Since August 2018, a woman with an inclusive vision has been at the helm of the Paraguayan Vice Ministry of National Defense. It is Colonel (ret.) Gladys Pecci, who is committed to strengthening women’s empowerment programs in the Paraguayan Armed Forces. Col. Pecci met with Diálogo at her ministerial office to discuss gender and human rights issues in the military forces.
Diálogo: You are the first woman in your country to obtain such a high-ranking position. What does this post represent for the women in the Paraguayan Armed Forces?
Colonel (ret.) Gladys Pecci, Paraguayan Vice Minister of National Defense: It is a privilege, since the military arena is mostly associated with exclusive male representation. My appointment in this area offers a fresh and innovative view on the defense field, while generating a change and opening a professional path for women to share leadership positions that are essential in order to have a balance of ideas aimed at strengthening national defense.
Diálogo: What do you consider to be your biggest challenge?
Col. Pecci: Since my term began, I’ve faced many challenges; one of them was the preparation of the 2019-2023 Institutional Strategic Plan, achieved through a participatory process that included all the directorates that make up the Ministry of National Defense, which has strategic guidelines that serve as a guide and orientation for achieving institutional objectives.
Diálogo: How has the role of women evolved in the Paraguayan Armed Forces?
Col. Pecci: We have had a positive evolution since 2003, when the Paraguayan Armed Forces took the first step to incorporate women in their professional field, who opted for a career in the armed forces and today can reach the rank of captain. We have many cases of inclusion, such as that of the first female pilot in the Air Force, Lieutenant Yennifer Pedrozo; a patrol ship commander, Lieutenant Ana Ortiz; and the first female tactical diver in the Navy, Lieutenant Jacinta González. This process of incorporating women in the Armed Forces has had successful results with an interesting projection, which will allow, of course, for an increase in women in the force and their military professionalization.
Diálogo: How does your office cooperate with U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)’s Women, Peace, and Security program?
Col.Pecci: Paraguay recognizes the importance of the recommendation included in the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 1325, on Women, Peace, and Security, which highlights the leadership of women in achieving international peace and security, and we are currently relying on SOUTHCOM’s advice and support to move forward on this issue and the provisions of the resolution. Only 5.6 percent of the total Armed Forces’ personnel are women, and we want to increase this number. The Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces are being very receptive to breaking established structural paradigms, which allow women to fill certain roles, because we believe that democracy is enhanced when there is inclusion of women in the defense field. In the same way, I have met with the commanders of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and the director of Peacekeeping Operations, to establish clear lines of action to increase female participation in peacekeeping missions with a specific training plan, since we currently have only three women in United Nations peacekeeping missions.
Diálogo: What is new about human rights in the Armed Forces?
Col. Pecci: The Human Rights Directorate reports to the Vice Ministry of Defense, and among its roles is to disseminate issues of human rights and international humanitarian law within the Armed Forces. We have created a training program with a fixed class load on the subject, based on the development plan for the course’s syllabus, and it is another subject within each specialization course for our officers. We have also launched a manual on human rights and international humanitarian law that will provide support to develop the training programs. We have worked on this manual with SOUTHCOM’s support.