read the full brief here.

Stateless Justice in Somalia: Formal and Informal Rule of Law Initiatives

This paper, published by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, assesses how formal and informal justice systems function in the country’s ‘stateless’ society. It discusses the multiple, overlapping and contradictory sources of law noting that they create confusing and contentious dispensation of justice in Somalia.  Harmonization of these systems is necessary and should include public dialogue and confidence building, capacity building, establishment of a stable political environment and a major increase in international technical assistance and funding. Read the full report here.

Meet the Nigerian woman taking on Boko Haram

This article discusses the efforts of activist Hafsat Mohammed to promote the countering of violent extremism of Boko Haram within her community in Nigeria by empowering youth and getting local leaders involved. She notes the importance of working with religious leaders in particular seeing them as change agents. Through ongoing violence, Hafsat Mohammed believes that discussion and ideologies of hope and peace have a profound impact on combatting anger and frustration, especially from young men who are typically more vulnerable to being lured by the group. Women like Hafsat Mohammed, who often have had direct experience with conflict and violent encounters, have become essential voices through their roles in countering violent extremism despite the challenges of cultural backlash and the reality of threats to their own safety. Read full article.

‘Once and for all’: Women are essential to global stability

This article discusses the evolution of the global debate concerning security and the role of women in it beginning with the Fourth UN Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. Hunt highlights the conference’s message of inclusive security, noting its alignment with American thinker Joseph Nye’s “soft power” paradigm that was being developed during the same time period. While business and social science research as well as data concerning women working across lines of conflict support the validity of this security concept, 20 years later, obstacles to fully implementing it still remain. Hunt discusses these challenges as well as steps that should be taken to overcome them such as countries developing national action plans in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. Read full article.

The Women Fighting Boko Haram

Alexis Okeowo discusses the efforts of the Civilian Joint Task Force (C.J.T.F.), a vigilante group taking active measures to combat Boko Haram. C.J.T.F., which has approximately ten thousand fighters, originated in order to expose members of Boko Haram while preventing innocent people from being punished by the Nigerian military as part of its response to Boko Haram attacks. Although consisting primarily of men, women also play an essential role in the Task Force by confronting and searching women suspected of being connected to Boko Haram. In addition to discussing the C.J.T.F. and women’s involvement in it, the author also addresses the underlying issues contributing to vigilantism in the country. Read full article.

The Islamic State West Africa continues to utilize women as suicide bombers

Caleb Weiss discusses extremist group Boko Haram’s, which now calls itself the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWA), increased utilization of women to conduct suicide bombings. Providing a timeline of 34 suicide bombing attacks using women over a 16-month period (Jun 2014 – Sep 2015), he argues that the regularly-employed tactic indicates that the jihadist group is running camps to indoctrinate and train its female recruits. Weiss points to the significance and effectiveness of this tactic by noting the regional government’s response of banning women from wearing burkas, which the ISWA use to mask its suicide bombers. Read full article.

DoD Finally Gets the Point of Women, Peace, and Security

This article discusses the importance of incorporating UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) into military operations highlighting the efforts of the Australian Defense Force and the U.S. Department of Defense to do just that during the bi-lateral military exercise Talisman Sabre 2015 (TS 15). The author highlights the significance of including WPS in military exercises noting that, “[t]raining exercises – or war games – are critical to ensuring military readiness; they represent a principal way to integrate and, eventually, operationalize new ideas” like WPS. In addition to discussing the importance of integrating WPS, this article also discusses the strengths and weaknesses of TS 15 in terms of operationalizing WPS as well as the challenges that lie ahead, particularly for DoD. Read full article.

Defense Seeks to Double Efforts to End Global Conflict

This article discusses the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) nascent efforts to rethink security by considering the role of local women in areas experiencing conflict. While DoD is becoming more familiar with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS), this doesn’t guarantee implementation as the author points out. Concrete examples of some of Defense’s attempts to integrate WPS into military operations are provided as well as a discussion concerning the challenges in doing so. Read full article.

The complex life of female child soldiers

Brigit Katz provides a brief, but comprehensive overview of the complex experience of girl soldiers by: 1) debunking the myth that girls are solely recruited — often through abduction –to serve as domestic labor and sexual slaves noting that FARC in Colombia and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda, among others, actively recruit and train girls to engage in combat operations; 2) highlighting the value of girl soldiers, noting that commanders perceive them as easily manipulated and obedient ensuring a “constant pool of forced and compliant labor;” and 3) discussing the stigmatization and rejection of ex-girl soldiers when they try to reintegrate into society. Read full article.

‘Till Martyrdom Do Us Part’ Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon

This Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) report attempts to shed light on why women are being recruited by ISIS, what role they play in the organization, and what should be done to counter this threat. It is divided into three main sections: the first discusses the factors that lead women down a path of violent radicalisation to the point at which they decide they must make hijra (migrate) to join ISIS; the second presents in- depth profiles of seven (7) English-speaking females who have successfully joined ISIS and now reside in the so-called Islamic State; and the third section looks at counter-extremism work in terms of prevention and de-radicalisation, and analyzes where improvements are needed to address the topic of gender within processes of radicalization. Bottom line up front: There is no one-size fits all when it comes to the type of women who become radicalized or the solutions necessary to counter radicalization efforts.  Read full report.