Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) is a policy that recognizes women as a critical component to achieve sustainable international peace and security.
“This policy directly empowers women to impact their organizations and make a difference in the world,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Ana Mendiola, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron (MSAS) training flight chief. “WPS gives us a platform and opportunity to address the issues women have faced. It shows our strength, courage, and commitment to make things better for all.”
Between September 13-29, 2022, Master Sgt. Mendiola deployed to Paraguay with eight team members from the 571st MSAS. Their mission was to train Paraguayan Armed Forces, demonstrate interoperability, and build partnership capacity with the host nation. During their deployment, a real-life example of WPS in action was during Master Sgt. Mendiola’s first flight with the Paraguayan Armed Forces.
“The mission in Paraguay was historically significant because the first flight between the two partner nations included an aircrew comprised of only women, led by a female pilot,” said Master Sgt. Mendiola. “When I found out [Paraguayan Air Force] Captain Maria Jara would be flying the first flight, it became more than just flying with a partner nation. It meant that Capt. Jara has been empowered and entrusted by our partner nation to make an impact and a difference.”
Capt. Jara, originally born and raised in Paraguay, was once a student and pilot-in-training at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, where she attended Air Education and Training Command’s 14th Flying Training Wing pilot school. Now Capt. Jara is back home in Paraguay, passing on the knowledge she learned as a pilot to her fellow countrymen.
“This shows men and women can be leaders in whatever area they work in, that we can work together for a better and more united world where peace and equality reign,” said Capt. Jara.
WPS continues to be pioneering as it promotes a gendered perspective as well as women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and security.
However, it is also unprecedented in how it is advancing and empowering women.
“At U.S. Southern Command [SOUTHCOM], we are committed to integrating gender perspectives into all our activities,” stated U.S. Army General Laura J. Richardson, SOUTHCOM commander and the first woman to take on that position. “We encourage our partners to create structural changes in their militaries to allow for the same through our WPS program.”
Gen. Richardson’s statement on WPS was made before the 117th Congress Senate Committee on Armed Forces, March 24, 2022.
“Our main objective is to maximize the talents of the force through recruitment, retention, training, and advancement,” stated Gen. Richardson. “We consistently encourage our partner nation militaries to provide more opportunities for the women in their ranks, because doubling the talent pool will vastly improve that military’s competitiveness and professionalism.”
As of 2021, 103 countries have officially created National Action Plans for WPS.
While the road for women’s equality has been long, there is still work left to be done to achieve peace and security for all. These stories show the footprints of empowered women, that progress is being made.