Many scholarly works on women in jihadi organizations emphasize women’s lack of agency. Authors of these works argue women have fallen victim to these male-dominated organizations and thus have lost control over their actions. However, certain groups of women in some jihadi organizations—for example, Islamic State (or IS), Jaish al-Fatah, and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham—enjoy a degree of agency within the scope of their duties.
This policy brief examines the extent to which women in jihadi organizations have agency—that is, to which extent they are able to make independent decisions. Understanding the conditions under which women have agency, allows policy makers to recognize the diversity of roles and contributions of women within jihadi organizations and design appropriate policy responses.
As the idea that women can and should play pivotal roles in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE) gains greater traction, decision makers and scholars must keep striving toward a more nuanced understanding of the historical, cultural, and gendered contexts that enable extremist movements and organizations to grow.
Violent extremist narratives and actions threaten to roll back the hard-won gains women have made in the struggle for equality. With so much at stake, women must be engaged in efforts to counter violent extremism. However, women’s engagement in the fight against violent extremism also threatens these gains if engagement remains binary, failing to take into account the diverse roles of women.
Equipping and Training Modifications for Combat Arms Women by Ellen Haring
In July 2016 at Fort Benning, Georgia, US women for the first time began training to become Army infantry and armor officers. This first cohort of women has neither been issued a women-specific equipment to accommodate smaller physical frames. In addition, while some equipment challenges can be addressed through modifications in training, others require equipment modifications and new procurement. To optimize women's performance in this uncharted terrain, the Army must ensure they receive appropriate training and equipment also collect, monitor, and evaluate data on the performance of all its soldiers.
WIIS is pleased to announce the launch of a new two-year initiative: the Women, Peace, and Security + Gender Peace, and Security (WPS + GPS) Initiative!
The WPS + GPS Initiative is designed to bridge existing divides between the traditional security community and the WPS community. The Initiative seeks to reframe and broaden the WPS agenda to include a Gender, Peace, and Security agenda in order to advance knowledge and build and support a community of international security experts that is more diverse and knowledgeable about the gender dimensions of complex international security challenges. The Initiative will include a research and book project as well as a Next Generation Symposium bringing together an international cohort of next generation leaders in peace and security.
Women, Gender, and Terrorism Policies and Programming by Jeannette Gaudry Haynie and Dr. Chantal de Jonge Oudraat (2016)
In recent years, policymakers and international actors have begun to recognize the important role of women and women’s organizations in preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE). In October 2015, the UNSecurity Council adopted Resolution 2242, which linked the women, peace and security (WPS) and the P/CVE agendas and called for synergies between efforts aimed at countering violent extremism and those furthering the WPS agenda. In 2016, the US government incorporated P/CVE in its National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
The idea that women can be powerful allies in the fight against violent extremism is based primarily on two interrelated observations. First, women often function at the heart of their communities and are thus best placed to recognize early warning signs of radicalization. Effective P/CVE programs will capitalize on this. Second, a community that hopes to address extremism effectively must include the broadest possible range of perspectives in its programming. Because society, economies, and war affect them in gender- specific ways, women bring different perspectives to discussions and plans affecting security.
That said, women-centric P/CVE programming is in its infancy. An initial review of these programs points to five main problems, which are explored in this policy brief.
As a diverse network of 35 civil society organizations with wide expertise across the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda, U.S. CSWG advised the U.S. Government on the original NAP as well as the updated version. It stands ready to support the new U.S. Government in strengthening that action plan.
In that spirit, we urge the new U.S. Government to take three main actions in its first 100 days in office:
1) Recommit to the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.
2) Commit to a review of the U.S. NAP in consultation with civil society, in particular, the U.S. CSWG.
3) Establish a Presidential Women, Peace, and Security Interagency Task Force responsible for implementation of the U.S. NAP.
Ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in War and Peace: Recommendations for the Next Administration edited by Amanda H. Blair, Nicole Gerring and Dr. Sabrina Karim (2016)
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) can undermine long-term state stability and security even after states have transitioned out of violent conflict. This brief highlights four areas around SGBV that require urgent attention: the conflict cycle, moving beyond armed actors, protectors as perpetrators, and the role of SGBV in threatening political participation. This Brief was prepared by several members of the Missing Peace Young Scholars Network, supported through a longtime partnership between United States Institute of Peace (USIP); Human Rights Center, UC–Berkeley Law; Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO); and Women In International Security (WIIS). The Missing Peace Young Scholars propose a series of policy recommendations, keeping in mind the importance of ongoing collaboration as key to prevention and relief efforts.
Women, Gender and Terrorism: Gendered Aspects of Radicalization and Recruitment by Jeannette Gaudry Haynie (2016)
The rise of groups like ISIS has galvanized the expansion of the global terrorism problem. While ISIS is hardly the first extremist organization to attract women and to use gendered tactics for recruitment, its formation and growth has paralleled the explosion of social media, bringing unprecedented attention to the problem. As scholars and policymakers attempt to develop coherent responses to the threats that groups like ISIS pose, three critical issues need to be addressed.
(1) What drives individuals to join extremist groups, and are these drivers different for men or women?
(2) What are common methods of recruitment, and do they differ by gender?
(3) Have states and international institutions integrated gender perspectives in their responses to radicalization and extremist violence? Do these approaches empower women to resist recruitment?
Without an integrated dialogue between the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) and counterterrorism communities, the answers to these questions will remain incomplete and policy responses may fall short.
Combat Integration Handbook: A Leader's Guide to Success by WIIS (2016).
The Combat Integration Handbook is a reference guide for combat arms leaders at the battalion level and below. It was developed to help leaders successfully integrate their units. This guide comes at an essential time as combat arms units await the assignment of the first combat arms women who are currently making their way through their training pipelines.
The 4 primary authors have more than 70 years, combined, of military service. Together they combed through thousands of pages of research, conducted interviews and hosted a working group discussion with combat arms leaders to put together this first-of-its-kind Handbook. The Handbook exclusively addresses common challenges with gender integration in combat arms units and gives leaders and Soldiers best practices for successfully navigating the change process. Learn more about the Combat Integration Handbook here.
UN Security Resolution 1325 in Peacekeeping by Clara Fisher, Paige Harland, Kat Ilich, and Erin McGown (2016).
Despite the resolution’s widespread praise and recognition and the development of guidelines and indicators, on-the-ground implementation of UNSCR 1325 has been uneven, and has had varying degrees of effectiveness. This has resulted in a lack of women in senior leadership positions, failure to take gender-specific needs into account, and a loss of legitimacy for the United Nations. The full implementation of UNSCR 1325 would promote the inclusion of women and a gender perspective in peacekeeping missions.
This paper seeks to answer the question: How can the UN system bridge the implementation gaps of Security Council Resolution 1325 in its peacekeeping operations? We found that while enormous strides have been made in the inclusion of women and a gender perspective in peacekeeping, implementation is inhibited by three core issues: a lack of gender perspective, a lack of accountability, and a lack of resources. However, we also found that there are many practical suggestions for solutions to these core problems which could improve the implementation of UNSCR 1325.
Women, Gender and Terrorism: The Missing Links by Chantal de Jonge Oudraat and Michael E. Brown (2016)
In March 2016, WIIS launched the Women, Terrorism, and Violent Extremism program. With the generous support of the Embassy of Liechtenstein in Washington, D.C., WIIS will facilitate a series of expert roundtables to explore the role of women in terrorist and violent extremist organizations, including the gendered dimensions of radicalization. These round tables will provide a forum for bringing together an international group of experts and policymakers from the counter-terrorism and Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) communities. Key takeaways and recommendations of expert roundtables will be captured and disseminated in the form of policy briefs.
The first Policy Brief draws on the first roundtable discussion, held on March 20, 2016. This roundtable featured four noted experts: Ms. Sanam Anderlini, Co-founder and Executive Director of the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN); Dr. Kathleen Kuehnast, Senior Gender Advisor at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP); Dr. Paul Pillar, former official of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and now a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution; and Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, Director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. For more on this event, see wiisglobal.org/events.
The 1325 Scorecard Report by Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, Sonja Stojanović-Gajić, Carolyn Washington, and Brooke Stedman (2015).
WIIS launched the 1325 Scorecard at NATO HQ on October 29, 2015. The 1325 Scorecard is a tool to evaluate how well the principles of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) are implemented within the armed forces of NATO Allies. It also provides NATO and NATO member and partner states indications of how to improve implementation. Finally, it helps to further standardization and interoperability amongst NATO Allies.
3-piece publication on the status of UNSCR 1325
- Gender Mainstreaming: Indicators for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 and Its Related Resolutions by Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, Sonja Stojanović‐Gajić, Carolyn Washington, and Brooke Stedman (2015).
- Women in Combat - Adaptation and Change in the US Military by Ellen Haring (2015).
- The Piece Missing from Peace by Jeannette Gaudry Haynie (2015).
Conflict and Extremist-Related Sexual Violence: An International Security Threat by Crawford, K (2015).
The recent use of sexual violence by violent extremist groups, particularly Daesh (or ISIL), has received international attention. The violence resembles the use of sexual violence by state military forces and other armed groups in the past, who have used it to further their interests and propagate fear. Scholars researching conflict-related sexual violence have begun to uncover the complex patterns of political, military, social, and economic factors that lead to—or effectively prevent—such violence. Policymakers and members of civil society can make use of these findings to develop policies that assist survivors and hold perpetrators accountable. States and international organizations seeking to combat conflict-related sexual violence, including sexual violence committed by extremist groups, should seek out best practices among established and emerging political, legal, and operational initiatives. Efforts aimed at combating sexual violence should account for how women and men make sense of their own political and social identities, and the degree to which these understandings may inhibit or promote this particular form of violence. Strengthening international legal mechanisms to adjudicate perpetrators sends a strong message that sexual violence cannot continue with impunity. Domestic and international forces can receive training on dealing with sexual violence and give women the opportunity to serve in military and police institutions.
Women In Peace and Security Careers
Progress Report on Women in Peace & Security Careers: U.S. Congressional Staffs by Shoemaker, J; Poiré, M. (2014).
This report, Women in Peace and Security Careers: U.S. Congressional Staffs, is intended to raise awareness among the policy community about how women are faring on Capitol Hill and what needs to be done to support more women in leadership positions in the legislative policy environment. This is the third WIIS study in the Women In Peace and Security Careers series. Since 2008, WIIS has documented the status of women in leadership positions and women’s perspectives on career advancement in United Nations Peace Operations and in the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government. These studies are based on qualitative data gathered from individual interviews and focus groups. The series highlights gaps in women’s representation and the voices and experiences of women who are navigating paths to advancement. The series also offers recommendations for peace and security institutions to better support women’s participation.
Progress Report on Women in Peace & Security Careers: U.S. Executive Branch by Shoemaker, J; Park, J. (2010)
Recently, studies have focused on women’s leadership in some sectors, including academia, the media, and corporations. These studies have highlighted gaps in representation and proposed recommendations for improving women’s opportunities. But a missing component of research seems to be on women’s presence in a particular area of utmost importance—the national security and foreign policy arena. This is the first study to examine women in leadership within the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government in international security.
Women in United Nations Peace Operations:Increasing the Leadership Opportunities by Conaway, C; Shoemaker, J. (2008)
Since the historic adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000), the recognition of the important and beneficial role that women play in building sustainable peace has steadily increased. Civil society arguments for women’s inclusion in the formal processes of peacemaking and peacebuilding are bolstered by growing evidence of women’s impact on the ground in unstable and conflict-affected countries. Numerous policymakers and practitioners within the UN and other multi-lateral organizations are publicly acknowledging the value of women in leadership roles. Yet the lack of women in senior positions in the UN, particularly in peacekeeping missions, reflects the reality that significant cultural and institutional impediments remain to women’s entry and advancement within the UN. As a result, there is frustration with the slow pace of progress both inside and outside the system. There are few mechanisms in place to facilitate regular information sharing between the UN and civil society on this issue. Civil society organizations lack understanding about the skills and requirements for high-level positions, the process for selecting candidates, and the best means to nominate qualified experts. Within the UN, there are traditionally few resources and little attention devoted to outreach and communication with organizations that can access qualified female candidates, or to marketing these positions in a way that will attract the best talent.
Combat Integration Initiative
Under the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule, women in the US military were excluded from assignments in which the primary mission was to engage in direct ground combat, and were permitted to be excluded from other assignments in certain circumstances. That policy was rescinded on January 24, 2013, by then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, and the Services were directed to open closed positions and units to women not later than January 1, 2016.
Law and Security
Women, Peace and Security: Practical Guidance on Using Law to Empower Women in Post-Conflict Systems by Arostegui, J; Bichetoero, V. (2014)
With the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 in 2000, the Security Council for the first time not only recognized the disproportionate impact of conflict on women, it also mandated that the UN and all member states increase women’s participation in all peace processes, establish enforceable protections and ensure justice for women. Along with its companion Resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960, 2106 and 2122, which further clarify its requirements, UNSCR 1325 provides a strong framework and mandate for advancing gender equality and empowering and protecting women. It incorporates binding international law on the rights and protection of women and children such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Geneva Conventions and many others. Using the 1325 Women, Peace and Security framework as a synthesis of existing international law on the rights and protection of women in conflict and transition provides powerful tools to build inclusive and sustainable peace and security.
Women, Peace and Security: Practical Guidance on Using Law to Empower Women in Post-Conflict Case Studies by Arostegui, J; Bichetero, V. (2014)
Uganda has had a history of civil conflict since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962 - triggered by political instability and a series of military coups between groups of different ethnic and ideological composition that resulted in a series of dictatorships. In 1966, just four years after independence, the central government attacked the Buganda Kingdom, which had dominated during British rule, forced the King to flee, abolished traditional kingdoms and declared Uganda a republic. In 1971 Army Commander Idi Amin Dada overthrew the elected government of Milton Obote, and for eight years led the country through a regime of terror under which many people lost their lives. Amin was overthrown in 1979 by rebel Ugandan soldiers in exile supported by the army of Tanzania. Obote returned to power through the 1980 general elections, ruling with army support. In 1981 a five-year civil war broke out led by the current president, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and the National Resistance Army (NRA), protesting the fraudulent elections. Known as the Ugandan Bush War, the conflict took place mainly in an area of fourteen districts north of Kampala that was known as the Luwero Triangle. Many human rights abuses were committed as the government attempted to suppress the rebellion and thousands of people were killed. The NRA finally succeeded in overthrowing the Obote government in 1986 and Museveni became president.
WIIS Publications showcases the work provided by WIIS staff, affiliates, members, and the Civil Society Working Group for Women, Peace, and Security.
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