The first Hybrid Senior Enlisted Leader Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Seminar was carried out at the Colombian Army Infantry School in Bogotá, August 23-24. The in-person and virtual seminar, hosted by U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) and the Colombian Military Forces’ General Command (CGFM), focused on the professional growth of women in defense and security forces and their significant contributions.
Military women can “integrate and solve situations during conflicts, because they have ideal, essential characteristics. They are more affectionate, they facilitate fieldwork, information gathering […]; humanitarian issues are further facilitated,” Colombian Navy Captain Armando Meza, head of the CGFM Gender Office, told Diálogo on August 28. “We must motivate the female personnel that make up the military forces [to] consider the possibility of being gender advisors.”
More than 250 people attended the event at the auditorium of the military school, which featured speakers from Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, and the United States. The seminar was also available virtually with panelists from Chile, Spain, and Mexico, with an online audience of 1,116 people.
“This seminar is a theoretical-practical benchmark of that great concept that Women, Peace, and Security is,” said Joint Command Sergeant Major Luis Alfredo Bueno Márquez, CGFM sergeant major, at the opening of the event. “We seek to empower female NCOs around the world, seeing them as leaders with the ability to transform their institutions and their nations.”
Colombian Navy Vice Admiral José Joaquín Amézquita García, chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Military Forces, presided over the seminar, accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. Bueno and U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major Benjamin Jones, SOUTHCOM command sergeant major.
WPS in Colombia
“I see this as a great success for everyone […],” Command Sgt. Maj. Jones told Diálogo. “The strategic objectives of Sgt. Maj. Bueno and mine were to highlight the professional growth capability and integrity development of female NCOs in each of the military forces of the Western Hemisphere and across the Atlantic.”
“Issues of professionalization, military operations, border security, cybersecurity and cyber defense, building integrity, success factors, among others, were the roadmap they jointly laid out in 2020,” Command Sgt. Maj. Bueno told Diálogo. “It’s all in order to increase our prevention and response capabilities, as well as common challenges that affect our beliefs, and also, women’s development, [and] peace and security.”
Women success factors
Virtual and in-person attendees heard the stories and challenges of women NCOs. The speakers concurred on how each one of them overcome various challenges to fulfill their roles as women, mothers, wives, and military professionals; always pushing boundaries with firm conviction.
In two years, WPS has completed more than 250 activities in 36 countries and trained more than 68,000 people, Jennifer Typrowicz, SOUTHCOM’s WPS gender advisor, said during her presentation. “This is a vital approach to operating in the current and future international security landscape,” she said.
At the end of the seminar, Command Sgt. Maj. Bueno left attendees with two recommendations: “Implement and strengthen measures to […] prevent, sanction, and eradicate violence and discrimination against women, which is growing due to cultural issues in each of the countries. The second recommendation is to identify and create indicators and interinstitutional monitoring systems, based on the implementation of legislation and state policies in each of the nations, to mitigate the impact of inequality in opportunities for women.”