Gender integration in the armed and security forces in the fields of education, recruitment, and development was among the topics of the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Seminar, organized by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and the Chilean Joint Peacekeeping Operations Center (CECOPAC) in Santiago, Chile, April 27-29.
“This seminar is of great importance to exchange, discuss, and generate ideas to help increase and boost the important participation of women in the development, management, and employment of joint forces, as well as to expand the inclusion, retention, and promotion of gender within the armed forces,” said Chilean Army Colonel Moises De Pablo López, CECOPAC director, in his opening remarks to the more than 50 participants from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and the United States.
Paraguayan Vice Minister of Defense Gladys Ruiz de Pecci, who attended the seminar, said that it helped “promote women empowerment so that military institutions understand the role they play within their armed forces.” She emphasized the role that institutional communication plays to generate new action mechanisms and convey to military leaders the importance of the presence of women in all military institutions. “Institutional communication must be strengthened so that both men and women can work and train together in order for the institution in general and women to emerge stronger.”
WPS in action
The WPS program is part of a global effort to support women’s contributions in the defense and security sectors. The program follows the guidelines of U.N. Council Resolution 1325 adopted in 2000, for the full and equal participation of women in conflict resolution, peacebuilding, peacekeeping, humanitarian response, and post-conflict resolution.
WPS is central to SOUTHCOM’s mission. U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Duilia Turner, SOUTHCOM WPS chief, and Jennifer Typrowicz, SOUTHCOM WPS Gender advisor, explained the importance of the program for the transformation of the region’s armed forces and encouraged participants to be multipliers in their countries.
Dr. Fabiana Perera of the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies led the academic event, while U.S. Air Force Colonel Gregory Green, chief of the Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Chile, was in charge of regional coordination. The objective of the seminar, Col. Green said, was to “improve understanding and share best practices among armed and security forces in the region, through gender integration principles.”
The three-day seminar included group work, debates, individual presentations, and recommendations on how to break down institutional barriers to include women.
Argentine Army Lieutenant Colonel Luz Ivonne Perdomo, from the Gender Department, said that it is fundamental for women from different forces and countries to share their experiences, advances, and setbacks in gender in the defense field. “One of the greatest advances, is that thanks to the implementation of gender policies, we have increased the number of women in the armed forces.” The great challenge they still have, she said, has to do with “the career progression of women in the military to reach the highest positions in decision making.”
For Chile’s Carabineros Captain Maricarmen Mediavilla Castro, head of the Equal Opportunities Department, the seminar opened her eyes to the different realities that countries experience in developing professional careers. “Women have been an integral part of Carabineros since 1962, and today we are eligible for all positions at the strategic and operational levels. Women assume all specialties and we are in positions such as commissioners, checkpoint chiefs, prefects, and generals.”
High-ranking military, police, and civilian dignitaries took part in the third and final day of the seminar.
Chile’s Minister of Defense Maya Fernández Allende highlighted the importance of the WPS agenda and the valuable contributions of the 299 Chilean women in the Armed Forces who have participated in peacekeeping operations. “At the national level, the progressive integration of women in the armed forces and their incorporation in international cooperation operations is part of the defense policy aligned with the objectives of foreign policy, which positions Chile as a peace promoter.”
“By gathering today, we’re sending a strong message that Women, Peace, and Security isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ program, or an ‘add on’ to our military business as usual. Women, Peace, and Security is a core principle to making our armed forces more ready, more resilient, and more effective at keeping our citizens safe,” U.S. Army General Laura J. Richardson, SOUTHCOM commander, said at the end of the event.
“When our nations open the talent pool to the other 50 percent of our populations, we make our organizations more competitive, more efficient, and more successful. There’s no doubt that in countries where women have more freedoms, the countries are more prosperous,” Gen. Richardson concluded.