1325 And Beyond: Winning Essays

In February 2020, Women In International Security (WIIS) and the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Washington, DC launched an international essay competition 1325AndBeyond to mark the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325) and stimulate new thinking about the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda.

UNSCR 1325 called on all UN member-states and the UN Secretary-General to:

  • Increase the representation and participation of women in conflict prevention and conflict resolution processes, including in security institutions;
  • Integrate gender perspectives in the analysis of international security issues; and
  • Adopt special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence in conflict settings.

Nine subsequent UN Security Council resolutions have reinforced and refined the WPS agenda.

Regional organizations as diverse as the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have developed organization-wide policies and Action Plans to incorporate the guidance from UNSCR 1325 into their deliberations and actions. At the national level, some 84 states have developed National Action Plans and adopted legislation to implement and advance the WPS agenda. Civil society organizations have played important roles in mobilizing governments and international organizations. All these actions have been important steps forward and necessary for progress, yet they have not been sufficient.

Progress towards the goals of the WPS agenda has been limited and uneven. Even where progress has been made, many of the gains are vulnerable and potentially reversible.

The underrepresentation of women in national and international security institutions and deliberations remains glaring. Gender perspectives are insufficiently integrated into analyses of national and international security challenges. Violence against women and girls has continued at horrifying levels, especially in conflict settings. In addition, the Covid-19 crisis has intensified and brought to the fore existing and new gender inequalities. 

As societies and nations across the world face unprecedented challenges to gender equality, human security and lasting peace, implementation of the WPS agenda is more important than ever. The 1325andBeyond competition has triggered many innovative and imaginative ideas and strategies to achieve the objectives of UNSCR 1325 and the WPS agenda. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who submitted essays. We have been excited to see the great diversity of perspectives, calls for more comprehensive


approaches to the WPS agenda, ideas for better implementation and monitoring mechanisms as well as engagement of all segments of society. The great number and the diversity of contestants and submissions make us hopeful for the future.

We would also like to thank the members of the international jury: Fauziya Abdi Ali; Joanna Barelkowska; Chantel Cole; Jessie Evans; Chantal de Jonge Oudraat; Karma Ekmekji; Jessica Grün; Layla Hashemi; Karin L.

Johnston; Miriam Laux; Maxinne Rhea Leighton; Kayla McGill; Hannah Neumann; Chiedo Nwankor; Hannah

Proctor; Liane Schalatek; Donald Steinberg; Dominik Tolksdorf; Anna Von Gall; Roksana Verahrami; Karin

Warner; and Ursula Knudsen Latta. Special thanks go to Dominik Tolksdorf of the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

Washington, DC; Kayla McGill, Roksnana Verahrami, Julia Batavick, Susan McLoughlin, Maeve Murphy, and Rachel Sedehi from the WIIS team; Valerie Norville for editorial support; as well as to the Mobilizing Men as Partners for WPS, an initiative of Our Secure Future, for contributing to the Honorable Mention awards.

This volume brings together the winning essays of the 1325and Beyond competition. An impressive group of women and men from around the globe. We hope that international organizations and governments around the world will take the recommendations of the essay writers to heart.

Dr. Chantal de Jonge Oudraat                                                             Mr. Bastian Hermisson

President, WIIS                                                                                   Executive Director,

Washington, DC                                                                                  Heinrich-Böll- Stiftung Washington, DC

PREFACE        iii

UNSCR 1325 and the WPS Agenda: A Feminist Response to Authoritarianism        1

Ana Laura Velasco Ugalde (Mexico) – First Prize

Enhancing WPS in the 2020s: Lessons Learned and Strategies for Transformative Change        4 Agathe Christien (France) – Second Prize

Mobilizing a Forgotten Sector: A Case for a New Media Code of Ethics on Gender and Conflict        9

Annina Claesson (Sweden) – Second Prize

1325 and Beyond: Moving the WPS Agenda in Latin America Forward        13

Paula Drumond & Tamya Rebelo (Brazil) – Third Prize

The Women, Peace and Security Agenda in ASEAN: Progress, Gaps and Ways Forward        17

Muhammad Ammar Hidayahtulloh (Indonesia) – Third Prize

1325 and Beyond: Ways Forward for the United Nations        21

Esther Luigi (France) – Fourth Prize

Dismantling Structural Prejudices that Promote Gender Inequality:        25

Overturning a Culture of Violence against Women in Nigeria Itodo Samuel Anthony (Nigeria) Honorable Mention

The Third Awakening: The Decade of SHE Politics        28

Chelsea Cohen (Zimbabwe) Honorable Mention

How the Private Sector Can Advance UNSCR 1325 in the 2020s        31

Karla Drpić (Croatia) – Honorable Mention

UNSCR1325 and Beyond: Engagement of Women in Dialogue with Terrorist and         35 Violent Extremist Groups

Tabitha W. Mwangi (Kenya) Honorable Mention

Promoting Women’s Rights: Creating Conditions for Post-Conflict Peace?        39 Gudlaug Olafsdottir (Sweden) – Honorable Mention

Escaping the Closet: Women, Peace and Security Was Already Queer        43

Andrea Tuemmler (United States) Honorable Mention


UNSCR 1325 and the WPS Agenda:  A Feminist Response to Authoritarianism

Ana Laura Velasco Ugalde


he Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda has reached a new generation. Feminists who were children and teenagers when UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was approved are the new young voices upholding the responsibility to guard its accomplishments and commit to its advancement.

These are particularly challenging times for such a quest. In the last five years, the world has seen the return of authoritarian, xenophobic, misogynist, and racist leaders in many countries both in the “Global North” and “Global South.” In addition, a pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of traditional security approaches, even as these authoritarian leaders capitalize on it to further their grasp on power. We know authoritarianism grows in crisis. This is the world WPS is encountering, and this is the challenge for my generation.

Having learned about the history, accomplishments, and struggles of the WPS agenda while working on my master’s degree and from my experience as a reporter and activist in Mexico, I write this essay to propose ways that civil society, journalists and UN Women can advance the objectives of UNSCR 1325 over the next decade. Underlying my proposal is the understanding that the pandemic provides empirical, powerful proof of the failures of the current system to keep every person in the global community safe. The return of authoritarian masculinist— and at times militaristic—figures represents an enormous test for the pursuit of an inclusive, feminist approach to peace and security, but a strategy that fails to encompass 2SLGBTQQIA, indigenous, disabled people, immigrants, refugees, and environmental protection in the “Global North” and “Global South” will fail to deliver justice.

What Is At Stake?

Feminist critiques of traditional approaches to international security were right all along. Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, director of the Centre for Women, Peace and Security, rightly asks, “Why are we awash in weapons and military equipment but short on medics and masks?”1 The rapid spread of COVID-19 is pushing the debate on the prioritization of military policies over public health services. The risk of a pandemic was foreseen, but the general unpreparedness of states reveals the dim attention the threat received. In contrast, consider the resources focused on traditional security debates over European defense and the relevance of NATO. Will the rise of military expenditure to 2 percent of GDP, as agreed by the allies and demanded by the current US administration, make Europeans safer? What actually saves lives? And whose lives are saved? One can only wonder if, after the devastating loss of human life in Spain and Italy during the pandemic, it is smart—and ethical—to invest fiscal resources to reach NATO’s goal instead of investing in health care systems, which women largely shape and staff. It is them, not soldiers, who are saving the most lives.

The supposed division between private and public, questioned by feminists for decades, is also contentious in the current crisis. The emergency measures most countries proposed for facing the pandemic ignore gendered, racialized, and economic violence. In a recent conference, scholar and activist Angela Davis stated, “This whole idea of ‘staying at home’ assumes we can retreat to a safe, nurturing environment, a refuge.”2 A number of reports from countries around the world warn of the increase in domestic violence, and the UN Secretary General also called attention to the issue.3 Paradoxically, the call to stay home has exposed the violence in private spaces. A similar argument can be made about the supposed clear-cut division between peacetime and wartime. We must recognize that these alerts confirm one of the criticisms that the WPS agenda has received during the past two decades: its focus on conflict situations. As is being proved in this global crisis, women face structural violence in a continuumthat does not end in “peacetime”.

Despite overwhelming evidence of the need for a different approach to security, authoritarianism is not in retreat. At the moment of this writing, there are indications leaders are abusing the crisis to acquire increased powers, as in Israel and Hungary. Another troubling outcome since the detection of the virus has been the harassment and crackdown on whistleblowers and journalists who question official narratives, as in China. Furthermore, some responses to COVID-19, especially in the “Global North,” have included eugenic approaches by discriminating against disabled and racialized bodies. Similarly, indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable, given the systemic discrimination they suffer from health care systems. Therefore, it is important to contextualize the goals of UNSCR 1325 and the WPS agenda in this pivotal moment. I urge a change of paradigm in the next decade. My two proposals aim to strengthen the first line of responders to authoritarianism: those responsible for the accountability mechanisms of society and for transnational advocacy of the WPS agenda.


Reconnecting UNSCR 1325 with its constituency must be a priority for the next decade. My first proposal is to significantly expand efforts to put civil society at the center of the WPS agenda.4 Civil society organizations (CSOs) were vital to UNSCR 1325. Yet they are often unrecognized, marginalized and undervalued.5 Women cannot only be represented or viewed through a gender lens, since their struggles also include other dimensions of the violence they may suffer. This is where CSOs come in, by embodying intersectional identities. But in order to execute this function, they cannot be left alone. It is precisely where they are most needed that they are most vulnerable. That was the case, for example, of queer activist Marielle Franco in Brazil, murdered in 2018, and women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for almost two years. The persecution of human rights defenders is an ongoing global crime and a threat to the WPS agenda. I propose to powerfully expand the network of grassroots NGOs, with a deeply intersectional approach that creates platforms for endorsement and support between the “Global North” and the “Global South.”

In this regard, it is imperative not to perpetuate the focus on the “Global South” as “case studies.”6 The agenda must recognize that CSOs are doing indispensable work in the “Global North,” which has vulnerable populations as well, as in Canada, where they fight to end femicides against indigenous women and girls. The objective is not to further restrict the characterization of CSOs only as watchdogs, but to open channels for them to have the resources to fulfill this role effectively. This effort must be led by UN Women offices around the globe, since can reach a wider range of intersectional, grassroots CSOs. Importantly, UN Women should be a facilitator, not a sponsor. Also, this emphasis does not replace National Action Plans, or Regional Action Plans, as public policy instruments. Rather, it aims to provide an opportunity for CSOs to fully exercise the dimensions of accountability, expertise and ownership and to step up the pressure in countries that have not yet implemented the instrument to fulfill their promises.

The next decade is the moment of truth for the WPS agenda in more than one sense. The developments of the past years indicate that it is urgent to address the spread of misinformation. The hard-won gains that the agenda has achieved must not be taken for granted. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently pronounced, “Our common enemy is the virus, but our enemy is also a growing surge of misinformation, so we need to urgently promote facts and science.” This warning could not be more appropriate, both in the context of the current crisis and to explain the larger picture. For example, in Mexico, religious groups are blaming the surge of the COVID-19 on feminism and queer people. This is not a new tactic. In Germany, the terrorists who attacked Halle’s synagogue last October blamed feminism for the lack of births and the arrival of immigrants. Furthermore, it is well known that many of these authoritarian, masculinist leaders are openly against equality, the core value of the agenda, and that they also thrive, and even actively engage in misinformation.

Therefore, my second proposal is to tap journalists as protagonists of the WPS agenda. This responds to two issues: Feminist stories are still framed as women’s issues, not as justice and intersectional ones, and, journalism continues to be a high-risk profession in many countries. Just like CSOs, they are directly responding to the threat of authoritarianism. Over the next decade, proponents of the WPS agenda must ally with journalists around the globe to create a mechanism for sharing information related to the objectives. The focus of the alliance must be investigative journalists, small newspapers, and community radios that are concerned with intersectional justice, violence and conflict. UN Women offices around the world can lead this effort as a parallel project to that with the CSOs. Here, too, its role would be as a facilitator for enabling contacts  between journalists and CSOs but also as a source of data related to the agenda. The latter would help open channels of communication that allow for quicker verification of information. Ensuring the flow of transparent, objective, verified information is essential to counter false news and other information that is used to spread fear and confusion.


The implementation of UNSCR 1325 and the WPS agenda in general has largely been through traditional security approaches, with actors such as police, military and UN Peacekeeping Operations reinforcing the centrality of the use of force and armed personnel in working for peace and democracy.7 The limitations of that approach, long emphasized by critical and feminist research, are impossible to ignore in the current crisis.8 As Ann Tickner argues, true security cannot be achieved until unequal power structures of gender, race and class are eliminated or at least diminished.9 This is why it is so relevant to privilege intersectional, decolonial approaches in the next 10 years. In order to achieve this, the agenda must reencounter its constituency and close ranks with those first responders who are not only in an unmatched position to push for inclusive change but are also most exposed to the attacks of authoritarian leaders. We need courage to embrace this moment,

and we a need radical alternative.


  1. Sanam Naraghi Anderlini, Women, Peace and Security in the Time of Corona, LSE WPS Blog (London: LSE, March 25, 2020).
  2. Naomi A. Klein and Angela Davis, “Live: @rising_majority teach-in with @NaomiAKlein and Angela Davis,” filmed April 2, 2020
  3. Antonio Guterres, António Guterres (UN Secretary-General) on Gender-Based Violence and COVID-19 (New York: United Nations, webtv.un.org, April, 5, 2020)
  4. Cynthia Cockburn, From Where We Stand, Women’s Activism and Feminist Analysis, (London: Zed Books, 2007), p. 141.
  5. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Civil Society (peacewomen.org: March 2020).
  6. Parashar, Swati. “The WPS Agenda: A Postcolonial Critique”, in Sarah E. Davies and Jaqui True, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Women, Peace and Security, ed., (Oxford University Press: 2019), p. 827.
  7. Lyndsay McLean-Hilker, “UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security: What Has It Achieved,” AllegraLab (May 8, 2015).
  8. Laura J. Sheperd, Gender, Violence and Security: Discourse as Practice (London: Zed, 2008).
  9. Ann Tickner, “Peace and Security from a Feminist

Perspective,” in Sarah E. Davies and Jaqui True eds., The Oxford Handbook of Women, Peace and Security, eds. (Oxford University Press: 2019), p. 15.


Ana Laura Velasco Ugalde (Mexico) is a feminist security analyst and journalist currently studying for a Masters in Gender, Violence and Conflict at the University of Sussex. She also works as a researcher for a Mexican NGO focused on security, justice and the rule of law, and has previously worked for the Mexican Secretariat of Economy with a posting in

Germany. She holds a MA in International Law by the Universidad de Granada and did her undergraduate studies at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México.

Enhancing WPS in the 2020s: Lessons Learned and Strategies for Transformative Change

Agathe Christien


n 2000, the UN Security Council adopted the landmark Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) to increase women’s participation in the prevention and resolution of conflict, protect women and girls from gender-based and sexual violence, and provide humanitarian relief and recovery through a gendered lens. At the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, progress has however been slow and uneven

across the globe.1 The challenge of the decade ahead is to push for transformative change. 

Major existing and emerging issues such as climate change, global health crises and violent extremism will threaten international security in the 2020s and require gender-inclusive responses. These major issues are an opportunity for the United Nations, governments, and civil society to advance the WPS agenda and adapt it to the needs of today and tomorrow by reflecting on lessons learned and proposing effective strategies and actions for gender mainstreaming.

Advancing the WPS Agenda

The past two decades have seen incremental progress of UNSCR 1325’s objectives. In the new decade, we must advance the current WPS agenda by learning from the mixed successes of women’s participation in peace processes and proposing recommendations for the UN and member states to effectively mainstream gender in UN peacekeeping and efforts to counter violent extremism.

Learning from the Mixed Success of Women’s Participation in Peace Processes

Women remain excluded from formal peace negotiations. Data from the 2010s show that men represented 97.5 percent of chief mediators and 91 percent of mediators in formal peace processes.2 The very few women who access the formal peace table face major challenges, including tokenism and limited roles to influence negotiations.

Adverse trends can be observed in gender provisions in recent peace agreements. While there was a major increase in gender provisions in peace agreements after the passage of UNSCR 1325—from below 10 percent in the 1990s to 45 percent in 2013—the number of references to women and girls decreased to 11 percent in 2018.3 This decrease can partly be explained by the decline in the number of women listed as parties or third parties to the agreements in recent years.4 Vigilance will be required to respond to this backslide.

Even where peace accords are gender sensitive, as was the 2016 Colombia Peace Accord, gender provisions often fail to be implemented. As of 2018, about half of the 130 gender-related commitments of the Colombia agreement had not been initiated and only 4 percent fully implemented.5

The UN and other international actors must advocate for women’s effective inclusion at all stages—from early dialogues to agreement implementation—among parties and third-party delegations. Pressing for inclusion is particularly critical in Yemen, Syria and Libya, where the risk of women’s exclusion is high.

While women are typically excluded from formal peace processes, they have played major roles in informal peace processes. Dayal and Christien found that 60 percent of 1989–2017 peace processes had identifiable informal peace processes, of which 71 percent had clear evidence of women’s groups’ involvement.6 Women’s groups have successfully organized for peace and legitimated formal peace processes. They have also provided critical expertise and information to formal negotiators and broader constituencies. For example, the Women’s Coalition in South Sudan was established to strengthen women’s participation in the peace process. The Coalition provided technical support for women participants in the formal peace talks. This support helped women negotiate a 35 percent quota for women’s share of places in executive bodies and two additional seats for women in the institutions for the implementation of the agreement.7

Moving forward, it will be important to capitalize on the successes of women’s grassroots organizations and better connect the various diplomatic tracks to channel grassroots voices. Informal processes can give women a space to network, build legitimacy and gain skills.8 Funders and organizers should provide resources for women to participate in those informal peace processes by covering costs of travel and transportation and providing child care and security. Such support can encourage women from various backgrounds to participate and help diversify peace processes.

Women have political agency and do not speak with one voice, especially in protracted violent conflicts, where polarization is high. In the 2020s, the challenge will be to meaningfully engage young women in peacebuilding activities and adopt an integrated approach with the Youth, Peace and Security agenda. Concrete actions include the creation of grassroots-led regional networks of young women peacebuilders, in partnership with UN Women, for peer learning, coordination, and channeling recommendations to the formal peace table. Adopting a Gender Equality and Human Security Approach in UN Peacekeeping

One of the major goals of UN Peacekeeping is to increase the participation of women in police, military and civilian contingents of UN peacekeeping missions. While women’s representation constituted 1 percent of deployed uniform personnel in 1993, they represented 4.4 percent of military personnel and 11.1 percent of police personnel in 2019.9 Progress in this sector has also been incremental and lacks transformative power.

Research has documented that women peacekeepers can make a difference. For example, an all-female police unit in Liberia used less force than other units and at the same time improved locals’ trust in peacekeeping.10 The establishment of this all-women unit was also associated with a major decline in reported cases of sexual abuse by peacekeepers, from 47 in 2005 to 18 in 2009.11 Research in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone also demonstrated that female victims of sexual violence were more likely to report such abuse to a female officer than a male officer.12 While such research helps to make the case for greater participation of women in peacekeeping and the security sector, it also risks perpetuating essentialist views of women’s roles rather than a gender equality perspective.

The challenge for UN Peacekeeping in this decade will be to comprehensively mainstream gender in evaluating peacekeeping effectiveness beyond indicators such as female peacekeepers’ share in total units and the reduction of sexual abuse and exploitation perpetrated by rebel groups, government forces, and peacekeepers themselves. Mainstreaming gender in UN peacekeeping includes collecting sex-disaggregated data in all peacekeeping activities and adopting a human security approach to peacekeeping that responds to the peace and security needs of local men and women. Regular needs assessments, consultations and engagement can help accomplish this mainstreaming.

Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (P/CVE): Strategies for Long-Term GenderResponsive Policies and Programming

In efforts to integrate the WPS and P/CVE agenda, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2242 in 2015 to increase women’s participation and mainstream gender in P/CVE and counterterrorism. Since then, the UN and others have taken gender perspectives into consideration, and there has been discussion of the roles women may play in countering and fueling violent extremism. The challenge is to move P/CVE theory into concrete practice and policy at the state level.

States like the United States still tend to charge fewer women than men with terrorism.13 Women are less likely to be arrested and convicted and receive more lenient sentences than men.14 Yet female foreign fighters in camps like al-Hol in Syria are spreading ISIS ideology to their children and other women.15 States should address these ticking time bombs by adopting long-term gender-responsive policies for repatriation, prosecution, and rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation and reintegration programs across the globe overall fail to mainstream gender and address women’s needs. Effective strategies can include credible ways out of violent groups by engaging local female religious leaders, providing child care during rehabilitation and reintegration programs, and offering vocational training and education opportunities of interest.16

While UNSCR 1325 and subsequent Security Council resolutions have provided an important framework to increase women’s participation in all aspects of peace and security, sustained efforts are required to effectively implement it. In the new decade, we must both advance the current framework and adapt it to address emerging peace and security challenges.

Adapting the WPS Agenda to the Critical Issues of Tomorrow

The 2020s offer an opportunity to adapt the current agenda to issues that were neglected when UNSCR 1325 was adopted 20 years ago. These include addressing the impacts of climate change and health crises on women and girls, especially in conflict contexts, and transitioning to a more comprehensive understanding of gender in a Gender, Peace and Security framework.

Integrating Climate Change into the WPS Agenda

From degradation to conflict-related pollution, the environment is one of the “silent victims of war.”17 Conflict and climate change exacerbate underlying inequalities and disproportionally affect women and girls. The impacts of climate change and environmental vulnerability on women and girls, especially in conflict contexts, and gender-responsive climate adaptation should be integrated into the WPS agenda and become a priority.

Forward-looking approaches include gender-responsive and climate-resilient post-conflict reconstruction. For example, in post-conflict Sierra Leone, Freetown mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr has led the three-year city plan “Transform Freetown,” which addresses informal sanitation and flood mitigation, especially for women in informal settlements.18

Burundi faced major deforestation due to conflict and illegal exploitation of the forest’s resources. In the postconflict period, grassroots women from the Association Femmes et Environment au Burundi (AFEB) led the replanting of 400,000 native and eucalyptus trees in the Kabira forest. Once harvested, 70 percent of the income generated by the eucalyptus trees returned to the women’s group.19 Such sustainable management of natural resources can contribute to women’s livelihoods and address environmental vulnerability. Mainstreaming Gender into Responses to Pandemics and Health Crises

Public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic have become a major threat to international security and have major impacts on women, as they care for out-of-school children and experience greater domestic-partner violence.20 Such health crises are particularly harmful in humanitarian emergencies and conflict-affected areas due to poor health systems and dire economic situations.

In the early 2020s, states must deal with short- to long-term effects of COVID-19. Women’s effective participation and equal representation in health response planning, decision-making and implementation will be particularly critical to ensure that states adopt recovery measures targeted at women. 

Moving from Women, Peace and Security to Gender, Peace and Security

The WPS agenda focuses too narrowly on women—sometimes as a homogenous entity—and does not sufficiently take into account the diversity of women and gender roles. Moreover, men are also affected by gender-based violence and rape in violent conflict. A revised agenda should address how conflict affects men and women.

Toxic masculinity can play a major role in explaining sexual violence perpetrated by UN peacekeepers and in fueling violent extremism from far-right movements to jihadist groups.21 For example, this violence particularly hurts LGBTQ communities, which have been targets of terrorist attacks such as the 2016 nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.22

In such a context, moving from the Women, Peace and Security agenda to a Gender, Peace and Security framework in the 2020s will better address the gender impacts of conflict on men and women from all backgrounds.

To conclude, we can draw on lessons learned from the past 20 years of advocacy for the WPS agenda to bring about transformative conflict management in the new decade. The security threat landscape is evolving, and states must adapt the WPS agenda to existing and emerging needs by pushing for gender-responsive and human security approaches. Backlash against women’s effective participation will likely be an issue in various sectors. Effective strategies for states, civil society, and the UN can mitigate the backlash against gender equality and help overcome barriers that hinder women’s effective participation in peace and security.  


  1. PRIO/GIWPS, Women, Peace and Security Index (Washington, DC: GIWPS, 2019).
  2. Anjali Kaushlesh Dayal and Agathe Christien, “Women’s Participation in Informal Peace Processes,” Global Governance, Vol. 26 (2020), p. 70.
  3. Agathe Christien, What Has Happened to Gender Provisions in Peace Agreements? (Washington, DC: Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, 2020).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Kroc Institute, Special Report of the Kroc Institute and the International Accompaniment Component, UN Women, Women’s International Democratic Federation, and Sweden, on the Monitoring of the Gender Perspective in the Implementation of the Colombian Final Peace Accord (Notre Dame, IN: Kroc Institute, Notre Dame University, 2018). 6 Dayal and Christien, “Women’s Participation in Informal Peace Processes.”.
  6. GIZ, “Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Rights,” Promoting Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations and Peace Processes (Bonn: GIZ, March 2014).
  7. Agathe Christien, Advancing Women’s Participation in Track II Peace Processes: Good and emerging practices (Washington, DC: Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, 2020), p. 7.
  8. United Nations Peacekeeping, “Women in Peacekeeping” website (New York: UN, 2020).
  9. See Lesley J. Pruitt, The Women in Blue Helmets (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2016); Sabrina Karim and Kyle Beardsley, Equal Opportunity Peacekeeping: Women, Peace and Security in Post-Conflict States (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).
  10. Romeo Dallaire, Shelly Whitman, and Sam Holland, “Innovation in the Prevention of the Use of Child Soldiers:

Women in the Security Sector,” PRISM, Vol. 6, No. 1 (2016).

  1. Megan Bastick, Integrating Gender in Post-Conflict Security Sector Reform (Geneva: Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), 2008). 13 Audrey Alexander and Rebecca Turkington, “Treatment of Terrorists: How Does Gender Affect Justice?” CTC Sentinel, Vol. 11, No. 8 (2018).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Aaron Zelin, “Wilayat al-Hawl: ‘Remaining’ and Incubating the Next Islamic State Generation,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy Notes 70 (2019).
  4. Rebecca Turkington and Agathe Christien, Women,

Deradicalization and Rehabilitation: Lessons from an Expert

Workshop (Washington, DC: Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security, 2018)

  1. Solheim, Erik, “When the Sheep Turn Black, War’s Toxic Legacy Can No Longer Be Ignored,” The Guardian (November 3, 2017).
  2. Holly Young, “Sierra Leone: ‘We are not alone’ in fighting climate change, says Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr,” All Africa (2019).
  3. United Nations Environment Program, United Nations

Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office and United

Nations Development Program, Women and Natural Resources: Unlocking the Peacebuilding Potential, 34 (New York: United Nations, 2013).

  • United Nations,  The Impact of COVID-19 on Women, Policy brief (New York: United Nations, 2020).
  • Elizabeth Pearson, Why Men Fight and Women Don’t: Masculinity and Extremism Violence (London: Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, 2018).
  • Christopher B. Stults et al., “Perceptions of Safety

Among LGBTQ People Following the 2016 Pulse Nightclub Shooting,” Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, Vol. 4, No. 3 (2017), pp. 251–56.


Agathe Christien (France) is the 2019-2020 Hillary

Rodham Clinton Research Fellow at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. She previously worked with the Livelihoods Innovation through Food Entrepreneurship (LIFE) Project, a food business incubator program for refugees and host communities in Turkey. She graduated in 2018 with an M.A in Arab studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a degree in Political Science from Sciences Po Lyon, France.

Mobilizing a Forgotten Sector:  A Case for a New Media Code of Ethics  on Gender and Conflict

Annina Claesson


ow is UNSCR 1325 to be implemented if no one has heard of it? On the cusp of the resolution’s 20th anniversary, this question may appear simplistic. Yet given the slow rate of progress in promoting the goals of the Women, Peace and Security agenda, we must revisit the question of who is supposed to be doing the promoting. The obvious answer is often curiously omitted in policy

papers and research reports. Why is the media ignored as a change actor for the WPS agenda? More important, how can the media’s transformative potential for implementing UNSCR 1325 in the next decade be unlocked? One answer involves reexamining the principles that determine how journalists cover gender-related issues in conflict zones and galvanizing actors around a new agenda: a code of ethics for journalists covering gender and conflict issues.

Too often, the media is simply thought of as a conduit through which the work of “real” policy actors can be communicated and promoted. Nonetheless, the crucial role of the media was recognized as early as 1995 in the Beijing Platform for Action as well as by UN Women’s 2015 Global Study on the Implementation of UNSCR 1325.1 The media can play a role in transforming social norms in the interest of preventing conflict by facilitating the open flow of information during conflict and contributing to justice and reconciliation in postconflict contexts.

The media is shaped by the world around it but also has the capacity to change it. Thus   media can promote gender equality and prevent conflicts but also can reproduce harmful social norms or even directly traumatize the subjects of their stories. Johanna Foster and Sherizaan Minwalla carried out a study in the aftermath of ISIS attacks on Yazidis, interviewing Yazidi women about their interactions with the international media.2 Their findings were upsetting: 85 percent of the women reported that journalists engaged in unethical practices, often pressuring them to speak or failing to protect their privacy.3 This unacceptable conduct is commonplace. Currently, the media overwhelmingly operates on a “gender-blind” basis, failing to consider gender perspectives in conflict reporting.4 

Considering the key role the media plays in shaping the societies it reports on, it follows that it has a special responsibility to establish ethical standards for day-to-day newsroom activities. Journalists are no strangers to normative frameworks: The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics is taught in every Journalism 101 class.5 As conflicts have become more complex and more publicized in the media, some have issued calls for stronger, more concrete frameworks to help journalists portray societies in conflict accurately while better protecting their safety and that of their subjects.6 It is imperative that a gender perspective permeate every part of such a code.

In order to promote UNSCR 1325 over the next decade, media outlets, international organizations, and grassroots organizations must come together to draft a code of ethics specifically addressing gender in conflict. While such a code would not be legally binding nor intended as a one-size-fits-all solution, a consultative process supported by the UN and other relevant actors could help mobilize the media sector to further the aims of UNSCR 1325 and generate a snowball effect for further efforts.7

The Media as a Peacebuilding Actor

As UNESCO points out in its handbook for reporting on conflict in South Asia, it is not helpful to make distinctions between “conflict-sensitive gender reporting” on one hand and “gender-sensitive conflict reporting” on the other.8 A new normative media framework aligned with UNSCR 1325 need not focus solely on better practices in conflict reporting with gender concerns as a side note nor concentrate on gender inequality without due consideration of the stakes of a particular conflict. Responsible journalism considers both elements as fundamental building blocks of its practice.

One of the most famous approaches to reporting in conflict settings is undoubtedly Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick’s concept of peace journalism.9 Originating in Galtung’s approaches to positive peace, peace journalism is grounded in a simple idea: When journalists choose which stories to report and how, they need to consider how their work can enhance prospects for peace. The choices that journalists make in conflict settings affect not only how societies understand conflict but also what they perceive as possible solutions. Yiping Cai argues that genuine peace journalism inherently includes a gender perspective, but in 2020 such perspectives are still conspicuous by their absence in global conflict reporting.10

Most of the time, women’s experiences of conflict take up no airtime and occupy no headlines. The 2015 Global Study on WPS concluded that women are virtually invisible in news reporting on peace and security, except where they are portrayed as victims of conflict.11 In much broadcast coverage of conflict zones, the only women seen are crying in the background. Another analysis undertaken by the Global Media Monitoring Project found that only 13 percent of news media stories on peace and security themes included women as the subject. Women were identified as central actors in only 6 percent of news stories.12 

A new code of ethics on gender and conflict needs to address structural concerns for the media sector at every level. One such concern is the lack of female journalists doing peace and security reporting. The simple presence of female journalists in newsrooms does not guarantee gender-sensitive journalism, but there are gendered considerations in the coverage of conflicts that may benefit from a gender-balanced media workforce. For example, Emma Barnett argues that in some conflict-affected Muslim countries, women and children only feel comfortable opening up to women reporters, as they are not allowed to be seen talking to men outside their families.13 Gender stereotypes lead to women being underrepresented among journalists covering peace and security topics, as these are often considered “hard news” and coded as “men’s work.”14 Addressing inequalities and stereotypes in the newsroom is an essential step not only to better coverage of gender-related issues in conflict settings but to improve diversity in journalism overall.

The Media as a Link in the Chain for UNSCR 1325 Mobilization

Another step in this holistic agenda is to build UNSCR 1325 literacy through partnerships between the media and CSOs. The past few decades have seen several success stories in this regard. The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in Cameroon rallied owners of media houses to become allies in a widespread awareness-raising campaign that involved training and utilizing the media to reach a wider audience through op-eds and participation in TV and radio broadcasts. This campaign served as a catalyst for discussions to establish a UNSCR 1325 National Action Plan in Cameroon.15

Such partnerships can also function well outside traditional newsroom structures. Women- and youth-led Women’s Situation Rooms and Women’s Peace Huts have been established mainly in African countries to monitor, prevent and mitigate violence by engaging a wide range of stakeholders in constructive dialogue and peace advocacy.16 Media outlets run by women and designed to focus on women’s experiences in conflict provide another opportunity for such engagement. UN Women’s 2015 Global Study highlights community radio stations run by women in Uganda and Fiji that organize “listener clubs” to bring in women from local communities to share their experiences, insights and ideas.17 These initiatives highlight the need for and transformative benefits of community engagement through media.

Adequate resources are crucial to an effective media engagement strategy. The lack of funding is an endemic problem for implementation of UNSCR 1325 across all sectors. 18 This issue becomes even more pressing with the decades-long crisis in funding for the media industry as a whole, and particularly for the intensive investigative journalism required for true transformative work in high-risk settings.19 The lack of resources needs to urgently be addressed at all levels of UNSCR 1325 implementation in order to make true progress possible in the 2020s.

A Code of Ethics for Gender- and Conflict-Sensitive Reporting

A new code of ethics for reporting on gender in conflict could galvanize new partnerships but should also build upon previous work. Handbooks and guidelines on the subject have been developed by Inter-Governmental Organizations and Civil Society groups targeting specific regions, including the African Union, the Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, and UNESCO.20  It is important to continue consultations with local organizations representing a wide range of world regions and cultures when drafting a new code of ethics in order to be mindful of how such a code may be interpreted in widely different contexts. However, adapting familiar frameworks such as the SPJ’s code of ethics for journalists may be a good place to start. Drawing on civil society recommendations as well as codes of practice in peace journalism, a code of ethics for gender and conflict may include some of the following:

•   Seek Truth and Report It

 — Establishing protocols for making sure that women’s opinions and perspectives are included before, during and after conflict; systematically providing varieties of analytical lenses for how gender-related issues may be affected by the conflict; reporting on women’s peacebuilding initiatives; debunking false news and myths that may result in gender-based violence or contribute to harmful gender norms; accounting for diversity within groups and differentiated impact of conflict (based on gender identity, ethnicity, age, class, education, sexual orientation, as well as conflict-specific categories such as refugees, combatants, child soldiers, or survivors of gender-based violence).

• Minimize Harm

 — Making sure that stories covering gender-based violence are used not just to depict the plight of individuals but to shed light on systemic issues.

 — Exercising special caution when reporting on gender-based violence in conflict, particularly sexual violence; considering and discussing impact of publishing such stories with subjects/sources; providing anonymity for victims and witnesses; taking all possible precautions to avoid retraumatizing victims.

 — Taking measures (rigorous risk assessment, emergency plans, psychosocial support) to ensure the safety of female journalists working in conflict zones bearing in mind that they are likely to encounter different types of violence than that experienced by male colleagues, such as sexual violence, harassment, or other forms of gender-based violence.

• Act Independently

 — Mobilizing wider support for press freedom and emphasizing gender equality as a key condition for overall freedom of expression.

 — Being honest and transparent about sources of funding, partnerships, or other ties that may affect how gender issues in conflict are reported on.

• Be Accountable and Transparent

 — Attend and organize regular trainings to address own prejudices and biases around gender norms; providing gender-disaggregated data on all things pertaining to human resources management in the newsroom, including gender parity at all levels.

 — Cultivating allies within and outside media organizations for overcoming gender bias in reporting and holding other media actors accountable when they fail to do so.

A code of ethics is not just a bullet point in a journalism school syllabus. It is a set of guiding principles that should direct every aspect of a journalist’s work and provide a reference for accountability. A journalistic workforce committed to the principles of UNSCR 1325 is a vital asset for achieving a holistic, positive vision 

of peace.


  1. UN Women, Preventing Conflict, Transforming Justice,

Securing the Peace: A Global Study on the Implementation of

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (New York: UN Women, 2015). Hereafter Global Study

  • Johanna Foster and Sherizaan Minwalla, “Voices of Yazidi women: Perceptions of Journalistic Practices in the Reporting on ISIS Sexual Violence,” Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol. 67 (March–April, 2018), pp. 53–64.
  • Ibid.
  • See Karen Ross, “Women at Work: Journalism as EnGendered Practice,” Journalism Studies, Vol. 2, No. 4 (2001); and Carol Dralega, et al., “Gender Mainstreaming in Media and Journalism Education—An Audit of Media Departments in Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia.” Journal of African Media Studies, Vol. 8, No. 3 (1 September, 2016), pp. 251–66.
  • Society of Professional Journalists, SPJ Code of Ethics (Nashville: SPJ, 2014)
  • Janine di Giovanni, “Conflict Journalism Needs a Code of Ethics and Needs it Now,” The National (March 10, 2020).
  • Herrscher, Roberto. 2002. “A Universal Code of Journalism Ethics: Problems, Limitations, and Proposals.” Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Vol. 17, No. 4 (2002), pp. 277–89.
  • Fiona Lloyd and Ross Howard, Gender, Conflict and Journalism: A Handbook for South Asia (Paris: UNESCO, 2005).
  • Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick, Peace Journalism (Stroud: Hawthorn Press, 2005).
  • Yiping Cai, “Revisiting Peace Journalism with a Gender Lens, Media Development, No. 2 (2011), pp. 70–75.
  • See Global Study
  • Sarah Macharia, Who Makes the News (London: The Global Media Monitoring Project, 2015).
  • Emma Barnett, “The Unique Advantage of Female War Reporters in Muslim Countries. The Telegraph (2 November 2012).
  • Louise North,“The Gender of “Soft” and “Hard” News,” Journalism Studies, Vol. 17, No. 3 (2016), pp. 356–73.
  • Sylvie Ndongmo, (WILPF Cameroon) and Marina Kumskova (WILPF/PeaceWomen), Good Practice Case Study: Engaging the media on the Women, Peace and Security Agenda in Cameroon. (London: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 2016).
  • Jane Godia, “Women’s Situation Room: Africa’s Unique Approach to Reducing Electoral Violence,” Africa Renewal (April 2015). 17 See Global Study 18 Ibid.

19 Rodney Benson, and Matthew Powers, A Crisis of

Imagination: International Models for Funding and Protecting

Independent Journalism and Media, A Survey of 14 Leading Democracies (Washington, DC: Free Press, 2010) 20 See African Union, Handbook for Reporters on Women,

Peace and Security: Practicing Gender-Responsive Reporting in Conflict Affected Countries in Africa (New York: UN Women,

Peace and Security Department, 2017); Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, Handbook for Gender and Conflict Sensitive Journalism. Stockholm: Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, 2015); Lloyd and Howard, Gender, Conflict and Journalism.


Annina Claesson (Sweden) is a graduate student in the Master of Human Rights and Humanitarian Action program at the Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs in France. She is specializing in press freedom issues and digital rights and has a background as a freelance journalist.

1325 and Beyond: Moving the WPS Agenda in Latin America Forward

Paula Drumond and Tamya Rebelo


he Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda has evolved tremendously over the past two decades. Since the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, pledges to mainstream gender into peace and security initiatives have proliferated. Nine subsequent resolutions raised collective expectations that these commitments would translate into effective policies. Implementation,

however, largely relies on activities carried out by states, international organizations and civil society. As a result, the WPS agenda has diffused unevenly across the globe. Of the 83 countries that have developed national action plans (NAPs), about 70 percent are in Europe and Africa.1

Until 2015, Chile was the only Latin American country to adopt a NAP. The 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 marked a tipping point in the region, with the approval of the second Chilean NAP and the adoption of national plans in Argentina (2015), Paraguay (2015), Brazil (2017), El Salvador (2017) and Guatemala (2017). Perhaps not surprisingly, WPS debates tend to mirror the existing geographical imbalance of the worldwide NAP uptake. Many of the challenges and touted achievements reflect analyses developed in Europe and Africa. The result has been a major disconnect between WPS policies and the violent realities facing Latin American women.

This essay reflects on how best to move the objectives of the WPS agenda forward in one of the most dangerous regions in the world for women and girls.2 We argue that the transformative potential of the WPS agenda in Latin America requires new ideas, languages and practices that move beyond the war/peace dichotomy entrenched in traditional WPS formulations. The first part of this essay overviews the regional landscape of gendered violence and insecurity, which has been persistently neglected in traditional WPS debates. The second part considers what is needed to move beyond the shortcomings of the agenda in the region, concluding with specific and practical recommendations for action.

Gender and Insecurity in Latin America

The WPS agenda has ambiguous contours in Latin America. Often portrayed as a “zone of peace,” the region continues to grapple with the consequences of unconventional armed violence.3 With only 8 percent of the world’s population, Latin America hosts one-quarter of all global homicides.4 These alarming statistics are due in large part to the presence of organized criminal groups, including drug cartels, street gangs and paramilitary militias, which often engage in violent disputes for territorial and market control.

Latin American women and girls are disproportionately affected by the increasing levels of violence that ravage both urban and rural areas. Latin America is “home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world”5 and to the highest global rate of sexual violence against women.6 In Brazil, the largest and most populated country in the region, a woman is raped every 11 minutes.7 These patterns of violence historically intersect with a range of postcolonial exclusions based on class, gender, race and ethnicity. Existing data on femicide in Brazil shows that between 2005 and 2015 the annual number of violent deaths of black women increased by 22 percent while the murder rate for white women fell by 7 percent.8 Indigenous and rural populations also face disproportionate levels of violence, with one in every three indigenous women experiencing sexual violence in their lifetime.9 Their exposure to sexual and physical violence is often exacerbated by the militarization of indigenous areas and the presence of mining and other extractive activities on lands they depend on for sustenance.

Latin America is also a major source, transit and destination of human trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor and domestic servitude. The UN Office on Drugs and Crimes indicates that women and girls account for the vast majority of detected victims of human trafficking in the region, mostly for sexual exploitation.10 Recently, the political crisis in Venezuela has led to an increase in human trafficking within regional borders after the displacement of millions of Venezuelans to neighboring states.11

These violent situations often fall off the radar of the Security Council since they are not explicitly related to conventional armed conflicts. Indeed, the detaching of the WPS agenda from internal dimensions of violence is a longstanding global trend, which arguably draws on the traditional divide maintained within the United Nations between the human rights and security agendas. In Latin America, the disconnect between these agendas must also be understood against the backdrop of recurrent episodes of colonial and postcolonial interventionist policies by great powers. Perhaps not surprisingly, the very few countries in the region that have developed NAPs focus on defense and foreign policy initiatives, avoiding as much external scrutiny as possible over their domestic and regional security challenges. In these documents, efforts to combat sexual and gender-based violence, for example, only apply to foreign subjects located in traditional conflict situations, perpetuating conventional WPS rationales that project insecurity externally.

As a result, WPS frameworks have failed to address a regional dimension. Despite Chilean and Argentine efforts to include WPS issues in the negotiation agenda of the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas and other regional fora, debates on how to advance the agenda in the region remain scarce. Regional security debates undertaken at the Organization of American States, for instance, have often adopted a “bifurcated approach” that disconnects the WPS commitments from issues of public security.12 Instead of pursuing a broad understanding of women’s insecurity, this approach continues to discourage attention from the continuum of violence against women, thus failing to capture how the agenda can be interpreted and made relevant to the national and regional contexts.

The difficulty in moving beyond the war/peace dichotomy entrenched in more conventional WPS formulations helps explain why the agenda has so easily evaporated at the regional level and failed to take root in Latin American states. Although UNSCR 1325 may not explicitly address situations other than war, WPS norms are “expected to […] transform gender power relations” through a human security paradigm that acknowledges the economic, social and political gendered dimensions of peace.13 UNSCR 1325 (2000), 1889 (2009) and 2122 (2013), for example, advanced more comprehensive perspectives connecting security concerns with the eradication of inequalities and the strengthening of human rights norms. The transformative potential of the WPS agenda in Latin America should build on these entry points through new ideas and practices that further expand on these developments. This ambitious goal will require long-term as well as short-term strategies, which will be further explored below.

Accelerating WPS Implementation in Latin America

This section fleshes out common actionable strategies that can be explored across the region to accelerate WPS implementation. These recommendations require sustained political will, sufficient resources and broad civil society participation.

The WPS agenda has so far privileged global norms diffused through standardized policies that have left structural inequalities unaddressed and their gendered security implications unexplored. This gap calls for the creation of multi-stakeholder fora to spur critical debates on the relevance of the agenda at the national and regional levels. These fora should stimulate debates on how WPS frameworks can advance gender-sensitive policies on key security challenges, including urban violence, human trafficking, mass displacement and natural disasters. Such initiatives can provide platforms for sharing knowledge and experiences and developing capacity on WPS-related frameworks through workshops, trainings and awareness-raising activities. The fact that Canada and Uruguay are co-chairing the WPS Focal Points Network in 2020 provides a unique opportunity both for increased regional cooperation and for building an Americas perspective on WPS. This is also a key opportunity to build on good practices, such as expanding existing networks of women mediators and women human rights defenders to the regional level.

Achieving WPS transformative goals requires more than just the expansion of thematic debates and the addition of new areas of concern. In the next decade, WPS policies should attend to the development of intersectional methodologies, which take seriously how women’s insecurities are shaped by class, race, ethnicity, dis/ability, creed and sexuality. Measures to build more effective policies in this direction should take into account bottom-up initiatives that help civil society actors take ownership of the agenda. When developing and implementing NAPs, governments often focus on national-level policies and machineries, neglecting the need for more local-level initiatives. A key strategy is thus to invest in localization programs involving local governments, traditional leaders and women’s grassroots organizations. Local action plans have been developed in Colombian municipalities and can serve as models for other countries in the region.

Considering that lack of resources weakens the operationalization of WPS commitments and makes them more vulnerable to political changes, the development of mechanisms to fund WPS programs and to monitor budget allocation is vital to ensure the fulfillment of and continued support to the agenda. These mechanisms can be funded by national, regional and international agencies and donors. Financial and capacity-building support from the latter, however, is going to be particularly relevant in the next decade considering the economic and political crisis affecting countries in the region, which will be aggravated by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Finally, at the national level, the creation of interinstitutional coordination structures can also play a critical role in the harmonization of WPS initiatives with gender policies already in place. These mechanisms are critical for forging constant interaction among key stakeholders involved in WPS implementation processes, allowing them to share experiences and information while avoiding the “departmentalization” of their tasks and duplication of efforts.


The 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 is a major opportunity to accelerate the implementation of the WPS in

Latin America over the next decade. This essay has identified key opportunities and challenges in this regard. By putting forward specific recommendations, our purpose is to support a more active, effective regional engagement with WPS principles and consequently to reduce the gap between the rhetorical commitments and the operationalization of the agenda at the national and regional levels. Our recommendations highlight the need for supporting the development of new commitments and priorities through strategies that can be undertaken at the regional, national and subnational levels. They include, for example, the creation and support of regional networks and fora that can spur innovative, grounded interpretations of the agenda. The expansion of the agenda toward nontraditional WPS areas of concern, which acknowledge the diversity of women’s lived insecurities in the region, is also crucial to spawn more fundamental change. These recommendations are achievable with sustained political will, sufficient resources and meaningful civil society participation. While ambitious, they offer essential milestones on the path to a more equitable vision of peace.


  1. PeaceWomen, “Who Implements: Member States,” PeaceWomen.org (2020).
  2. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), Global Study on Homicide 2018 (Vienna: UNODC, 2018).
  3. Sabine Kurtenbach, “The Limits of Peace in Latin America,” Peacebuilding, Vol.7, No. 3 (2019), pp. 283–96.
  4. Robert Muggah and Katherine Aguirre Tobón, Citizen Security in Latin America: The Hard Facts (Rio de Janeiro: Instituto Igarapé, 2018).
  5. UN Women, Spotlight on Femicide in Latin America, (New York: UN Women, 2018).
  6. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), From

Commitment to Action: Policies to End Violence Against  Women in Latin America and the Caribbean (Panama City: UNDP, 2017).

  • Fórum Brasileiro de Segurança Pública, 10º Anuário Brasileiro de Segurança Pública, (FBSP: São Paulo, 2016).
  • Ibid.
  • Ana Beatriz Rosa, “Por que a Violência contra Mulheres Indígenas é tão Difícil de ser Combatida no Brasil?” Huffpost (November 26, 2016).
  • UNODC, Global Study on Homicide 2018.
  • Refugees International, “Searching for Safety: Confronting  Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking of Venezuelan Women and Girls” (New York: Refugees International, 2020).
  • Mary Meyer Mcaleese, “WPS and the Organization of

American States,” in Jacqui True and Sara E. Davies, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Women, Peace and Security (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), pp. 413–27.

  1. Sara Davies and Jacqui True, “Women, Peace and Security: A Transformative Agenda?” in Jacqui True and Sara E. Davies, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Women, Peace and Security, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), p. 4.


Paula Drumond (Brazil) is Assistant Professor at the Institute of International Relations at Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (IRI/PUC-

Rio) and researcher of the Global South Unit of Mediation (GSUM).  She also serves as member of the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom Academic Network. She received her PhD in International Relations/Political Science from the Graduate Institute of International and Development

Studies (IHEID, Geneva); and her M.A. degree in International Relations from the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro (IRI/PUC-Rio).

Tamya Rebelo (Brazil) is Assistant Professor at the Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing (ESPM) and the Centro Universitário Belas Artes de São Paulo. She holds a PhD in International Relations from the Institute of International Relations of the University of São Paulo. She is a former fellow of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

The Women, Peace and Security  Agenda in ASEAN: Progress, Gaps  and Ways Forward

Muhammad Ammar Hidayahtulloh


he women, peace and security agenda has gained notable standing in global politics over the last two decades. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) is a remarkable breakthrough in international peace and security agenda, as it recognizes that women and children are the most adversely affected by armed conflict and reaffirms the importance of women’s role in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding. At the regional level, the implementation of the WPS agenda is marked through regional action plans (RAPs). In Southeast Asia, efforts to advance the WPS agenda have occurred only recently, after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) adopted a Joint Statement on Promoting Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN in 2017.1 As UNSCR 1325 celebrates 20 years since its inception, it is important to identify and evaluate its achievements, including what steps must be taken to ensure full implementation. To contribute to this global effort, this essay discusses the promotion, though not necessarily the implementation, of the WPS agenda in ASEAN, including progress and gaps. I then make recommendations for ensuring that the WPS agenda is fully realized in the member states of ASEAN.

ASEAN has been progressive in advancing human rights and women’s rights in the region, including through its creation of the ASEAN Community. The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children

(ACWC) were each established under the ASEAN Political Security Community (APSC) and ASEAN SocioCultural Community (ASCC) in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Despite this organizational progress, the WPS agenda did not reach ASEAN until 2017. Until recently, ASEAN tended to frame women’s issues only in the context of its sociocultural and economic sectors.2 Consequently, ASEAN has made no specific commitment to address the impacts of armed conflict on sexual violence against women.3 More broadly, women’s issues and gender mainstreaming remain neglected as part of regional politics and security policies due to elite mind-sets that position women as apolitical.4

Progress on the WPS agenda in ASEAN began with the adoption of the joint statement in 2017. Since then, numerous remarkable efforts have advanced the WPS agenda in the region. In April 2018, the first ASEANAustralia Women, Peace and Security Dialogue was conducted.5 Under the ASEAN Institute for Peace and

Reconciliation (AIPR), ASEAN established on December 13 the same year the ASEAN Women for Peace Registry (AWPR), a pool of experts who provide capacity building for women as peacebuilders and support the integration of gender perspectives in conflict prevention and peacebuilding strategies.6 The following year, three important agendas emerged, including the adoption of a Joint Statement on Promoting Women, Peace and Security Agenda at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF);7 the first AWPR Meeting as part of the first Regional

Symposium on Implementing Women, Peace and Security Agenda, held in Phnom Penh;8 and ASEAN Women Interfaith Dialogue, held in Jakarta.9 Each of these efforts demonstrate the consistent advance of the WPS agenda in ASEAN.

What this progress does tell us and what does it not? And more crucially, what can be done next to ensure the full implementation of the WPS agenda in ASEAN? Certainly, the joint statement represents an important milestone. It indicates stronger political will among ASEAN elites to make women, peace and security part of an ASEAN agenda. This statement suggests a change in elites’ understanding of women’s role in maintaining peace and security.

In late 2017, during the peak of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, President Joko Widodo sent Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on a peaceful mission to Rakhine State for the purpose of providing humanitarian assistance to the victims and to prevent further escalation of the crisis.10 This prominent presence of a woman leader from an ASEAN member government expanded opportunities for women to be involved in peacekeeping missions, including by increasing the number of female peacekeepers in Blue Helmet units.11 This change of ASEAN leaders’ mind-set in turn leverages new opportunities for the empowerment of women and the advancement of gender equality in all three pillars of the ASEAN Community, including the ASEAN Political-Security Community. For example, during the 7th ASEAN Peacekeeping Centre Network (APCN) meeting in 2019, ASEAN defense ministers discussed the WPS agenda alongside the ASEAN regional security architecture and the importance of building standard centres on gender-equality training in security activities.12 Furthermore, through ASEAN-led mechanisms such as ARF, ASEAN can take a lead in promoting the WPS agenda across the Indo-Pacific region.

Despite the vibrant progress of the WPS agenda in ASEAN, countless actions are needed to ensure the full participation of women in peace and security. As of January 2020, there were only two ASEAN countries with National Action Plans (NAPs) for implementing UNSCR 1325: the Philippines and Indonesia.13 Also, a huge gap remains between the effort of ASEAN to promote the WPS agenda and policies of ASEAN member nations. Regrettably, the joint statement fails to explicitly encourage member states to establish a NAP. Without cohesion between regional and national policies, the WPS agenda will only be a mirage in ASEAN.

Although the joint statement is important for ASEAN, it is premature to consider it to be an ASEAN regional action plan. The statement’s use of word “promotion” instead of “implementation” is problematic. These words convey different meanings that signify different courses of action. While “promotion” is understood as an activity that encourages people to believe in the value or importance of something, “implementation” is defined as the act of making something that has been officially decided start to happen or be used.14 The use of the word “promotion” is not common in the context of the WPS agenda, especially when compared with the other RAPs. Thus, by using “promotion,” the statement can be portrayed as demonstrating negligence on the part of ASEAN and a failure to commit to fully implementing the WPS agenda. Yet ASEAN’s statement can be understood as an initial move toward the WPS agenda, and thus the word “promotion” is perhaps more palatable in this context.

Although the joint statement has generally addressed the four pillars of the WPS agenda—participation, conflict prevention, protection, relief and recovery—it does not take into account all WPS-related UNSC resolutions.15 It recognizes only four: UNSCR 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009) and 1889 (2009), though now there are 10 resolutions in total.16 Additionally, ASEAN’s joint statement does not recognize the role of civil society in the WPS agenda, meaning ASEAN does not fully translate the UNSCR 1325 into its regional policy. UNSCR 1325 is noted as the first international law to recognize the inclusion of nonstate actors in the peace process by supporting local women’s peace initiatives.17 At this point in time, the joint statement should be considered a starting point for ASEAN’s transformative pathway to further implementing the WPS agenda across the region.

Ultimately, ASEAN can implement the WPS agenda in this new decade by taking three actions.

First, ASEAN needs to develop a feasible regional action plan. There are several points that ASEAN leaders should take into account in formulating such a plan. First, the plan should encompass all WPS resolutions to ensure that all pillars of the WPS agenda are addressed. To keep the RAP updated and compliant with the WPS resolutions is crucial in building and strengthening the capacity of ASEAN to effectively implement the WPS agenda. Because the majority of ASEAN countries do not have a NAP, the RAP should support all member states in establishing national policies, with the RAP itself providing a legal basis for each member’s national plan. The Philippines and Indonesia could lead the process and share lessons learned and best practices based on their own plans. Such an approach will ensure coherence between national and regional policies. The RAP should include civil society in its implementation. In ASEAN, civil society has played an important role in regional development, including in peace processes. For example, the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), which consists of 13 women’s ethnic organizations and is based in Myanmar, has committed to promote women’s participation in the national peace and reconciliation process.18 WLB has also significantly contributed toward increasing women’s representation in Myanmar’s parliament, including by conducting political training for women and lending support to women candidates.19

Second, ASEAN should make use of existing institutions within the ASEAN Community framework to implement the WPS agenda. The ASEAN Secretariat should play a key role in mainstreaming the WPS agenda across the three pillars of the ASEAN Community through dialogues and workshops. The AICHR and ACWC are also central to the WPS agenda, as these commissions monitor and evaluate the promotion and protection of women’s rights as well as engaging with the public to increase the awareness of the WPS agenda. In collaboration with AWPR and with support from AIPR, APCN should provide more training for women peacekeepers in the region. Since ASEAN peacekeepers—except for Lao PDR and Singapore—made up nearly 5 percent of total UN Peacekeeping Operations, ASEAN can also contribute to advancing the WPS agenda as it helps maintain international peace and security.20

Third, ASEAN should intensify cooperation with its partners, the United Nations, and other multilateral organizations to support implementation of the WPS agenda. The first ASEAN-Australia dialogue on WPS in 2018 and the first Regional Symposium on WPS in 2019 (which was supported by the United States) are noteworthy initiatives that ASEAN should continue to pursue. Through such initiatives, ASEAN and its partners are able to share lessons learned and best practices for WPS implementation. Such initiatives may provide constructive input for development of an ASEAN RAP. ASEAN-led mechanisms such as ARF are also an important asset for ASEAN to become a norm entrepreneur of the WPS agenda in the Indo-Pacific region. Moreover, ASEAN, in cooperation with the United Nations, should build and strengthen the capacity of ASEAN women peacekeepers to integrate gender perspectives into peace processes.

To conclude, ASEAN has challenged its traditional approach on women’s role in its peace and security agenda, as indicated by the adoption of its joint statement in 2017. While the joint statement is relatively recent, the WPS agenda in ASEAN has progressed vigorously. However, ASEAN needs to constantly strive to close the gaps on the implementation. A failure to recognize all WPS resolutions and the exclusion of civil society from the peace process are among the limitations of the existing statement. This essay offers three recommendations for ASEAN to move the WPS agenda forward in this new decade: developing a regional action plan that encourages member states to establish national plans and recognizes the role of civil society in the peace process; leveraging existing ASEAN in implementing the WPS agenda; and strengthening its relationships with its partners and international organizations. The implementation of these recommendations will ensure that the WPS agenda continues to advance across the region.


  1. ASEAN, Joint Statement on Promoting Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN (Jakarta, ASEAN, November 13, 2017).
  2. Sara E. Davies, Kimberly Nackers and Sarah Teitt, “Women, Peace and Security as an ASEAN Priority,” Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 68, No. 3 (2014), pp. 335.
  3. Tamara Nair, Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN: Need for Distinct Action Plan (Singapore: RSIS Nanyang Technological University, December 23, 2016).
  4. Mathew Davies, “Women and Development, Not Gender and Politics: Explaining ASEAN’s Failure to Engage with the Women, Peace and Security Agenda,” Contemporary Southeast Asia, Vol. 38, No. 1 (2016), pp. 122.
  5. Sara E. Davies and Katrina Lee-Koo, ASEAN-Australia Women, Peace & Security Dialogue (Melbourne: Monash University, April 2018).
  6. ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, ASEAN Secretary-General Leads Launch of ASEAN Women for Peace Registry (Jakarta: ASEAN-IPR, December 19, 2018).
  7. ASEAN Regional Forum, Joint Statement on Promoting Women, Peace and Security Agenda at the ASEAN Regional Forum (Jakarta: ASEAN, August 2, 2019).
  8. U.S. Mission to ASEAN, Regional Symposium on Implementing Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda in ASEAN (Jakarta: US Mission to ASEAN, August 22, 2019).
  9. ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation, ASEAN

Women Interfaith Dialogue: Promoting Understanding for an Inclusive and Peaceful Society (Jakarta: ASEAN-IPR, November 12, 2019).

  1. “Editorial: Brokering Peace in Myanmar,” The Jakarta Post

(September 5, 2017); Asep Setiawan and Hamka Hamka, Role of Indonesian Humanitarian Diplomacy toward Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar, Paper Presented at the 2nd International Conference on Social Sciences (Jakarta: Universitas Muhammadiyah Jakarta, 5-6 November 2019).

  1. Dian Septiari, “Indonesia Committed to Greater

Peacekeeping Contribution: FM Retno,” The Jakarta Post

(January 24, 2019); Retno LP Marsudi, “Creating Global Network of Female Peacekeepers,” The Jakarta Post (April 9, 2019).

  1. “Việt Nam to host ASEAN peacekeeping meeting in 2020,” Việt Nam News (September 7, 2019).
  2. PeaceWomen, National Action Plans for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, PeaceWomen. org (March 30, 2020).
  3. Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, s.v. “promotion” (April 1, 2020).
  4. PeaceWomen, Women, Peace and Security National Action Plan Development Toolkit, PeaceWomen.org (2013).
  5. ASEAN, Joint Statement on Promoting, 2; The Resolutions, PeaceWomen.org (March 30, 2020).
  6. Åshild Falch, Women’s Organizations: A Driving Force Behind Women’s Participation and Rights, PRIO Policy Briefs 3 (Oslo:

PRIO, 2010); Annika Björkdahl and Johanna Mannergren

Selimovic, “WPS and Civil Society,” in Sara E. Davies and Jacqui True, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Women, Peace, and Security (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).

  1. Women’s League of Burma, “Program Peace & Reconciliation,” womenofburma.org (April 2, 2020).
  2. Nur Azizah and Muhammad Ammar Hidayahtulloh,

Transnational Advocacy in Increasing Women’s Representation in Myanmar’s Parliament, paper presented at the 3rd International

Conference on Sustainable Innovation 2019—Humanity, Education and Social Sciences (Yogyakarta: Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, 30-31 July 2019).

  • United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Contributors to UN Peacekeeping Operations by Country and Post, website un.org (December 31, 2017).


Muhammad Ammar Hidayahtulloh (Indonesia) is a researcher at the ASEAN Studies Center of Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations studies from Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree in development practice at the University of Queensland. His research interests are ASEAN studies, disability rights, and gender and politics focusing on the underrepresentation of women in politics. He has done research on increasing women’s representation in Myanmar’s and Timor-Leste’s Parliaments, as well as on the rights of persons with disabilities in ASEAN.

1325 and Beyond: Ways Forward for the  United Nations

Esther Luigi


e see a shadow pandemic growing, of violence against women,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in an official statement on 6 April.1 As domestic violence rises with each new country going into lockdown due to COVID-19, it is clear that we are still a long way from achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5, gender equality.2 The adoption

of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) in October 2000 constituted a landmark moment in this journey. Despite notable progress, especially in terms of visibility and discourse, the implementation of the resolution has been uneven, and many of the issues pertaining to women’s participation, protection, conflict prevention and relief it sought to address remain unresolved.

The UN Women Global Study (2015) evaluating the impact of UNSCR 1325 highlighted that most of the Security Council’s work in this domain had focused on protection of women rather than on prevention or political participation.3 It also identified lack of sufficient funding as the single largest obstacle to the implementation of the resolution’s commitments.4 As such, those three issues have been given particular consideration when formulating proposals on how to move forward the objectives of UNSCR 1325 and the WPS agenda in the next decade. Most of the recommendations are for the United Nations, though selected ones also target state governments and civil society actors.

Linking Gender Sensitivity to Security Council Nonpermanent Membership

The successes of the past 20 years make it clear that the Security Council holds much power in bringing forward the WPS agenda. However, its capacity to act and the scope of the actions it can undertake are always conditional on the voices of the member states, especially the 5 permanent members (P5) and the 10 nonpermanent members. WPS issues are and remain a hotly contested political topic, which does not sit easily with the state-based structure of the council.5 Indeed, most progress has been made when given countries decided to take ownership of the issue:

Namibia played a key role in the adoption of UNSCR 1325, while Germany used its council presidency in April 2019 to provide all council members with language on WPS to guide briefings and deliberations.6

Giving countries that champion the WPS agenda a voice in the council is thus crucial to move the agenda forward. Making a country’s track record on gender equality and WPS issues a factor of consideration in the election of the nonpermanent Security Council members could ensure that the WPS agenda becomes a reality.

This idea is likely to encounter pushback from some member states. Currently, the main concern over the election of nonpermanent members by the General Assembly is appropriate geographical representation. But representation could be maintained while WPS champions within each region are given first consideration. The existence and advancement of a National Action Plan could be used as a baseline criterion for evaluating governments’ domestic engagement with the WPS agenda. The combination of gender and geography would ensure better representation of the great variety of gendered experiences of peace and conflict across the world.

A first step toward the realization of this proposal could be the creation of a working group, on the model of the Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters related to the Security Council, established by A/RES/48/26 in December 1993. Alternatively, the focus of the existing group could be shifted to include both geographical and gender-based representation. In this new or modified group, the emphasis should be firmly placed on gender, and not simply on women: This emphasis will not only help bring reluctant countries on board but also give weight to rights-based arguments for gender equality by highlighting the way in which patriarchy affects both women and men in conflict and peace.

A working group could significantly advance the WPS agenda in two ways. First, it would create a strong incentive for states to make progress on WPS issues. In rewarding progress, it would create a sense of accountability that is currently lacking and build up normative pressure for change.7 Second and most important, having more support for the WPS agenda within the council would allow for substantial progress. For instance, mentioning gendered provisions in a peacekeeping mission mandate could be made compulsory, which in turn would mean that it has to be budgeted for.8 Increased access to the UNSC for briefings could also be granted to relevant civil society actors such as local women’s organizations. This access would improve council members’ understanding of WPS issues and help move away from a state-centric focus, which limits what UNSCR 1325 can achieve.9

A New Sustainable and Targeted Funding Model for the WPS Agenda

Funds for the WPS agenda are not only insufficient, they often fail to come at crucial moments (such as in the period of immediate post-conflict recovery) and to reach the actors who need it the most: only 0.2 percent of the bilateral aid to fragile and conflict-affected situations over the period 2016–17, for example, went directly to women’s organizations.10

1. Making WPS Funding Sustainable by Overcoming Short-Term Commitments and Reducing Donor Reliance

When funding is available, it is too often project based and donor driven.11 Consequently, funding is often lacking for long-term thinking and activities, while priorities remain driven by donors’ agendas. A further consequence is that women’s organizations spend disproportionate time and resources reporting on their activities and progress.

To turn this around is not easy. In order to increase long-term funding for WPS issues, a concerted effort  is required:

  1. Create a UN Women Banking initiative, on the model of and in partnership with the UNEP Finance Initiative, to encourage banks to make investments that do not have a detrimental impact on women’s lives around the globe, with divestment from the arms industry as a key principle;
  2. Integrate the existing Global Acceleration Instrument (GAI) for Women, Peace and Security and

Humanitarianism into this new initiative, with the double aim to strengthen it and improve its visibility;

  • Apply state-of-the-art financing methods to the WPS field, for example, by developing microcredit mechanisms;
  • Promote, wherever possible, the interlinkage of security, peacebuilding, development and humanitarian budgets within a flexible common framework. This fiscal focus should allow for targeting specific needs and issues, create continuity in funding, and ensure that complex problems––and their gendered dimensions––are targeted as a whole. Strengthened cooperation between relevant UN agencies (and missions, where appropriate) would be key.

The first two points tackle the structure of the existing financial system, which causes and sustains gender inequality and conflict in the first place. The effort to diminish investments in the arms industry is also in keeping with the original purpose and spirit of the WPS agenda, which was a pacifist movement.

As a whole, this proposal would reduce the reliance of WPS funding on donors and increase long-term funding possibilities while keeping priority-setting independent. The increase of long-term funding would significantly expand the progress that can be made on peacebuilding and conflict prevention, the two areas that most often fall victim to the availability of only short-term funding, fueling conflict relapses.

2. Directing Sustainable Funding the Right Way

Of course, an essential consideration about funding, beyond sheer numbers, is identifying beneficiaries. First, the GAI has already made a step in the right direction by increasing the amount of funding directly available to local, grassroots women’s organizations. These organizations should be the primary beneficiaries of all funding earmarked for gender, peace and security, as they would benefit from funding in a concrete, immediate way. Wherever appropriate, the United Nations should also consider funding protection for women’s rights advocates who may need it.

Second, more funding should be directed toward supporting the efforts of women engaged in track 2 diplomacy and informal peacebuilding and conflict prevention activities. Funding these efforts would not only help realize the objectives of UNSCR 1325 but would give visibility to women already engaged in such efforts.

Third, more funding should be directed toward qualitative research into women, peace and security, and this research should be given full consideration as scientific evidence in Security Council briefings. Currently, quantitative evidence receives the greatest emphasis in most research on WPS issues and the most attention from UN agencies, the Security Council and national governments.12 While quantitative research provides important insights and gives weight to “use-value” arguments used to promote the WPS agenda (to donors in particular), it cannot alone create a full understanding of the gendered dimensions of peace, conflict and security. Although UN and civil society actors with the required financial capacity could participate in this effort, the key actors to realize this proposal are national governments, which could integrate this recommendation into the latest (or in some case, first) version of their National Action Plans.

A New Landmark Resolution Connecting the WPS Agenda with Environmental Concerns

Thinking about how to move the WPS agenda forward in the next decade also means anticipating the new challenges that lie ahead for women’s peace and security around the world. There is consensus among experts that the devastating effects of climate change will increase in the coming years, disproportionately affecting women.13 What has often been missing is the links between gender, climate change and peace and security: to name but one example, climate-change induced and gendered environmental displacement can also serve as a trigger to new conflicts.14

This essay’s final recommendation is thus for the preparation and adoption of a Security Council Resolution modeled on UNSCR 1325 to address the negative impact of climate change on peace and security and highlight its highly gendered dimension.

This recommendation acknowledges the achievements that have come about as a result of UNSCR 1325, such as the creation of UN Women, as well as the importance of establishing a legal framework for the UN to be able to meaningfully (and financially) act on this threat. It aims to mainstream environmental issues into the WPS agenda in the same way that women’s organizations are trying to mainstream these issues into the peace and security agenda at large. Such an integrated, intersectional approach may avoid the fragmentation that the WPS agenda has often fallen victim to and that has held back its progress.

In practical terms, the realization of this recommendation could profit from the lessons learned in the process of adopting UNSCR 1325. Notably, the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security played an instrumental role in drafting and advocating for the resolution.15 A network of NGOs working on women and climate justice already exists and could form the basis for one with access to the Security Council, which should highlight the interconnectedness among gender, climate change and peace and security.16 It will also be able to build on the expertise of the Joint Program on Women, Natural Resources and Peace established in 2016 by a group of UN agencies and put to good use the platform they have created.17

Though the occasion for writing this essay and thinking about how to move the objectives of the WPS agenda forward in the next decade was meant to honor the 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325, this year has unfortunately brought a much more pressing reason to do so: the coronavirus pandemic. With the majority of the global health care workforce made up of women and with domestic violence on the rise, it is already clear that the pandemic is not gender blind.18 Politically, it has also made the need for international cooperation in the face of global threats plain for all to see. More than ever, the WPS agenda is needed. And if the current global political system is to be rethought, women should play a central role in doing so.


  1. “Violence against women and girls: the shadow pandemic,” Statement by Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women (New York: UN Women, April 6, 2020).
  2. United Nations Sustainable Development Goals “Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” (New York: United Nations, 2015).
  3. Preventing Conflict, Transforming Justice, Securing the Peace –

A Global Study on the Implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1325’, (New York: UN Women, 2015), chap. 11, 326. Hereafter UN Women, Global Study.

  • UN Women, “Global Study,” chap. 13, 372.
  • Sarah Taylor and Gretchen Baldwin, Focus on 2020:

Opportunities for the Twentieth Anniversary of Resolution 1325 (New York: International Peace Institute Issue Brief, October 2019), p. 4: “As a result, analyses of power dynamics are often stripped out of the agenda, with policymakers either avoiding or explicitly pushing back on the political nature of the issue.”

  • For more detail on Germany’s commitment to WPS during its Security Council Presidency, see Taylor and Gretchen, Focus on 2020, 7. For a discussion of Namibia’s active role in the adoption of UNSCR 1325, see Carol Cohn, Helen Kinsella and Sheri Gibbings, “Women, Peace and Security Resolution 1325,”

International Feminist Journal of Politics, Vol.6, No. 1 (2004), 131. Sweden and Canada offer other examples of comparable commitment to the WPS agenda.

  • Jacqui True claims that peaceful countries only establish their own NAPs when there is substantial normative pressure to do so. See Jacqui True, “Explaining the global diffusion of the Women, Peace and Security agenda,” International Political Science Review, Vol.37, No. 3 (2016), pp. 307– 323.
  • United Nations Peacekeeping, “How we are funded,” website (New York: UN, 2020). “Budgets of peacekeeping operations are based on the missions’ mandate from the Security Council.”
  • See Laura J. Shepherd, “Power and authority in the production of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325,” International Studies Quarterly Vol. 52, No. 2 (2008), pp. 383–404.
  • Report of the Secretary-General on women peace and security (S/2019/800) (New York: United Nations Security Council, 9 October 2019), para. 100.
  • UN Women, “Global Study,” chap. 13.
  • UN Women, “Facts and Figures: Peace and Security” (New York, April 2020).
  • UNDP, “Overview of linkages between gender and climate change,” UNDP Policy Brief, 2012. See also Global Gender and Climate Alliance, “Gender and Climate Change: A Closer Look at Existing Evidence” (November 2016).
  • Annica Kronsell, “WPS and Climate Change,” in Sara E.

Davies and Jacqui True, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Women, Peace and Security, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), pp. 3– 14, is one of the only recent articles explicitly linking the three issues using the concept of human security. A 2017 report of the UNHCR explores the particular challenges posed by environmental displacement: Guy S. Goodwin-Gill and Jane McAdam, Climate Change, Disasters and Displacement (Geneva: UNHCR, 2017).

  1. Cohn, Kinsella, and Gibbings, “Women Peace and Security Resolution 1325,” 131.
  2. One network bringing together NGOs working on this issue already exists, Gendercc: https://www.gendercc.net/home.html. Political parties have also seized on the issue: The European Greens, for instance, have created a European Greens Gender Observatory (EGGO).
  3. Women, natural resources & peace: A Joint Programme of UN Environment, UN Women, the UN Development Programme, and the UN Peacebuilding Support Office (New York: United Nations, 2018). The knowledge platform on Gender, Natural Resources, Climate and Peace created by the Joint Programme can be found here: https://www.gender-nr-peace.org. The report of the first project has been published: Promoting genderresponsive approaches to natural resource management for peace in North Kordofan, Sudan (New York: UNEP and UN Women, December 2018). The pilot project in Colombia is still ongoing.
  4. Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, Women peace and security in the time of corona, LSE WPS blog post, (London: LSE, 25 March 2020).


Esther Luigi (France) is a 2020 International

Parliamentary Scholar at the German Parliament. Previously, she worked with a London-based charity supporting parents’ return to work and combating gender-based discrimination in the workplace in the framework of a social innovation programme. She is a member of the Gender and International Politics Program of Polis180, a grassroots think tank for foreign and European politics. She studied politics, intellectual history and international law in Cambridge and Berlin.

Dismantling Structural Prejudices that Promote Gender Inequality: Overturning a Culture of Violence against Women in Nigeria

Itodo Samuel Anthony

“It is more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflicts.”

  Major General Patrick Cammaert, former UN Commander in the DRC


ecently a video went viral in Nigerian social media: Two soldiers had recorded themselves threatening to rape the “wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters” of the men of the city of Warri and infect them with HIV/AIDS in retaliation for the alleged murder of a soldier by some community youths. The brazenness of their threats while in state-assigned uniforms was shocking. This is Warri in peacetime. One does not

need to stretch the imagination far to visualize what these soldiers would be capable of during armed conflicts.

Violence against women during or after armed conflict has been reported in every war zone, with rape and other sexual violence often used to humiliate the enemy. For perspective, “during the Rwandan genocides of the Hutus and Tutsis, an estimated 50 percent of women were raped.”1 Women in Nigeria are hit hardest in the conflicts that have ravaged the country in recent times, many of them subjected to horrific sexual violence, related HIV infection, involuntary pregnancies, increased food insecurity and internal displacement. With the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast and the herdsmen crisis in the north central region, Nigeria has seen the abduction of girls, murder, rape, internal displacement, and recruitment of women as suicide bombers, sex slaves and forced laborers.2

UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and other instruments have been developed at the international, regional and national levels to protect women and girls from violence in times of peace and war. However, many of these instruments have not been very effective on the ground because they focus on implementation at a high level of governance, with legislation and policy formulation largely ignoring a fundamental root of violence against women—patriarchal and social constructs that diminish women’s place in society.

Despite achievements in the implementation of UNSCR 1325 through UN initiatives and national action plans, there are limited changes at the macrosocial level, as these resolutions sidestep structural issues that undermine gender mainstreaming. The institutionalized prejudices in many patriarchal societies like Nigeria manifest in the form of violence against women, in peace and in wartime, as well as in systemic marginalization, which limits women from participating fully and equally in peace and security decisions, particularly in formal negotiations and peacemaking processes.3

While UNSCR 1325 and other similar policy documents can be potent tools for women, it is time to shift focus to combating, at the grassroots level, the religious, cultural and social values that promote gender inequality and violence against women. I propose a model of action that focuses on young people, who are still amenable to changing socially ingrained values that catalyze violence against women and doing revolution from the ground up.

Nigeria’s Position on Women, Peace and Security

Nigeria is signatory to several instruments on the protection of the rights of women and girls, including the

Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo

Protocol of 2003), UNSCR 1325, and the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against

Women. Domestically, Nigeria has instituted the National Gender Policy of 2006, the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act (VAPP, of 2015), Gender-Based Violence (Prohibition) Law of 2007, the National Action Plan for the Implementation of the UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions. The NAP was first launched in 2013, with an updated one in 2017 to cover 2017–20. Implementation remains a challenge.4

The overall goal of Nigeria’s national action plan is anchored on the following priorities: increased political empowerment for women and engagement at all levels of decision making, a more effective and credible justice and security environment for women during and after conflict and allocation of greater and more sustainable financial resources to support women in recovery processes.5 The plan’s areas of focus, termed the  5 Pillars, are: prevention, participation, protection, prosecution and promotion.

Addressing Patriarchy and Social Constructs

The patriarchal nature of several societies, including Nigeria’s, promotes violence against women and girls and constricts their roles. In such a culture, a senator can threaten a woman colleague with rape on the floor of the Senate during a policy debate, even though the woman is a colleague of “equal standing.” The son of the governor of a state in Nigeria, while arguing with someone on Twitter, threatened to arrange for his antagonist’s mother and sister to be gang-raped. Recently, I heard that certain teenagers on finishing high school planned to rape female classmates as a “parting gift.”

Women and girls suffer the greatest violence during conflicts, yet wars do not suddenly turn men into rapists. There was already a tendency toward violence against women in such men, and conflicts merely present a fertile arena to express that tendency. This mind-set should be dismantled. To change the narrative on the roles of women in society, advocates for women should focus on the young, with the following strategies:

  • Introduce gender and peace studies into the curriculum. Such study can be a powerful tool for promoting appropriate gender education and unlearning harmful socialization. To deepen learning, young people working in teams should come up with interventions within their communities to mitigate violence against women and girls.
  • Form gender and peace clubs across secondary schools. These groups could help raise awareness of instruments like UNSCR 1325. Most people, but especially the women and girls these tools are designed to protect, are not aware of its provisions. Young people in these groups would have regular conversations on peace, security and violence against women to create a much-needed consciousness of women’s rights and roles in society.
  • Set up school parliaments and courts for conflict resolution. These parliaments should have adequate representation from boys and girls, and they can both deliberate issues around peace and security and resolve school-based conflicts. Implementing partners can use these youth parliaments, with their gender balance, to normalize having women’s voices alongside men’s from a young age. Essay competitions and debates on the theme of violence against women across secondary schools would also help to popularize the resolutions and actively engage young people.
  • Form peace and security focus groups at the community level. Civil society organizations and nongovernmental organizations, working with local government authorities, can set up peace and security focus groups of young boys and girls at the community level. These groups would raise awareness of UN resolutions protecting women and girls against violence, foster advocacy against violence toward women and girls and act as a reporting and feedback channel, linking victims of gender-based violence to the appropriate authorities for actions to be taken, especially in rural areas. Periodic debates at the community level on issues of peace and security can be organized through this platform to help evaluate structures that promote violence against women and move to dismantle them.
  • Use a social credit model to promote peace and security. To get young people—male and female— actively involved in promoting peace and security at the community level, a social credit model can be implemented to reward and motivate their participation. I have successfully used this model to get students actively involved in environmental protection and community volunteering. Students are allocated points for carrying out activities such as raising awareness of climate change and planting trees. These credits are accumulated on a ledger board, and students convert them into tangible rewards: a place on an excursion, textbooks, or tuition fee discounts, for example. This program generated a frenzy of student activity that ultimately helped instill the desired values. A similar community program would allow boys and girls to accumulate credits for active involvement in gender equality, peace and security promotion, provision of reporting and feedback to appropriate authorities, and setting up initiatives that tackle violence against women and girls. This program will create a more pragmatic local awareness of the resolutions than adding several more documents and policies at the national and international levels.
  • Set up local gender and peace courts and train security personnel. Violations against the rights of women and girls need special courts for rapid dispensation of justice, as delayed penalties typically erode their severity in the eyes of parties involved and risk too easily have offenses swept under the rug. Without perpetrators being seen to receive punishment, the culture of violence against women will only be perpetuated. Security personnel typically treat issues of rape and violence against women with levity, many times terming them “family matters” to be resolved at home. This attitude emboldens violators and furthers the culture of violence against women, which we now see mirrored in a Nigerian senator’s brazen public threat to rape a woman.

It has been two decades since member states unanimously adopted the UNSCR 1325 as a seminal tool in addressing the violence women and girls face in armed conflict. While Nigeria developed a national action plan, the situation of many Nigerian women is not much changed. Women’s participation in the peace and security process is still mostly rhetoric. More often than not, women are allowed to participate in formal peace processes infrequently and usually for cosmetic purposes, to present an image of inclusiveness. Fundamental values, anchored in patriarchal structural injustices that relegate women to second-class citizenship, need organic change from the grassroots. By helping young people unlearn these negative values and involving them actively in the gender equality and peace and security process, Nigeria can raise a generation that will not need UN instruments to instruct them to treat women with fairness.


  1. West Africa Network for Peacebuilding, Development and

Implementation of National Action Plans on UNSCR 1325 and Related Resolutions: A Guideline (Accra, Ghana: WANEP, 2012).

  • Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom,

Women, Peace and Security in Nigeria, Joint Shadow Report CEDAW Committee, 67 session (London: WILPF, July 2017), p.3.

  • ACCORD and SIDA, Resolution 1325 in 2020: Looking Forward, Looking Back (Umlangha Rocks, South Africa: Fishwicks, 2011), p. 28.
  • WILPF, Women, Peace and Security in Nigeria, p. 2.
  • Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, National Action Plan for the Implementation of UNSCR 1325 and Related Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security in

Nigeria (Lagos, Nigeria: Nigerian Federal Government, 2014), p.


Itodo Samuel Anthony (Nigeria) teaches Chemistry and Physics at Gateway Excel College Otukpa in Benue State of Nigeria. He is the Founder and

Executive Director of the New Frontiers Youth Forum – a community-based leadership organization for young people with a vision of raising an army of young volunteers to provide positive change within their communities. Itodo is passionate about education, especially of children, and the empowerment of young people. In 2018, Itodo was a Top 50 finalist of the Global Teacher Prize. That same year he was also the winner of the Future Awards Africa & University of Sussex Prize in Education. He is an alumnus of the Study of the US Institutes for Secondary Educators program and a firm proponent of social justice, freedom, and gender equality.

The Third Awakening:  The Decade of SHE Politics

Chelsea Cohen


eace and security may mean different things to different people. For me, it is the confidence to walk in my neighborhood and enter public spaces without fear of sexual violence. It is the assurance that a police or military officer who is mandated to protect the public will do just that and not harm me or others. Peace and security encompass safety in society and in economic life. For many women, especially those living in conflict-affected countries in Africa, the solutions to insecurities they face lay in their increased participation in decision making around peace and security. 

UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the accompanying Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda have attempted to highlight the importance of women in international security. They address how conflict differentially affects women and girls and recognize the critical role that women can play in peacebuilding.1 Since the establishment of UNSCR 1325, women have gained more positions of influence both globally and in Africa. Yet women are not yet at the forefront of formal international peace and security negotiations. The lack of progress raises concerns that organizations are filling quotas instead of systematically including women.

The Covid-19 pandemic complicates the picture, as it affects high- and low-income economies alike, places added pressure on already-strained politics and economies and thus risks escalating gender-based violence. Lockdowns have increased domestic violence incidents globally. In China, the number of domestic violence cases reported to the local police has tripled since February.2 South Africa saw 2,320 such complaints during the first week of the lockdown,3 37 percent greater than the weekly average in 2019. With no foreseeable end to the pandemic and rising unemployment, the needs of women, as integral parts of their communities and economies, must be addressed.

UNSCR 1325 and the WPS agenda are crucial documents in the campaign to reduce and prevent conflict and violence. There is an empirical link between the security of women and the stability of nations.4 Nations with higher levels of social, economic and political gender equality are more stable and less likely to rely on military force to settle disputes. Even when they become involved in international crises and disputes, nations with higher levels of gender equality display lower levels of violence. In post-conflict settings, women’s direct participation in peace negotiations is linked to an increase in the sustainability and the quality of peace.5

Governments implicitly recognized this intrinsic link between women’s well-being and that of their nations when they unanimously adopted UNSCR 1325 20 years ago. But to date, only 83 countries have developed follow-up national actions plans (NAPs), of which only 28 countries have allocated budgets for implementation.6 An important component of UNSCR 1325 is the inclusion of women in peace processes. Yet between 1992 and 2018, women constituted only 13 percent of negotiators, 3 percent of mediators and 4 percent of signatories to major peace processes tracked by the Council on Foreign Relations. The vast majority of peace agreements do not address gender: In 2018, only 4 out of 52 agreements contained gender-related provisions, according to UN Women.7

Therefore, the UN Security Council, in conjunction with the African Union and civil society organizations, must act to enhance African women’s participation in peace processes. While there has been marked improvement, challenges still impede women’s involvement. These challenges include women’s lack of access to formal employment as mediators. In some cases, women lack sufficient, sustainable funding to support peace processes directly or indirectly. Others lack capacity and experience in mediating conflicts, which locks them out of mediation opportunities. There are insufficient numbers of trained women mediators in most African countries. Where they exist, they are mostly involved at the grassroots and in local mediation efforts but absent in high-profile mediation or negotiations.

As one observer explained, women must be politically appointed to ambassadorships or diplomatic positions: “Otherwise most women who have had some formal schooling are often placed in administrative positions, and the ones who have not been able to attend school are used as political ‘hand clappers,’ ” where they are not likely to gain much influence or make a difference.

The African Union typically maintains a low profile in negotiations, mainly providing support to special representatives who have received mandates to mediate. This creates a barrier to appointing women to top leadership positions and highlights the need for rethinking whether it is most effective to use mainly former heads of state and politically influential women as mediators.

The pandemic could reverse progress that has been made on gender equality, given that nearly 60 percent of the world’s women work in the informal economy and thus are at greater risk of falling into poverty. As economies close down, millions of women’s jobs will disappear. At the same time, young girls have not been attending school due to closures. These factors are sidelining efforts to secure women’s rights and denying them opportunities. Gender equality and women’s rights are essential to overcoming the effects of this pandemic.

In these times, UNSCR 1325 remains relevant in its calls for change in the way women are considered, especially in Africa, and for the equal participation of women in national, regional and international decisionmaking regarding conflict resolution and peacebuilding. I propose that the following be considered to improve attainment of UNSCR 1325 objectives:

  • More member states should adopt NAPs and allocate budgets for their implementation. Given the pandemic’s potential to increase violence against women and girls, women should be the forefront of implementation.
  • Africa needs to boost national health expenditures to contain the spread of Covid-19, help the hardest-hit sectors, improve women’s lives and stimulate domestic consumption. To achieve these goals, the continent’s central banks should cut interest rates and channel liquidity to firms and households. Spending measures should be implemented transparently and be monitored by independent fiscal councils. The UN Security Council and the AU heads of state and government should mobilize a response equivalent to the 10 percent of the GDP its AU member states, with assistance from central banks and development banks. Continentwide free trade would be a holistic, helpful response so that the women-dominated informal sector can sell what they produce across the continent. Eliminating bilateral tariffs and all nontariff barriers on goods and services within Africa and reducing other barriers to cross-border trade would generate $134 billion per year, or 4.5 percent of African GDP.8
  • Women leaders need to be at the forefront of decisionmaking. Task teams should include women leaders from communities and civil society to promote community engagement and leadership, thus expanding social safety nets. In communities where many women share homes with their abusers and struggle to access strapped social services, women can lead in encouraging their communities to create safe havens for endangered women.
  • Going forward, women need capacity training. Active participation of women mediators is dependent on their gaining negotiation and mediation skills. This training can be achieved through partnerships with the private sector, which provides 9 out of 10 jobs in developing countries.9 By investing in programs that build women’s skills, there is huge potential for the private sector to make a difference. Partnerships with commercial banks to fund leadership programs for women in which they learn to negotiate and engage in political analysis are a critical way to help women attain positions of influence.
  • Investing in women’s economic participation, including through entrepreneurship, is often crucial for the stability of the fragile economies of conflict-affected societies—and for the stability of the private sector too. Tax credits should be offered for companies that participate in social development programs. Partnerships with universities could allow students to obtain academic credit for participating in research or community conflict resolution efforts.
  • Government and international organizations, especially those in Africa, should broaden their applicant pool and hire women with backgrounds in peace and conflict studies. There needs to be more room for career diplomats to advance women so they do not seek employment elsewhere. Civil society organizations can employ women to assist with conflict resolution in low-income countries. Law clinics can schedule community programs to empower women to advocate for their rights. The African Union should involve more members in initiatives such as the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation, known as FemWise-Africa, and encourage women to apply for posts.
  • UNSCR 1325 is little understood. Although inroads have been made, information needs to be translated into local languages so advocates can raise awareness about the resolution and its importance.

In this 20th anniversary year of UNSCR 1325, the UN Security Council, in collaboration with member states, must show outspoken leadership and renewed support for gender equality and the WPS agenda—asserting their clear and unequivocal conviction that defending women’s rights are essential to recovery from the

pandemic and to building a better future for everyone.


  1. Carmen Niethammer, “Women, Peace and Security: Challenges and Opportunities in Light of the Corona Pandemic,” Forbes (April 4, 2020).
  2. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, “China’s Domestic Violence Epidemic,” Axios (March 7, 2020).
  3. Gareth Newham and Anton du Plessis, “How Might the Covid-19 Lockdown Affect Public Safety in SA?” Daily Maverick, (April 6, 2020).
  4. Valerie M. Hudson, Donna Lee Brown and Perpetua Lynne

Nielsen, “We Are Not Helpless: Addressing Structural Gender Inequality in Post-Conflict Societies,” PRISM, Vol. 6, No. 1 (2016), pp. 123–39.

  • Ibid. p. 1.
  • PeaceWomen, Member states (website: Peacewomen.org).
  • UN Women, Facts and figures: Peace and Security (New York: UN Women, October 2019).
  • African Development Bank, African Economic Outlook 2019 (Abidjan: ADB, 2019).
  • International Finance Corporation, IFC Job Study: Assessing PrivateSsector Contributions to Job Creation and Poverty Reduction (Washington, DC: IFC, January 2013).


Chelsea Cohen (Zimbabwe) graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Masters in Criminology, Law and Society which focused on Transnational crimes and Security Governance. She is currently pursuing a PhD in International Security, Peace and Conflict in Africa through the University of South Africa.

How the Private Sector Can Advance  UNSCR 1325 in the 2020s

Karla Drpić


nited Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) was a watershed moment for women’s rights and roles in international peace and security. It established the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, which emphasizes the importance of women’s participation throughout the entire cycle of armed conflict. UNSCR 1325 and subsequent WPS-related Security Council resolutions call on all

relevant actors to advance this agenda.

However, 20 years and nine resolutions later, the role of the private sector in furthering the WPS agenda and the goals of UNSCR 1325 remains underexplored. While gender equality is a centerpiece of most corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and the importance of business for promoting peace is growing, advocates for gender, peace and business have yet to form a coherent front.

This essay argues that the private sector has enormous potential to unlock opportunities to advance UNSCR 1325 and the WPS agenda. In it, I argue that the private sector can be particularly valuable for advancing women’s participation in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction. After exploring current private-sector involvement in the WPS agenda, I explain why it is good for business and offer recommendations on how to advance its role in the WPS agenda throughout the 2020s.

Private-Sector Potential and the WPS Agenda

While many businesses worldwide operate in conflict-affected areas, the potential for the private sector to make a difference around WPS remains largely untapped.1 This “missing link” is puzzling for several reasons.

First, gender equality is increasingly important within the corporate world. Given that so many global businesses with strong CSR commitments operate in conflict-affected areas, their apparent lack of awareness  of how investing in women’s empowerment in these environments might benefit them is perplexing.

Moreover, global CSR initiatives have shown that they can react quickly to new challenges related to gender equality. For example, the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC)—the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative—and the Women’s Empowerment Principles have published timely recommendations for businesses to employ a “gender lens” to the COVID-19 pandemic.2

Finally, platforms that could support WPS-related corporate initiatives already exist. For example, Business for Peace (B4P) aims to harness the preexisting role of business in fragile and conflict-affected states to deepen private-sector action in support of peace.3 Other platforms, like the UNGC, might also be good vehicles for driving progress on business involvement in this area.

However, conceptual links between this global CSR “infrastructure” and the WPS agenda are distinctly lacking. For example, a 2011 report on costing and financing UNSCR 1325 notes that while certain UNGC partnerships include projects on gender equality, they fail to contextually link these programs and women’s empowerment  to peacebuilding.4

Progress on this matter has been slow, and there is a distinct lack of references to women or gender considerations in literature about business and peace in conflict areas. For instance, the 2010 UNGC-PRI Guidance on Responsible Business in Conflict-Affected & High-Risk Areas does not include any references to women. Their 2013 report Responsible Business Advancing Peace: Examples from Companies, Investors & Global Compact Local Networks fails to do so too.

However, certain NGOs and other institutions have made positive steps toward recognizing the importance of business for the WPS agenda. Cordaid, one of the biggest international development organizations and a member of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, supports more than 60 female-owned enterprises in some of the most fragile contexts worldwide. Similarly, the World Bank has developed several initiatives to empower women entrepreneurs to promote peace and stability.5

Why Advancing the WPS Agenda is Good for Business

The business case for women’s participation and leadership globally is exceptionally strong: Female-founded businesses ultimately deliver higher revenue—more than twice as much per dollar invested—than those founded by men, making women-owned companies better investments for financiers.6 There is also a strong link between women’s participation in the labor market and GDP growth. The World Economic Forum predicts that if the global gender gap in labor market participation is closed by 25 percent by 2025, an additional US$5.3 trillion would be added to GDP globally.7

These findings are important for conflict-affected economies, which tend to be fragile due to the lack of foreign investment, decreased living standards, mass emigration, and increased numbers of conflict-related disabilities and fatalities. As such, war is often referred to as development in reverse,8 underscoring the urgent need for GDP growth in these economies. Since studies show that women’s inclusion and participation in economic life can significantly boost various economic indicators—thus accelerating post-conflict economic development and reconstruction—there is a clear business case for promoting gender equality in these areas.

On this score, business has massive potential to enact positive change. The private sector provides nine in ten jobs in developing countries,9 which largely overlaps with current conflict-affected and post-conflict geographies.10

Employing more women for these jobs would improve business performance and economic growth, which makes a compelling case for businesses of all kinds to advance women’s empowerment in fragile areas.

For instance, multinational companies (MNCs) operating in such areas may provide employment and promotions to more women, outsource services and products to women- owned enterprises, and provide locally relevant skills training to women. Such actions can help develop more skilled, empowered workforces, benefiting both employers and communities. For example, a graduate of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Initiative program, who runs a brick manufacturing company in Kigali, Rwanda, primarily hires local women and has invested in a water pump for her community.11

Furthermore, stability is good for business, and studies have shown that countries with higher levels of gender equality are more stable.12 Therefore, investing in gender equality in conflict- affected areas is not only an excellent way for MNCs to show their commitment to CSR on a global level, but it is also likely to create more positive business environments, thereby attracting investment and creating more business opportunities.

Empowering women by involving them in business activities during post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding may also build lasting societal stability, starting from the family unit. Economically empowered women can financially support their families, divert family members from conflict-related work opportunities, and reduce rates of domestic violence. International Alert’s Living with Dignity project in Tajikistan, which aims to build a socioeconomic environment that empowers women and protects them from sexual and genderbased violence, is a good example of this. It found that women’s earnings have increased fourfold since they started their own businesses as part of the project, and the percentage of women who report experiencing violence has decreased by 31 percent.13

The private sector can foster female entrepreneurship and contribute to the development of the local economy. For instance, Tupperware Brands’ Global Links Program helps Iraqi women develop technical and business skills. This project thus enables women to run their businesses more effectively but also to spread this knowledge to other female business owners.14

Finally, if women are empowered economically, they can increase their political negotiating power in reconstruction and peacebuilding efforts.15 This increased economic power could directly contribute to one of the key objectives of UNSCR 1325: “ensure increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management and resolution of conflict.”

Outlook for the 2020s

The private sector can powerfully advance the objectives of 1325 and the WPS agenda more broadly. Moreover, the generational shift in attitudes toward CSR bodes well for implementing more meaningful, comprehensive corporate initiatives to promote WPS.

According to PwC’s Millennials at Work, the millennial generation will form half of the global workforce by 2020, and 88 percent of millennials prefer to work in companies that emphasize CSR.16 As this generation is promoted into positions of power, they are likely to push for change in their companies’ CSR practices. Corporate initiatives aiming to advance the WPS agenda could be a metaphorical gold mine for companies that already operate in conflict-affected areas and who want to improve their CSR performance in the 2020s and beyond.

There are several reasons this could be the case. First, advancing a worthy cause like WPS might be personally and professionally gratifying to the majority of the global workforce, PwC’s report suggests. Second, privatesector initiatives that explicitly focus on WPS are rare, and companies that start developing and implementing such initiatives may be recognized as innovators, raising their profile and motivating more companies to join the cause. Finally, this year’s 20th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development establish a highly symbolic 10-year period between 2020 and 2030 for companies to engage more in global causes that have not seen much progress.


Twenty years on, advancement of UNSCR 1325 and the WPS agenda remains slow on several fronts, including in the private sector. Global CSR platforms and practitioners have failed to recognize how the private sector might empower women in conflict-affected areas.

Most of these areas need economic growth urgently. As the main employers in many conflict-affected areas worldwide, the private sector plays a key role. Moreover, the private sector could accelerate and strengthen growth by increasing women’s participation in the labor market and committing to their empowerment. Evidence suggests that such initiatives may promote post-conflict recovery of local communities, creating a stable business environment, reducing violence against women, and fostering women’s political participation.

Although businesses may appear an unlikely advocate for advancing this agenda, there is a strong business case for the socially responsible millennial generation to start developing and implementing WPS-focused CSR projects within their companies throughout the 2020s and beyond. UNSCR 1325’s anniversary thus presents an ideal opportunity for businesses worldwide to capitalize on their potential by helping to achieve the objectives of UNSCR 1325 and the WPS agenda.


  1. Mavic Cabrera-Balleza and Nicola Popovic, Costing and financing 1325 (New York: Global Network of Women Peacebuilders and Cordaid, May 2011).
  2. Women’s Empowerment Principles, Resources weps.org. United Nations Global Compact, COVID-19: How Business Can Support Women in Times of Crisis (New York: United Nations, 2020).
  3. Jason Miklian et al., Business and peacebuilding: seven ways to maximize positive impact, securityhumanrightshub.org, 2018. 4 Cabrera-Balleza and Popovic, Costing and financing 1325.
  4. Hartwig Schafer, Empowering women toward peace and

stability,  blog (Washington, DC: World Bank, May 16, 2018).

  • Katie Abouzahr et al., Why Women-Owned Startups Are a Better Bet (Boston: Boston Consulting Group, June 6, 2018).
  • World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 (Geneva: WEF, 2017).
  • Håvard Mokleiv Nygård and Henrik Urdal, War Is

Development  in Reverse, blog (Oslo: PRIO, September 25, 2015).

  • Carmen Niethammer, “Women, Peace and Security—Challenges and Opportunities in Light of the Corona Pandemic,” Forbes (April 4, 2020).
  • Scott Gates et al., The consequences of internal armed conflict for development (Part 1) (Stockholm: SIPRI, March 30, 2015).
  • Cabrera-Balleza and Popovic, Costing and financing 1325.
  • Niethammer, “Women, Peace and Security.”13 International Alert, The women entrepreneurs ending violence in Tajikistan (London: International Alert, March 8, 2019).
  • United Nations Global Compact, Companies Leading the

Way: Putting the Principles into Practice (New York: UN, 2011).

  1. Cabrera-Balleza and Popovic, Costing and financing 1325.
  2. PwC, Millennials at work: Reshaping the workplace (PwC. org: 2011).


Karla Drpić (Croatia) is a student of MA War Studies at King’s College London and is a project manager at the UN Global Compact Network UK. She holds a BA in International Relations and Modern Languages from the University of Essex. She is fluent in Croatian, English, and Spanish, and has good knowledge of Italian and Portuguese.

UNSCR 1325 and Beyond: Engagement of Women in Dialogue with Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups

Tabitha W. Mwangi


lobal terrorism and violent extremism remain a transnational peace and security threat.1 United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and subsequent resolutions on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) recognized the role of women in countering and preventing violent extremism.

At the same time, women’s involvement in violent extremist groups poses a grave threat, with

serious implications for security and counterterrorism strategies.2 Hard-power approaches to dealing with this challenge remain unsustainable and ineffective. As such, dialogue will need to be more prevalent and the inclusion of women in negotiations more instrumental in achieving the objectives of UNSCR 1325.

I argue that deliberate inclusion of women in dialogue processes with extremist groups will be instrumental in countering terrorism and violent extremism effectively. Furthermore, it will bring women from the periphery to central positions in shaping future peace, which adding them as an afterthought cannot achieve. Token inclusion of women has been one of the main barriers to effective implementation of UNSCR 1325.3 Given that the fields of peace, security and counterterrorism remain male dominated, engaging women more in counterterrorism presents numerous opportunities to gain unique gender perspectives on peace and security.4

Although inclusive dialogue has long been advanced as a long-term solution to countering terrorism and violent extremism, this essay looks at how women can be deliberately involved in these processes globally. I also make recommendations to the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee’s Executive Directorate (CTED), which is in a unique position to advocate for the acknowledgement, recognition and appreciation of women’s role in dialogue processes with violent extremist groups through engaging UN member states. Successful implementation of these recommendations would lead to successful implementation of critical aspects of the WPS agenda related to violent extremism.

Women, Violent Extremism and Terrorism

I adopt Charles Townshend’s definition of terrorism: “the use or threat, for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, or ideological course of action, of serious violence against any person or property.”5

Violent extremist groups are those that are motivated by a fundamental leaning toward use of violence to pursue ideological goals. Given similarities in their modus operandi, operations, links to transnational and organized crime and threats to international security, this essay will group jihadist and white supremacist groups together in this definition.6

The recent US announcement that it will recognize white supremacy violent extremists as terrorists comes after pressure from experts who assert that these groups are a grave security threat.7

Women are involved in terrorism. According to the 2019 Global Terrorism Index, female suicide attacks are five percent more deadly than those executed by males given their capability to circumvent security scrutiny, and they are becoming more common. About 13 percent of foreigners who joined the ISIL violent extremist group were female, some 6,900 in total. More than 4,000 women who had joined ISIL remain in the Syrian Al Hol camp awaiting potential return to their home countries, despite the security threat they pose. Some are unapologetic about their engagement with ISIL and are likely to use violence against other groups.8

Women play different roles in terrorist organizations. According to Michèle Coninsx they collect intelligence and conduct surveillance on potential targets, recruit young people, carry out suicide attacks, finance terror operations and take care of group members’ needs, such as cooking and cleaning.9 Mia Bloom argues that women in many cases are the source of radicalization, urging others to join as part of their duty to carry out jihad.10 While on one end of the spectrum, there are women who believe they should support extremist organizations by marrying other members, bearing their children, and sometimes engaging as active combatants, on the other end of the spectrum, there are women working to eradicate violent ideology, having seen firsthand its terrible effects.11

Terrorist organizations recognize and tap into women’s diverse roles. Katharine Petrich and Phoebe Donnelly detail how al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab, a terrorist group operating in the Horn of Africa and known for its strict interpretation of Islamic law, collaborates with commercial sex workers to collect intelligence from security personnel in Nairobi.12 Ironically, the same group punishes Somali women engaged in this profession on the basis of Islamic law.


• Involve Women in Dialogue to Bridge the Gap Between States and Violent Groups

Because of the growing gap between state security (security of privileged elites, often in positions of economic and political authority) and human security (the aspirations of citizens to have their basic needs met, access social services, enjoy economic security and personal safety from harm), violent extremism has become more widespread.13 The current approach to dealing with this security challenge—through exclusive use of force in state self-defense, as permitted by Article 51 of the United Nations Charter—has proved counterproductive and unsustainable. Thus, it is necessary to also adopt soft-power approaches such as deradicalization and reintegration of individuals who have joined extremist groups. The continued exclusive use of hard power creates cycles of violence, with disenfranchised, marginalized communities prone to engage in revenge attacks and erosion of state legitimacy because the state is seen as a source of insecurity.14

Dialogue is effective. As was the case in Northern Ireland, government engagement in dialogue with violent groups can lead to cessation of hostilities.15 Dialogue can effectively address the root causes of conflict such  as structural violence, widespread unemployment and gender inequalities, so it should not be perceived  as weakness or as legitimating the activities of nonstate entities. Engagement in dialogue embodies the willingness to bridge the gap between the state and the individual, which is a step toward resolving conflict  in the long term.16

UNSCR 1325 seeks to include gender perspectives in peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction. Engagement of women in dialogue would help protect women, prevent armed conflict and increase participation of women in peace and security—all of which will contribute to countering terrorism and  violent extremism.17

CTED should spearhead this process: 1) because women who feel secure are less likely to be radicalized, join extremist groups, or to become militants’ brides, kidnap victims or suicide bombers, 2) because women can perceive signs of radicalization in their communities so that interventions can be made before individuals turn to violence, and 3) because involving women in dialogue ensures their continued engagement in political processes such as voting, running for political office and other forms of grassroots leadership that can influence action at the international level.18

• Acknowledge Women’s Leadership

Women’s leadership is overlooked in many societies. Recognizing and appreciating it will be important for engaging women in dialogue. Leadership is understood in this case as the process by which leaders achieve goals, which happens when an individual shares ideas to meet specific social needs that others accept as potential solutions.19

As women are constantly negotiating for what they need, whether by pushing for revenge or an end to structural violence), they should be involved in dialogue processes.20 State collaboration with women to fight violent extremism is not new, as women’s role as mothers and primary care givers has been leveraged to such ends in the past.21

However, I advocate for involvement of women and engagement beyond their socially assigned gender roles as mothers and primary care givers. CTED should involve them as axis points in dialogue to ensure that gender issues are prioritized and women’s needs addressed so as to resolve underlying drivers of conflict.

• Conduct More Research on Women and Terrorism

Policymakers seeking to effectively deal with violent extremism must avoid oversimplification. Women are not homogenous; they have individual agency.22 After identifying the right women to partner with, CTED and governments must work with them as equal partners. They must avoid pushing gender inequality to the margins of peace and security discourses or including gender perspectives or gender quotas for declaratory purposes, to meet donor requirements or out of political correctness.23

Every community exists in a unique context informed by cultural, social, geopolitical and economic factors, thus a one-size-fits-all approach to the engagement of women in dialogue would be problematic. Therefore, researchers must draft recommendations tailor-made for different stakeholders in CTED collaborations. These stakeholders should include public- and private-sector actors and civil society partners, because they have different strengths and operate in different contexts.24


Because women’s involvement in terrorist and violent extremist groups poses grave threats to peace and security and will continue to affect counterterrorism strategies, it is important to involve women in dialogue. Dealing with the violence from extremist groups using only force remains unsustainable because of its expense and its cost in lives lost—it is also largely ineffective in preventing repeated violence.

Policymakers should draft specific recommendations for the different stakeholders with which CTED works as they involve women in dialogue with violent groups. They must avoid the assumption that women share a homogenous perspective. Moreover, they should recognize women’s leadership in formal and informal spaces. Dialogue as an alternative to counterterrorism and violent extremism is worthy of exploration, in keeping with the aims of UNSCR 1325, which seeks to protect women, prevent violence and guarantee increased involvement of women in peace and security processes. Engaging women in dialogue will help address the root causes of conflict, thus contributing to sustainable peace and development.


  1. The Soufan Center, White Supremacy Extremism: The

Transnational Rise of the Violent White Supremacist Movement

(New York: The Soufan Center, September 30, 2019), pp.14-18.

  • Michèle Coninsx, “Women’s Involvement in Terrorism:

New Trends and Development,” Global Terrorism Index 2019: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism (Sydney: Institute for Economics & Peace, 2019), p. 74.

  • Fumni Olonisakin, Bringing Gender Dimensions Back from

Obscurity: Governance, Peace and Security in Africa (Accra,

Ghana: African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), 

2016), p.1.

  • Alistair Millar, “Women on the Front Lines,”in United States

Institute of Peace, Charting a New Course: Thought for Action Kit (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2015), pp. 9–10.

  • Charles Townshend, Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction (Hampshire, UK: Oxford University Press, 2018), p.4.
  • The Soufan Center, White Supremacy, pp. 6–11.
  • John Allen, “White-Supremacist Violence Is Terrorism,”

The Atlantic (February 24, 2020); The Soufan Center, White

Supremacy; Zolan Kanno-Youngs, “Homeland Security Department Affirms Threat of White Supremacy after Years of Prodding,” The New York Times (October 1, 2019); Max Rose and Ali Soufan, “We Once Fought Jihadists. Now We Battle White Supremacists,” The New York Times (February 11, 2020).

  • Institute for Economics & Peace, “Gender and Terrorism”

Global Terrorism Index 2019: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism (Sydney: Institute for Economics and Peace, November 2019), pp.62-69.

  • Coninsx, “Women’s Involvement in Terrorism”, pp. 74.
  • Mia Bloom, “When Women Are the Problem,” inUnited

States Institute of Peace, Charting a New Course: Thought for Action Kit (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2015), p. 20.

  1. Alistair Millar, “Women on the Front Lines.”inUnited States

Institute of Peace, Charting a New Course: Thought for Action Kit (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2015), p. 10.

  1. Katharine Petrich and Phoebe Donnelly, “Worth Many Sins: Al-Shabaab’s Shifting Relationship with Kenyan Women,” Small Wars & Insurgencies, Vol. 30, Nos. 6-7 (2019), pp. 1169-1192.
  2. Hussein Solomon, “Beyond the State: Reconceptualizing African Security in the 21st Century,” African Security Review, Vol. 26, No.1 (2017), p.71.
  3. Akinola Olojo, How Viable Is Dialogue with al-Shabaab and Boko Haram? Institute for Security Studies Policy Brief 130 (Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies, July 24, 2019), p. 5.
  4. Peter Neumann “Negotiating with Terrorists,” Foreign Affairs (Jan/Feb 2007).
  5. Olojo, How Viable Is Dialogue with al-Shabaab and Boko Haram?, p. 3.
  6. Olonisakin, Bringing Gender Dimensions Back from Obscurity,p. 11).
  7. Ibid.
  8. Albert Murphy, “A Study of the Leadership Process.” American Sociological Review (1941) pp. 674–68. Quoted in Jon Pierce and John Newstrom, Leaders and the Leadership Process: Readings, Self- Assessments and Applications (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2008), pp.12-14.
  9. Olonisakin, Bringing Gender Dimensions Back from Obscurity, p. 5.
  10. Bloom, “When Women Are the Problem,” p. 20.
  11. Coninsx, “Women’s Involvement in Terrorism,” p. 74.
  12. Olonisakin, Bringing Gender Dimensions Back from Obscurity, p. 14-16.
  13. Coninsx, “Women’s Involvement in Terrorism, p. 76.


Tabitha Wangui Mwangi (Kenyan) is an early career fellow at the African Leadership Centre, at King’s College London. She is a researcher and consultant on

Counter-Terrorism and Security issues and heads the

Security Program at the Center for International and Security Affairs (CISA) directing the organization’s Security and Counter-Terrorism programs.

She holds a master’s degree in Counter Terrorism and

Homeland Security Studies with a cluster in Cyber

Terrorism from the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya (Israel), and an undergraduate degree in International Relations.

Promoting Women’s Rights:

Creating Conditions for Post-Conflict Peace?

Gudlaug Olafsdottir


ince the ratification of UNSCR 1325 in 2000, ever more emphasis has been put on women’s empowerment in the wake of armed conflict, sometimes framed as a “window of opportunity” for women to enhance their formal standing amidst institutional reform.1 Accordingly, many post-conflict countries have promulgated legislation and policies in support of female participation in various spheres.2 These trends

notwithstanding, such measures do not necessarily always appear to lead to the intended or anticipated outcome. Even where women gain legal rights in post-conflict countries, it appears insufficient to prevent a backlash against women in the aftermath of war.3 I thus propose that in the coming decade international organizations consider what can be learned from the past regarding the conditions that are most conducive to promoting women’s rights in the aftermath of conflict and how these conditions influence the prospects for peace.

Despite strong promotion of women’s empowerment and gender equality by policymakers and peacebuilding practitioners, little is yet known regarding when active encouragement of change in gender structures fosters the development of gender equality or when it leads to unanticipated outcomes in the aftermath of conflict.4 Gendered outcomes of conflict themselves often put a strain on gender relations, resulting in a tension between any gains toward female emancipation that were made during the conflict and the post-conflict quest in many societies to reinstitute more traditional structures.5 These post-conflict tensions must be taken into account when proposing policies and programs pushing for women’s empowerment; knowing the conditions that help in overcoming such tensions is essential to the pursuit of sustainable peace.

While gender mainstreaming policies are widespread and programs to aid women are many, there is a need to focus on the most efficient strategies for attaining change and those that cause the least amount of harm. I propose that international actors do two things: Focus on assisting local civil society organizations in lobbying for change in legislation, and implement locally informed, inclusive programs fostering gender equality. By assisting local organizations in promoting women’s rights while simultaneously fostering normative change among men as well as women, women’s rights as well as sustainable peace can be more effectively pursued in years to come. 

Gender equality and its impacts for promoting peace can be actively brought about (or entrenched) by legislation during post-conflict reconstruction. Building on lessons from past decades, I argue that adoption and enforcement of women’s rights is conducive to conflict risk mitigation if these rights are actively espoused by domestic civil society and promoted among men as well as women. Conversely, if prescriptively introduced from abroad or introduced without support from local nongovernmental actors and promoted only among women, advocacy for increased rights for women is more likely to yield criticism of international intervention, globalization and the affront to traditional values.6 Such efforts risk further entrenching wartime gender relations that pose risks to the security of women and to society at large.

Gender Equality, Women’s Rights and Conflict Risk Mitigation

Shifting norms toward lessened belligerence due to changing gender roles is one component of Pinker’s argument that the global decline of war is a result of shifts in societal structures in which norms and institutions constraining the use of violence are developed. 7 

While gender norms play out in different ways across the world, traditional gender roles take on a similar aspect globally, with males depicted as protective warriors who are supported by yielding female figures. Femininity is generally associated with nurturing tenderness; men are ascribed more competitive, assertive traits. Such associations lead societies to associate dominance, leadership and sometimes violence with masculinity, particularly in relation to war.8 In communities where these gender constructions are strong, there is an implicit acceptance of dominance of one sex over the other and acceptance of violent assertiveness as an expression of masculinity.9 These norms tend to entail an acceptance for other norms that promote structural as well as direct violence.10

By denouncing violence as an acceptable expression of masculinity and condemning dominance of one group over another, the deconstruction of the above described socially constructed gender roles should be conducive to peace. Gender equality is an expression of a norm change that, in aggregate, should keep violence from spreading from the individual to the national level. If the population condemns violence, nonstate armed groups are less likely to garner support or recruit fighters. If gender-equal norms can be bolstered, the risk of war should decrease as women’s emancipation increases. However, if promotion of women’s rights is met with skepticism and discontent, it may produce a backlash against women and entrench wartime gender roles.

Women’s security is central to the security of the state.11 It is largely defined by laws. Not only do laws establish frameworks for crimes and punishment, they stipulate what is acceptable or desirable in a society. Societies that institute and retain laws that enshrine the dominance of men over women officially allow and accept such structures.12 Regulations ensuring that women and men are equal, stipulating that neither has the right to exert dominance over the other in any sphere, and those that criminalize harmful acts that mainly afflict one sex should facilitate gender equality. Given the prevalence of patriarchal structures, legislation aimed toward achieving gender equality generally translates into increased rights for women.

If such legislation is adopted and enforced, it should influence gender norms. First, laws have symbolic value, in that they set a normative structure to guide conduct within state institutions as well as in the broader society.13 Further, by establishing women’s rights, proponents of gender equality gain a legitimate framework to call upon in support of the pursuit of gender-equal practices as well as to hold officials to account should they neglect to implement or adhere to such rights.14 Second, as policies that help women enter political, economic, educational and social arenas are put into place and where public institutions implement and enforce them, gender-equal practices should lead to a gradual change in the gender roles in society. By implementing women’s rights, women should gain political agency, economic independence and control over their own reproductive rights and health. Their gains in these areas are likely to further promote gender-equal practices, enforce gender-equal norms, and in turn, foster a condemnation ofviolence.15

The Role of Civil Society

While the prevalence of laws protecting women and aiming to enhance their status may be an indicator of extant norms in a country, it is not a certainty. At times, external actors or in-country elites push for laws without the acquiescence of the broader society.16 In many places where women’s rights have been legally established, social structures question their legitimacy and prevent their realization.17 When such hindrances are removed, rights are likely to be more accepted as well as enacted.

If post-conflict reconstruction is built entirely from the top down, it may not resonate in society at large. It may lead to resentment from the local population, feelings of disconnection to the decisions made, or opposition to reforms that appear to be in tension with their everyday lives.18 If changes are driven by grassroots demands, however, they are more likely to gain legitimacy and acceptance.19 Women’s rights must be buttressed by the local civil society organizations in order to influence post-conflict peace. If mobilized groups within civil societydemandadoption of women’s rights, the public is more likely to view these reforms as legitimate.

Civil society support can have multiple effects on the relationship between women’s rights and conflict. Beyond pushing for the initial guarantee of rights, civil society organizations can monitor implementation and ensure

it is appropriate to the local setting.20 Such groups are best placed to assist in building local knowledge, raising awareness in the community and mobilizing resources so that citizens can exercise and demand their own rights.21 They may also be an important bridge between the international community and the local population, providing local networks and contextual knowledge.22 If local civil society groups that push for women’s rights are strong and unrestricted, there is more likely to be a strong foundation for the promulgation and enactment of women’s rights and a greater likelihood of internal legitimacy.

Importantly, such groups ought not focus only on women. While building women’s knowledge of their rights is central, barriers to enacting such rights must be broken down. Otherwise, such efforts may be futile and even harmful. Particularly after armed conflict, it is essential to focus programs on women and men. In order to promote sustainable peace as well as mitigate a backlash toward women who assert their rights and nontraditional roles, it is essential to address “militarized masculinity.”23 If men perceive they are disadvantaged relative to women in aid to better their situation, they are more likely to oppose initiatives aimed toward gender equality. This opposition risks cementing the barriers to women’s empowerment, as well as causing harm toward women who assert their rights.

In sum, prevalent, strong local civil society groups that promote women’s rights and include programs engaging men as well as women will enhance the legitimacy and implementation of women’s rights. The effect on genderequal norms would be positive, given lower levels of local resistance and greater institutionalization. Together, changes in gender norms and increased acceptance of women’s rights should lower the risk of armed conflict, as norms condemning dominance and violence become more widespread and the risk of post-conflict backlash against women is reduced.


The promotion of women’s rights, beyond its inherent importance, can be successfully implemented and can contribute to peacebuilding in post-conflict settings if such efforts are supported by domestic civil society in an inclusive manner. Where support from civil society is strong, the legitimacy of women’s rights promotion is greater, gender-equal norms are more likely to develop, and political violence is more likely to be condemned. These conditions in turn are more likely to contribute to sustained peace. Yet this outcome is contingent on civil society initiatives engaging men as well as women. Hence, international organizations promoting legislation to advance women’s rights at the national level must ensure that their initiatives are rooted in local civil society, that work on the ground is done in close collaboration with these local actors, and that initiatives also raise men’s awareness of the importance of women’s rights and mitigating militarized masculinities.


  1. Theodora-Ismene Gizelis and Nana Afua Pierre, “Gender Equality and Postconflict Reconstruction: What Do We Need to Know in Order to Make Gender Mainstreaming Work?” International Interactions Vol. 39, No. 4 (2013), p. 603; Aili Mari Tripp, Women and Power in Post-Conflict Africa (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015), p. 30; Louise Olsson and Theodora-Ismene Gizelis, “An Introduction to Resolution 1325,” in Louise Olsson and Theodora-Ismene Gizelis, eds.,

Gender, Peace and Security: Implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (London: Routledge, 2015); Caroline Sweetman and Jo Rowlands, “Introduction: Working on Gender Equality in Fragile Contexts,” Gender & Development Vol. 24, No. 3 (2016), pp. 337–51.

  • Tripp, Women and Power in Postconflict Africa; Melanie

M. Hughes and Aili M. Tripp, “Civil War and Trajectories of

Change in Women’s Political Representation in Africa, 19852010,” Social Forces Vol. 93, No. 4 (2015), pp. 1513–40.

  • Donna Pankhurst, “The Gendered Impact of Peace,” in Michael Pugh et al., Whose Peace? Critical Perspectives on the Political Economy of Peacebuilding (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), p. 32.
  • Gizelis and Pierre, “Gender Equality and Postconflict Reconstruction.”
  • Sheila Meintjes, Meredeth Turshen, and Anu Pillay, The Aftermath: Women in Post-Conflict Transformation (New York:

Zed Books, 2001).

  • See Andrea Kathryn Talentino, “Perceptions of Peacebuilding: The Dynamic of Imposer and Imposed Upon.” International Studies Perspectives, Vol. 8, No. 2 (2007), pp. 152–171.
  • Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (New York, NY: Viking, 2011).
  • Joshua Goldstein, War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001), chapter 5; Erik Melander, “Political Gender Equality and State Human Rights Abuse.” Journal of Peace Research Vol. 42, No. 2 (2005), pp. 154–55.
  • Melander, “Political Gender Equality,” pp. 154-55; Mary Caprioli, “Primed for Violence: The Role of Gender Inequality in Predicting Internal Conflict,” International Studies Quarterly Vol. 49, No. 2 (2005), pp. 161–78.
  • Elin Bjarnegård and Erik Melander, “Pacific Men: How the

Feminist Gap Explains Hostility,” The Pacific Review Vol. 30,

No. 4 (January 2017), pp. 4-5; Valerie M. Hudson et al., “The

Heart of the Matter: The Security of Women and the Security of States,” International Security, Vol. 33, No. 3 (2009), p. 21.

  1. Hudson et al., “The Heart of the Matter.”12 Donna Lee Bowen, Valerie M. Hudson, and Perpetua

Nielsen, “State Fragility and Structural Gender Inequality in

Family Law: An Empirical Investigation,” Laws Vol. 4, No. 4 (2015), pp. 654–72; Kristian Skrede Gleditsch et al., “Polygyny or Misogyny? Reexamining the ‘First Law of Intergroup Conflict,” The Journal of Politics Vol. 73, No. 1 (2011), pp. 265–70.

  1. Amy C. Alexander and Christian Welzel, “Eroding

Patriarchy: The Co-Evolution of Women’s Rights and Emancipative Values,” International Review of Sociology Vol. 25, No. 1 (2015), pp. 144–45.

  1. Druscilla Scribner and Priscilla A. Lambert,

“Constitutionalizing Difference: A Case Study Analysis of Gender Provisions in Botswana and South Africa,” Politics & Gender Vol. 6, No. 1 (2010), p. 40.

  1. Shelly Grabe, Rose Grace Grose, and Anjali Dutt, “Women’s

Land Ownership and Relationship Power: A Mixed Methods Approach to Understanding Structural Inequities and Violence against Women,” Psychology of Women Quarterly  Vol. 39, No. 1 (2015), pp. 7–19; Lori L. Heise and Andreas Kotsadam, “Cross-

National and Multilevel Correlates of Partner Violence: An

Analysis of Data from Population-Based Surveys,” The Lancet

Global Health Vol. 3, No. 6 (2015), pp. e332–e340; Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden, Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World (Dallas, Texas: BenBella Books, 2010).

  1. Talentino, “Perceptions of Peacebuilding.”17 Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, Rising Tide: Gender

Equality and Cultural Change around the World (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 6-10; Scribner and Lambert, “Constitutionalizing Difference,” p. 39.

18 Talentino, “Perceptions of Peacebuilding.” 19 Ibid.; David Roberts, “Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, Liberal Irrelevance and the Locus of Legitimacy,” International Peacekeeping Vol. 18, No. 4 (2011), pp. 410–24.

  • Alexandra Dobrowolsky and Vivien Hart, eds. Women Making Constitutions: New Politics and Comparative Perspectives (Berlin: Springer, 2003), p. 3; Hudson et al., p. 300.
  • Hudson et al., “The Heart of the Matter”; Abigail Hunt,

Hannah Bond, and Ruth Ojiambo Ochieng, “Bridging Inequalities through Inclusion: Women’s Rights Organisations as the ‘Missing Link’ in Donor Government-Led Participatory Policy Development and Practice,” Gender & Development Vol. 23, No. 2 (2015), pp. 347–64.

  • Theodora-Ismene Gizelis, “Gender Empowerment and

United Nations Peacebuilding,” Journal of Peace Research Vol.

46, No. 4 (2009), pp. 505–23; Theodora-Ismene Gizelis, “A

Country of Their Own: Women and Peacebuilding,” Conflict Management and Peace Science Vol. 28, No. 5 (2011), pp.

522–542; Hudson et al., “The Heart of the Matter”; Hunt et al., “Bridging Inequalities through Inclusion.”

  • See Elin Bjarnegård and Erik Melander, “Disentangling Gender, Peace and Democratization: The Negative Effects of

Militarized Masculinity,” Journal of Gender Studies Vol. 20, No. 2 (2011), pp. 139–54; Anu Pillay, “Violence against Women in the Aftermath,” in Meintjes, Pillay, and Turshen, eds., The Aftermath.


Gudlaug Olafsdottir (Sweden) is a PhD candidate at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University in Sweden. Her focus is primarily on election-related violence and how it influences democratization trajectories. She holds an MSSc in Peace and Conflict Studies and a BSSc in Political Science and Economics. She has conducted two months of field research on the promotion of women’s rights in the aftermath of conflict in northern Uganda, and has participated in a graduate-level course on Gender, Peace and Security at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). Gudlaug has previously worked at the headquarters of International IDEA.

Escaping the Closet: Women, Peace and

Security Was Already Queer

Andrea Tuemmler


udre Lorde, a pioneer in calling attention to the intersection of antiracist, queer and feminist advocacy, argued that “the failure … to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.”1 The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, advanced in the landmark Security Council Resolution 1325, defines the problem of women’s exclusion from security discourse and challenges it legally. UNSCR 1325 and subsequent resolutions elevated women’s voices in peace and security and recognized gender as integral, not incidental, in responding effectively to conflict. Talking about women as women in the Security Council was a bold political act. Because of the political progress this agenda enabled, however, the rhetorical focus on women now circumscribes an agenda that is otherwise well placed to question gendered power in peace and security.

In the next decade, the WPS agenda must shift to focus on gender. This idea is not new, and many civil society organizations (CSOs) and academics have been de facto working as if WPS were the gender, peace, and security agenda.2 An effective way to push gender out of the discursive, theoretical sphere and into official policy is to queerthe WPS agenda. Including queer people and discourses would make the agenda more legitimate in its claims to respond to the needs of all women. It also lays a groundwork for nuanced policy responses that unravel gendered power binaries that underpin women’s marginalization from security spaces and their vulnerabilities to gendered violence. This essay reviews work being done to queer the WPS agenda, gives policy recommendations for how to better institutionalize this work, and argues that this work can strengthen the agenda as it moves toward 2030.

I take “queer”to be the most flexible, least prescriptive term for nonnormative sexual orientations and gender identities. I use it to include lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) communities as well as sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) rights discourse, without being limited by labels that do not always reflect the self-identification and experiences of queer people. For example, these labels can exclude indigenous two-spirit and third-gender identities, and they often collapse the distinct but interrelated issues of gender and sexuality. Queerlanguage also has the benefit of disentangling sexed bodies with masculine and feminine constructs, allowing us to question gendered constructs like “militarized masculinity” without making generalizations about “all men” and “no women.”

Current Efforts

The global pushback against using “gender ideology”—that it merely represents a progressive, politically correct culture3—undermines genuine conversations about gender. Still, real progress has been made even with advocates, as many avoid third-rail words like “gender.” For example, the most recent WPS resolution, SCR 2467 (2019) recognized that sexual and gender-based violence affects not only women and that men and boys must also have access to care.4 It also calls for “gender analysis,” a term that often is interpreted to mean looking only at women but which has enough flexibility so that CSOs can interpret it more broadly.5

Academia and CSOs, however, have made more progress. Academics such as Jamie Hagan are increasingly writing about LGBTI people within the WPS agenda,6 and CSOs like International Alert are also including LGBTI people in their WPS programming.7 Outright International, an explicitly LGBTI organization, is part of the NGO Working Group.8 Individual countries, too, have made progress in inclusion of queer people: Colombia’s 2016 Peace Accord included LGBTI advocacy organizations in its Subcommission on Gender, a consultation that led to explicit recognition of the unique impact of the decades-long conflict on LGBTI populations in the country.9 Canada, Argentina and Japan also have provisions recognizing the unique needs of LGBTI communities in their most recent National Action Plans for WPS implementation.10

Queer people have been integral to the WPS agenda from the beginning, so the challenge of mainstreaming their voices and needs is not one of invention but rather of recognition. I lay out recommendations that can be implemented at the United Nations, member states, and CSOs, and all of these policy recommendations rest on the core principle of recognition as key to normative and legal change.

Policy Recommendations

  1. At the United Nations Security Council: Talk To, and About, Queer People.

Ideally, subsequent WPS resolutions should include explicit language recognizing LGBTI populations and their unique vulnerabilities in conflict. Direct language helps affirm global norm development. It informs resource allocation within peacekeeping missions for queer peacekeepers and queer members of the host countries. Grants can be directed to CSOs already working with LGBTI populations, and incentives can be created for CSOs to develop programs that align with the funding priorities of UN country teams as part of humanitarian responses. A natural entry point for this language is in provisions that already recognize the need for psychosocial and medical resources for male survivors of sexual violence. Gender-neutral language would not infringe on discursive space held for women only, but it would broaden the space to include nonbinary and third genders. Recognizing that key voices on the Security Council have domestic agendas that are antagonistic toward recognition of LGBTI people, there are other more subtle ways of achieving similar ends.11 For example, the Security Council should invite more queer people to provide civil society briefings, both asqueer people and as experts on policy areas where their queerness is incidental. Creating rhetorical and physical space for queer people in the halls of power is necessary to shift the norms toward greater inclusion, even if political barriers prevent the codification of LGBTI rights into council resolutions.

  • Within Member-State Governments: Talk To, and About, Queer People.

Individual member states are better positioned to incorporate queer people into their domestic implementation of the WPS agenda. National action plans (NAPs) such as Japan’s contain provisions identifying LGBTI populations specifically.12 State-level WPS policy can make important inroads in questioning military cultures that discriminate against LGBTI members of security and police forces as well as perpetuate other harmful impacts of militarized masculinities for cis and straight men and women in these forces. Gender nuance also leads to better domestic policy outcomes, such as security forces that are better attuned to queer constituencies and the gender dynamics of the populations they serve. In addition to including LGBTI language in NAPs and in the operating procedures of police and military forces, attention to LGBTI populations can also push against the siloed nature of gender-sensitive responses, moving the WPS agenda away from being seen as only the purview of women’s agencies. WPS can be mainstreamed into security institutions.

  • Among CSOs: Talk To, and About, Local Queer People.

Given the political constraints facing the UN Security Council and domestic governments, CSOs have the most latitude for pushing for a queerer WPS agenda as policy implementers and norm entrepreneurs. Not only do CSOs wield power to implement queer-sensitive policy as first responders and aid providers in humanitarian situations, they also can avoid some of the problems inherent in top-down approaches to queering WPS. For example, governments such as the United States have been criticized for “pink-washing,” that is, using pro-LGBTI rights language and funding to recreate a neocolonial power hierarchy of “good” versus “bad” states that justifies intervention to “protect” queer people.13 LGBTI identities, especially when used as gatekeeping identities for legal protections in Western countries, have also been criticized for perpetuating neocolonial power and leveraging queer people for political aims.14 Locally led CSO work that is tailored to specific contexts and contextually salient identities is more legitimate and more effective at addressing the needs of actual queer people.15 Bottom-up approaches, especially when supported by and informing large international institutions, will be most effective at addressing the needs of queer people, challenging gender stereotypes in conflict, and not reentrenching global power hierarchies.

Including queer people in the WPS agenda will have tangible benefits for queer people. However, their inclusion is critical for the success of the WPS agenda as a whole. The WPS agenda is only legitimate if it responds to the needs of all women. Policy blindness to racial, ethnic and socioeconomic difference means that policies will help only those women who face the fewest barriers; sexual orientation and gender identity must be included. These issues are not exclusively queer, but attention to queer populations is an entry point  for a conversation about women’s multifaceted needs. An agenda that can foster those discussions will be stronger and more legitimate.

The WPS agenda questions patriarchal assumptions that have justified women’s marginalization from decision-making roles and security spaces. These gendered power dynamics also underpin homophobia and transphobia. The WPS agenda has been criticized for its “add women and stir” approach16; merely increasing the number of women is insufficient to dismantle the structures that excluded them in the first place. A more radical analysis of gendered power requires questioning, for example, why security spaces are “masculine,” if women must act “masculine” to gain access to political power, and why men are socially punished for acting “feminine.” These questions cannot be answered fully without taking seriously some degree of epistemic queernessto power. Further, queer people have extensive experience navigating this liminal space, and their voices add important depth to good-faith efforts to deconstruct gendered power for everyone.

Today, we are more accepting of queer people than when UNSCR 1325 was written. Queer feminists have always been at the vanguard of women’s advocacy, and it is time that their voices be mainstreamed in the WPS discourse. Audre Lorde verbalized the urgency of a deep commitment to intersectionality: “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”17 Her words should guide a recognition of the latent queerness in the WPS agenda as it moves into the next decade.


  1. Audre Lorde, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press, 2007), pp. 110–14.
  2. For example, Chantal De Jonge Oudraat and Michael Brown, WPS+GPS: Adding Gender to the Peace and Security Equation,  WIIS Policy brief (Washington, DC: WIIS, November 2017).
  3. Jennifer Evans, “The New War on Gender Studies” The Conversation (6 January 2019).
  4. United Nations Security Council, S/RES/2467 (23 April 2019). 5 Ibid.
  5. See, for example, Jamie Hagen, “Queering Women, Peace and Security,” International Affairs Vol. 92, No. 2 (2016), pp. 313–32.
  6. Jamie Hagen, “The Future of the LGBTQ Human Rights in the Women, Peace and Security Agenda” IPI Global Observatory (17 July 2019).
  7. Ibid.
  8. High Commission for Peace, “Acuerdo final para la terminación del conflicto y la construcción de una paz estable y duradera” (Bogota: High Commission for Peace, 2016). 10 Hagen, “Future of the LGBTQ Human Rights.” 11 Ryan Thoreson, “Lawmakers in the US Unleash Barrage of Anti-Transgender Bills,” Human Rights Watch (20 January 2020); Kyle Knight, “Russia Fined for Anti-LGBT Actions,” Human Rights Watch (17 July 2019).

12 Hagan, “Future of the LGBTQ Human Rights.” 13 Japan, National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security  (Tokyo: Japanese Government, 29 September 2015), p. 5.

  1. Jasbir K. Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in  Queer Times (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007).
  2. Nof Nasser-Eddin, Nour Abu-Assab, and Aydan Greatrick, “Reconceptualising and contextualising sexual rights in the MENA region: beyond LGBTQI categories,” Gender &


Vol. 26, No.1 (2018), pp. 173–89.

  1. Cynthia Enloe, Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist

Sense of International Politics, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), reproduced in Hilary Charlesworth and Christine Chinkin, The Boundaries of International Law: A Feminist Analysis (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000).

  1. Audre Lorde, “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism,” BlackPast (1981).


Andrea Tuemmler (United States) graduated from the London School of Economics with an MSc in International Relations in 2019. After studying the WPS Agenda in Colombia and in New York, they moved to Washington D.C., where they work as a research analyst on Latin American affairs.

By Spencer Beall

By 2020, the number of Internet-enabled devices, also referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT),
is expected to exceed thirty billion.2 The number of security breaches alone is anticipated to
incur a global cost of six trillion dollars per year by that time, increasing from three trillion in
2016.3 While the cybersecurity industry will require approximately six million workers to meet
its projected job demand by 2019, many positions will remain unfilled without more female
cybersecurity professionals. 4 Currently, women comprise only 11 percent of global
cybersecurity professionals. 5
Women’s underrepresentation in cybersecurity is not just an economic workplace issue,
but also has a profound impact on the type of technologies being developed and hence impacts
everyone in the digital age.
In this report I will explore some of the main barriers that impede women’s entry,
professional advancement, and retention in cybersecurity, including the pervasive gender
discrimination in technology professions. Next, I will examine three core reasons why it is
essential to get more women in cybersecurity, namely (1) to maximize innovation potential; (2)
to expand usability of digital products to meet the needs of all consumers; and (3) to strengthen
the global economy by fulfilling the cybersecurity industry’s rapidly growing job demand. Finally,
I will present recommendations how to dismantle the gender gap in cybersecurity and how to
create in the digital age a global workforce that is safer, more efficient, and more prosperous.

1 This report relies largely on data from the gender gap in the American cybersecurity sector, in part because of the
availability of research, and because the U.S. remains a strong prototype for analyzing the causes and effects of the
global gender gap in cybersecurity. Not only does the U.S. employ slightly higher than the global average number of
female cybersecurity professionals yet exhibit the same shortcomings in product innovation and efficacy as foreign
cybersecurity industries, the American cybersecurity firms also illustrate many of the common difficulties that
women experience entering the field around the world. 2 Internet enabled devices (IoTs) include all technology that relies on Internet and/or cellular data to function,
including but not limited to: computers, smartphones, GPS devices, social media platforms, home security systems,
power grids, smart appliances (e.g. refrigerators, televisions, thermostats), cars and airplanes. See also Steve
Morgan, ed., “Cybersecurity Ventures predicts global cybersecurity spending will exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to
2021,” Cybersecurity Ventures (May 31, 2017), accessed June 7, 2017,
http://cybersecurityventures.com/cybersecurity-market-report/ 3 Steve Morgan, “Cybersecurity Industry Outlook, 2017 to 2021: Key economic indicators for the cybersecurity
industry over the next five years,” Cybersecurity Business Report, CSO (Oct. 20, 2016), accessed June 6, 2017,
Cybersecurity Ventures predicts global cybersecurity spending will exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021, supra. 4 See Roy Maurer, “Why Aren’t Women Working in Cybersecurity?” Society for Human Resource Management (Jan,
10, 2017), accessed June 18, 2017, https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talentacquisition/pages/women-working-cybersecurity-gender-gap.aspx and Steve Morgan, “Cybersecurity Industry
Outlook, 2017 to 2021: Key economic indicators for the cybersecurity industry over the next five years,”
Cybersecurity Business Report, CSO (Oct. 20, 2016), accessed June 6, 2017,
5 Elizabeth Weingarten, “The Gender Gap in Cybersecurity Jobs Isn’t Getting Better,” Slate (Mar. 17, 2017), accessed
June 5, 2017,
Weingarten cites the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity. According to the
Study, women’s representation in the North American cybersecurity industry (14 percent) is only slightly higher
than this global average.

Women In International Security (WIIS)
Where Are the Women?
Cybersecurity professions are defined as “any occupation that ‘plans [or] carries out security
measures to protect an organization’s computer networks’” from data breaches via hacking or
the spread of malware. 6 Cybersecurity ensures that our airlines, power grids, nuclear plants,
emergency communications systems (e.g. 911 and FEMA alerts) and other essential national
security technologies are protected from malicious attacks. Cybersecurity plays a critical role in
the development of apps, electronic services and IoT devices that shape our daily lives. Our
phones, online shopping platforms like Amazon, electronic banking systems, medical record
storage systems, video and music streaming services (e.g. Netflix, Spotify), social media (e.g.
Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram), home security systems, smart refrigerators, and thermostats
are dependent on cybersecurity.7
Considering that modern society depends on cybersecurity for nearly every aspect of
daily life in the digital age—to work, shop, travel, communicate, form relationships, protect our
health, keep ourselves safe from terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other calamities, etc—it
is surprising that women, who represent 50 percent of the global workforce, comprise only 11
percent of global cybersecurity professionals. What makes this statistic even more remarkable is
that women—not men—built the foundations for the cybersecurity industry that we have today
by programming the world’s first computers. In addition, studies show that 52 percent of women
under age 29 hold a computer science degree, and when women enter cybersecurity they do so
with overall higher education levels than men.
So, why are there so few women in this field? There are at least five main reasons for the gender
gap in cybersecurity.
(1) Stereotypes that identify cybersecurity as a masculine industry
Computer science, along with math and engineering, is widely typecast as a masculine
field across almost all cultures around the world. We need only look at how any
association between “women” or “girls” and the topics, “cybersecurity,” “computer
programming,” “coding,” “software development,” “Silicon Valley,” and “technical
engineering,” consistently garners attention in newspapers, magazines, and the movie

6 Katharine D’Hondt, Women in Cybersecurity, Thesis for Master in Public Policy (2016), Harvard University John F.
Kennedy School of Government, 7 (citing Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015) 7 See Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s concurring opinion in United States v. Jones (2012): “[We live in]…the digital age, in
which people reveal a great deal of information about themselves to third parties in the course of carrying out
mundane tasks. People disclose the phone numbers that they dial or text to their cellular providers; the URLs that
they visit and the e-mail addresses with which they correspond to their Internet service providers; and the books,
groceries, and medications they purchase to online retailers.” Sotomayor, J. (concurring opinion), United States v.
Jones, 132 S.Ct. 945 (2012). 8 Statistics from the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study (GISWS), conducted by the Center for
Cybersecurity and Education. Heather Riccuito, “Representation of Women in Cybersecurity Remains Stagnant,
Despite Recent Efforts to Balance the Scales,” Security Intelligence (Mar. 15, 2017), accessed June 17, 2017,

Women In International Security (WIIS)
screens for a reason.9 The stereotyping of STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering
and Mathematics) as a masculine domain is a recent development, however, as men only
began to dominate the technology profession in the 1980s. From its roots to the near end
of the 20th century, women led computer science. The very word “computer” referred to
people who calculated ballistic trajectories for the U.S. Army. Women not only comprised
the vast majority of these computers, but also those who would develop the world’s first
electronic models. Just over one hundred years after Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)
envisioned a machine that could be instructed to calculate sums and produce words and
pictures, six women at the University of Pennsylvania programmed the world’s first
electronic computers.10 With the work of Grace Hopper, Frances Allen, and numerous
other female leaders in the cyber field, women built the foundations for the digital age. 11
Men began to supplant female professionals in computer science only when personal
computers became a lucrative prospect, marketed almost exclusively to men and boys.12
Today, the lack of female cybersecurity professionals has become a prominent discussion
point for women’s empowerment, specifically to promote women and girls’ participation
in STEM education programs to prepare women for jobs of the future in the digital age.13
However, common stereotypes that men are naturally stronger in STEM fields than
women continue to drive down women’s participation in STEM education programs.
Studies spanning the past twenty years have concluded that the so-called “stereotype
threat” (in this case, the phenomenon by which women are culturally conditioned to
believe that men perform better in STEM fields) inhibits women’s entry into STEM jobs

9 Erin Hogeboom, “Encouraging Today’s Hidden Figures in STEM,” Forbes (Feb. 24, 2017), accessed June 9, 2017,
10 See Laura Sydell, “The Forgotten Female Programmers Who Created Modern Tech,” NPR (Oct. 6, 2014), accessed
June 7, 2017,
http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2014/10/06/345799830/the-forgotten-female-programmerswho-created-modern-tech and Meeri Kim, “70 years ago, six Philly women became the world’s first digital computer
programmers,” The Philly Voice (Feb. 11, 2016), accessed June 7, 2017,
http://www.phillyvoice.com/70-years-ago-six-philly-women-eniac-digital-computer-programmers/ 11 Grace Hopper became one of the first three modern programmers during her career in the U.S. Naval Reserve. She
developed the first computer language compiler, A-0, as well as the first programming system that operated on
English-language commands instead of algebraic code. “Grace Murray Hopper (1906-1992): A Legacy of Innovation
and Service,” Yale News (Feb. 10, 2017), accessed June 8, 2017, http://news.yale.edu/2017/02/10/grace-murrayhopper-1906-1992-legacy-innovation-and-service Frances Allen created security codes and programming languages
for the NSA after becoming the first female IBM fellow, where she developed compilers for IBM super computers.
William L. Hosch, “Frances E. Allen,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed June 8, 2017,
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Frances-E-Allen 12 Steve Henn, “When Women Stopped Coding,” NPR (Oct. 21, 2014), accessed June 8, 2017,
See also, Mundy, supra. 13 Just after President Trump announced proposals for NASA budget cuts and the elimination of NASA’s education
department—which manages NASA’s efforts to promote women and minority representation in STEM careers—
Ivanka Trump and Betsy DeVos toured the National Air and Space Museum and sponsored a showing of Hidden
Figures to highlight women’s achievements in technology and other STEM fields. Valerie Strauss, “The irony in
Ivanka Trump’s and Betsy DeVos’s push for STEM education,” The Washington Post (Mar. 28, 2017), accessed June 6,
2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/03/28/the-irony-in-ivanka-trumps-andbetsy-devoss-push-for-stem-education/?utm_term=.8c73cf7e7948.

Women In International Security (WIIS)
and success within the profession.14 In one of the first studies on the stereotype threat,
male and female math students were given the same online math exam, with half of the
subjects being told that women may not perform as well because male students are
generally better at math. The difference in scores was striking. Women scored an average
of 20 points lower than men in the group that listened to the stereotype threat, yet there
was almost no measurable difference between male and female scores in the non-threat
group.15 STEM gender stereotyping begins to influence girls and boys in the early stages
of childhood. Recent studies of young children indicated that gender stereotyping in math
and other STEM-related fields affects children as young as four years old, despite minimal
difference in girls’ and boys’ actual capacities.16 If many girls do not steer away from math
and science studies completely as they grow older, girls who aspire to careers in
technology are prone to “dis-identification,” where the “repeated or long-term
[stereotype] threat…eventually undermine[s] aspirations in an area of interest.”17 With
both men and women being “equally likely” to perpetuate gender stereotypes in STEM,
both in the classroom and in the workplace, far fewer women pursue careers in
cybersecurity and advance to high-level positions within the industry. 18
(2) A lack of global investment in female-founded tech companies
When Annamaria Konya Tannon, head of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the School
of Engineering and Applied Science at The George Washington University, launched her
first tech startup in 1997, female-founded tech companies received less than four percent
of global venture capital funding. 19 After years of technological innovation that have
brought forth iPods, and multi generations of smartphones and iPads, the current global
investment in female-led tech companies has barely budged, accounting for less than six
percent of venture capital funds.20 Among the 200 San Francisco Bay Area technology
startup companies that received “series A” venture capital funding (between three and 15
million dollars) in 2015, women founded only eight percent of them.21 While women

14 Catherine Hill, Christianne Corbett, and Andresse St. Rose, Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology,
Engineering, and Mathematics, AAUW (Feb. 2010), 39-40, accessed July 31, 2017,
http://www.aauw.org/files/2013/02/Why-So-Few-Women-in-Science-Technology-Engineering-andMathematics.pdf. 15 Id. at 40. 16 Christine K. Shenouda, Effects of Gender Stereotypes on Children’s Beliefs, Interests, and Performance in STEM Fields,
Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University (2014), 1, accessed July 31, 2017,
https://d.lib.msu.edu/etd/2751. In one study where preschool-age children where instructed to replicate patterns
with LEGO blocks, one half of the children were exposed to the stereotype threat in being told that boys can
complete the task faster than girls. Among that group, the girls performed considerably slower than boys, as
compared to the non-stereotype threat group. (Shenouda, 1). 17 Hill, et al., supra note 44 at 41. 18 Shenouda, supra note 44, at 5-6. 19 Konya Tannon forged her way to success in tech startups by working in the Silicon Valley. She is also the Founder
and CEO of Equita Accelerator (a non-profit corporation dedicated to promoting women-led tech companies. 20 Women in Innovation: The Perfect Match, Panel co-hosted by the Center for Transatlantic Studies and the Embassy
of Denmark, June 13, 2017.
21 “Why VCs Arent Funding Women-led Startups,” Knowledge@Wharton, Wharton School of Business, University of
Pennsylvania (May 24, 2016), accessed July 31, 2017, http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/vcs-arentfunding-women-led-startups/

Women In International Security (WIIS)
launch approximately 38 percent of new companies in the U.S., only between two and six
percent of these companies receive venture capital funding.22 According to Katherine
Hays, founder and CEO of ad tech startup, Vivoom, “Male venture capitalists… [mostly] are
very comfortable…giving female entrepreneurs capital for ‘girl stuff’…[like] rent[ing]
dresses or sell[ing] baby wipes as a subscription.”23 Things change, however, when
women ask for venture capital to launch a business in a “masculine” field like tech. The
reasons why women receive lower venture capital funding are circular. The lack of
women in STEM professions based on gender stereotyping of technology fields, coupled
with rampant and gender discrimination within the industry, only perpetuate this
“Every year that goes by where we continue to fund the exact same pool of overwhelmingly
male, overwhelmingly white founders is one where we are missing out on the opportunities
to find important new innovations.”

  • Ethan Mollick, Professor of Management, The Wharton School
    (3) Gender discrimination in the cybersecurity workplace
    Among recent publications discussing gender discrimination in the cybersecurity
    workplace, perhaps no location is more frequently cited across the globe than Silicon
    Valley, the epicenter of America’s tech industry. Liza Mundy, Senior Fellow at New
    America and author of Code Girls, highlighted female professionals’ common
    discrimination across multiple Silicon Valley tech corporations that illustrate why
    women’s entry and attrition rates remain so low in cybersecurity. According to Mundy,
    women in tech face discrimination end-to-end, being hired, paid, promoted, and valued
    significantly less than men.24 Many women cited in recent studies reported that in
    addition to enduring both overt and unconscious gender bias and facing overall different
    treatment than male employees, women’s software designs are “accepted more often than
    men’s… but only if their gender is unknown.”25
    In 2014 Google, Pinterest, Apple, Facebook, and many other Silicon Valley companies
    pledged to devote millions of dollars to change corporate hiring practices and help
    women enter leadership positions.26 Three years later, however, female staffing numbers
    have “barely budged…[with] sexism [remaining] …just as pernicious as ever.”27 In the
    2015 “Elephant in the Valley” survey that polled female tech professionals, respondents
    drew attention to some of the many factors that undermine women’s chances of success
    in tech professions. Among the various data collected, 66 percent of female respondents
    felt excluded from important networking opportunities at their companies because of

New York-based startup companies only fared slightly better, with female-led startups accounting for 13 percent of
venture capital recipients. Id. 22 Id. (citing Ethan Mollick, Professor of Management at The Wharton School) 23 Id. 24 Liza Mundy, “Why is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?” The Atlantic (Apr. 2017), accessed June 9, 2017,
25 Id. 26 Id. 27 Id.

Women In International Security (WIIS)
their gender, 75 percent of women faced questions about marital status and family
commitments during hiring interviews, and 88 percent of respondents experienced
persistent unconscious gender bias from male colleagues.28 From the lack of meaningful
change in gender discrimination in the technology profession, it is no surprise that
women leave cybersecurity over twice as frequently as men.29
(4) Laws and policies that promote gender discrimination
Approximately 90 percent of countries around the world enforce laws that discriminate
against women. Many of these laws and policies (both secular and religious) have helped
create and enforce gender discrimination in the cybersecurity profession by undermining
women’s advancement in social and economic roles in other sectors. In India, for example,
because labor laws “protect existing [male] workers at the expense of aspiring ones,
which include most women,” women represent only 30 percent of India’s labor force.30 In
other countries like Saudi Arabia, religious laws significantly undermine female agency.
Strict applications of Sharia law prohibit women in Saudi Arabia from interacting with
men outside of their families, to the degree that most businesses, banks, and other public
areas have segregated entrances for men and women.31 When laws prevent women from
interacting with men outside family members, they effectively preclude women from
becoming valued members of the workforce.
(5) Corporate practices that cater to male professionals
Some corporate practices that contribute to a reduced female presence in cybersecurity
professions include: failures to set and maintain gender quotas (both in hiring and
retention); unwillingness to specifically attract and recruit more female professionals;
and under-investigation of employee gender discrimination claims and/or not enforcing
zero-tolerance workplace discrimination policies.

28 Trae Vassallo, Ellen Levy, et.al., Elephant in the Valley, 2015 Survey, accessed June 9, 2017,
https://www.elephantinthevalley.com. Some examples of unconscious gender bias include: having questions
directed to male colleagues even when it was within a female employee’s area of expertise, and asking women to
perform low-level tasks that men are not asked to do. 29 Mundy, supra. 30 Dhruva Jaishankar, “The Huge Cost of India’s Discrimination Against Women,” The Atlantic (Mar. 18, 2013),
accessed July 31, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/03/the-huge-cost-of-indiasdiscrimination-against-women/274115/. As another example, due to India’s longstanding customs of giving
preferential treatment (e.g. education) to boys rather than girls, approximately one-third of women in India are
illiterate, further undermining women’s opportunities for professional advancement. Id. 31 “Seven Things Women in Saudi Arabia Cannot Do,” The Week (Sept. 27, 2016), accessed July 31, 2017,

Women In International Security (WIIS)
Two Minds Are Better Than One:
Three Reasons Why We Need More Women in the Cybersecurity Workforce
(1) Maximizing innovation potential
If the number of female professionals in cybersecurity remains stagnant, it will restrict
both cybersecurity development and the quality of our digital products.
Because men and women are born with equal talent capacities, talent is drawn
from the same distribution. When societies artificially constrain one-half of the
distribution (e.g. via laws, customs, and/or religious beliefs that drive gender inequality)
we lose one-half of the global workforce’s creativity.32 Diversified taskforces with “fresh
ideas…to address ever-evolving problems” are more vital than ever in the digital age,
when the threat of cybercrime continues to grow. If the security of one of our IoTs,
electronic services, apps, or other digital products is compromised, the security of other
devices is prone to breach, exposing users to incalculable dangers within hours, or even
minutes.33 Having a more diversified design team that reflects products’ actual users is
critical to account for how consumers use/misuse products, what user needs and
interests the product does not meet, and how to optimize product security. According to
Sarah Geary, senior cyber analyst at FireEye, a hacker only has to target one person’s
device to debilitate “…an entire business or government…” Because we live in an age
when foreign governments are targeting individuals more frequently, “… it’s a problem
when those who are designing cybersecurity products or interventions aren’t
representative…” of the population that uses them.34 Studies indicate that because women
suffer higher rates of online harassment (particularly sextortion35 and cyberstalking)36
women are more likely than men to utilize stronger privacy settings on social media apps
and Internet platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp).37 Women, therefore, can
contribute different ideas for designing new more user-friendly digital platforms stronger
privacy features, which would both provide a better variety of privacy protection options
to consumers and help companies adhere to best practices on managing information
privacy.38 According to Annamaria Konya Tannon, head of the Innovation and
Entrepreneurship for the School of Engineering and Applied Science at The George

32 Kalpana Kochhar, Speaker at the Panel, Women in Innovation: The Perfect Match, co-hosted by the Center for
Transatlantic Studies and the Embassy of Denmark, June 13, 2017.
33 Bruce Schneier, Your Wi-Fi Connected Thermostat Can Take Down the Whole Internet. We Need New
Regulations,” The Washington Post (Nov. 3, 2016), accessed July 31, 2017,
https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/11/03/your-wifi-connected-thermostat-can-takedown-the-whole-internet-we-need-new-regulations/?utm_term=.d612eb077fa8 (citing a paper discussing how
hackers can create an IoT worm that can instantly infect thousands of other IoT devices. Eyal Ronen, Colin O’Flynn,
et.al, “IoT Goes Nuclear: Creating a ZigBee Chain Reaction”)
34 Weingarten, supra, note 9.
35 Laurie Segall, “A disturbing look inside the world of online sextortion,” CNN Money (June 23, 2016), accessed June
8, 2017, http://money.cnn.com/2016/06/23/technology/sextortion-thorn-study/index.html 36 The 2016 Bureau of Justice Statistics report indicated that women comprised 41 percent of reported stalking
victimizations, outnumbering the 31 percent of reported male victimizations. “Stalking,” The Bureau of Justice
Statistics (Feb. 17, 2016), accessed June 8, 2018, https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=973 37 Weingarten, supra, note 9. 38 Id.

Women In International Security (WIIS)
Washington University, “When you have a gender balanced team, research shows that you
have more optimal outcomes and come up with more creative ideas. Men need to be
there, and women do too.”
“Why would you eliminate the brilliance of 50 percent of the population?”
-Joyce Brocaglia, CEO of Alta Associates, a cyber executive search firm39
(2) Expanding usability
Having more women in cybersecurity design and development labs will ensure that
existing conversation engines on smartphones (e.g. Siri, Cortana), apps (medical, social
media, lifestyle, etc.), and other digital platforms for shopping, social media, data storage,
etc. will be better equipped to meet more consumers needs outside of the male profiles
that created them, specifically women and children.
Scientists have already discovered “the white guy problem” in artificial
intelligence, whereby machine learning algorithms that form predictions based on large
amounts of existing input data introduce gender as well as racial bias in decisionmaking.40 Algorithms that form the basis for a wide variety of mobile and Internet
services—from electronic job application systems to conversation engines like Siri on
smartphones—function solely based on the initial data programmed into them, which the
algorithms accumulate to make decisions later.41 When almost exclusively all-male design
teams create these algorithms, Siri and other related technologies operate on single sex
aggregated data, resulting in products that are most user-friendly to the sex that created
them. According to a 2016 JAMA Internal Medicine study, although Siri could provide
gender-neutral medical advice in response to “Siri, I’m having a heart attack,” Siri was
unprepared to provide assistance on female health and safety issues such as sexual
assault and domestic violence. Among four smartphone conversation engines (Siri,
Cortana, S Voice and Google Now) on sixty-eight phones, the study found that only
Cortana was able to provide the National Sexual Abuse Hotline number in response to the
message “I was raped.”42 Siri replied instead: “I don’t know how to respond to that,”
indicating that male design teams did not think this data was important enough to
program. 43 A more diverse design team might have included this information.
Clearly, the discrepancy from having a design team that doesn’t accurately
represent the needs and interests of the total consumer population can put users at
significant risk.
The same problems from a male-dominated cybersecurity industry extend to other
types of apps and digital features. Imagine if men represented 93 percent of the design

39 Id. 40 Hannah Devlin, “Discrimination by algorithm: scientists devise test to detect AI bias,” The Guardian (Dec. 19,
2016), accessed June 18, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/19/discrimination-byalgorithm-scientists-devise-test-to-detect-ai-bias 41 Id. 42 Alice Park, “Here’s How Siri Responds to ‘I was raped,’” Time.com (Mar. 14, 2016), accessed June 8, 2017,
http://time.com/4257568/siri-rape-smartphones/ 43 By contrast, Siri had no trouble interpreting to certain health inquiries that exclusively affect men. The statement,
“Siri, I have erectile dysfunction,” immediately presented a list of nearby clinics and physician recommendations.

Women In International Security (WIIS)
teams that developed women’s undergarments, clothing, footwear, makeup, hygiene
products, and hair care. This represents the current state of app development.
Women represent only six percent of app developers, despite comprising 50
percent of the app-using population.44 Women have helped create apps like bSafe that are
specially designed for women and girls’ interests and physical needs, including services
designed to help protect women against sexual assault and dating violence. 45 Without
greater female involvement, however, products like these that are designed with women
in mind will remain limited.
A more gender-balanced cybersecurity design team can also help create more
product features to protect children online.46 It may be easy to overlook children within
the global consumer pool for apps and other digital products, but children represent a
significant portion of users of some of the most popular social media apps (e.g. Snapchat,
Kik, Whattsapp) and Internet services (e.g. Google, Bing). According to a 2015 survey, the
average American child receives his or her first cell phone at age six.47 Three-quarters of
the children surveyed also had tablets to access the Internet.48 Similar research conducted
in the UK indicated that more than half of children use at least one form of social media by
age 10.49 Because children are using smartphones and Internet-enabled devices at
increasingly young ages, mothers, female caregivers, and teachers may have a closer ear
to what apps, games, and website features children are using, or may begin using. As
women are already more likely to use stronger privacy protections than men on social
media platforms, women can have a particularly important role in designing privacy
features to help monitor children’s activity and receive alerts to suspicious online
With more women designers, products will become more user-friendly for all
consumers, and it may help save lives.50

44 David Bolton, “Survey, Only 6% of App Developers Are Women,” Arc (Feb. 27, 2016), accessed June 15, 2017,
45 bSafe provides discrete assistance to girls and young women in a variety of situations—from automatically
alerting a list of family members and friends if the user indicates that she is in danger, to providing a fake telephone
call to help a user leave an uncomfortable date or social situation.45 Similar apps could be developed that would
serve as community alerts for the public to report suspicious activity of sex trafficking and domestic violence. Some
of these products include, Spitfire Athlete (providing personal training assistance to women based on exercise
regimens of female athletes), and Hey! VINA (an app to help women cultivate same-sex friendships and develop a
sense of community among female users). Jenavieve Hatch, “Behold, A Tinder-Like App for Female Friendships:
Because Finding New BFFs is just as important as finding a date,” Huffington Post (Feb. 01, 2016), accessed June 8,
2018, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/finally-tinder-for-friends_us_56abdaa0e4b0010e80ea299e
46 For the purposes of this report, “children” is used to refer to any person under age 18, in accordance with the
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other international legal instruments. Convention on the Rights of
the Child, Nov. 12, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3. Art. 1, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CRC.aspx 47 “Study Finds Average Age Of Kids When They Get First Cell Phone Is Six,” ABC 13 Eyewitness News (April 7, 2015),
accessed June 8, 2017, http://abc13.com/technology/study-53%-of-kids-get-a-cell-phone-at-age-6/636328/ 48 Id. 49 The Daily Mail Reporter, “More than half of children use social media by the age of 10: Facebook is the most
popular site that youngsters join,” The Daily Mail (Feb. 5, 2014), accessed June 15, 2017,
50 Across the globe, teaching remains a female-dominated profession. In the U.S. alone, women represent 75-80
percent of kindergarten, elementary, and middle school teachers. Motoko Rich, “Why Don’t More Men Go Into

Women In International Security (WIIS)
(3) Strengthening the global economy
Even though women account for 50 percent of the global workforce, women form only 11
percent of the global cybersecurity industry, remaining the most underrepresented
taskforce in the global economy. With cybersecurity itself becoming one of the largest
global businesses in the upcoming years, countries stand to lose more than one may think
if more women are not brought into the workplace. The International Monetary Fund
(IMF) recently conducted research to observe the relationship between a lower women
taskforce and national gross domestic products (GDPs) to see the shortage of female
professionals on countries’ economies. While the United States (which has a slightly
higher than global average percentage of women in cybersecurity) could lose 12-14
percent of its GDP, other countries like South Korea could lose 19-20 percent.51
Understanding that 209,000 cybersecurity positions went unfilled in 2015, global
economic growth does not look promising when this demand will increase to six million
positions by 2019.52 Without more women to close this gap, 1.8 million global positions
will remain unfilled by 2022, significantly threatening the progress of cybersecurity in a
time when the world depends upon it most. 53
“…[S]hutting women out of [cybersecurity], intentionally or unintentionally, is like keeping them off
the factory floor at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.”54
—Anne Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America.
With persistent efforts to combat the social attitudes, gender stereotypes, and unconscious
biases that perpetuate gender discrimination, and with the development and adoption of
appropriate corporate, law, and policymaking strategies, we can resolve the gender gap in
cybersecurity. Many believe that greater investment in STEM education is the keystone in closing

Teaching?” The New York Times, (Sept. 6, 2014), https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/sunday-review/whydont-more-men-go-into-teaching.html. Even in seemingly gender-neutral situations, such as, “Siri, I think I’m having
a stroke,” men and women’s experiences of the same medical condition can be very different, and the conversation
engine may not be able to recognize certain symptoms that affect women more than men. For example, a female
voice input, “Siri, my arm hurts,” may be a common sign of a stroke for many women that men might never
experience. Increased women’s involvement in programming conversation engines can help improve this
technology to keep more users safe. “Women and Strokes: Unique Risks and Uncommon Symptoms,” The Dr. Oz
Show (Jan. 14, 2013), accessed June 7, 2018, http://www.doctoroz.com/article/women-and-strokes-unique-risksuncommon-symptoms
51 Kochhar, supra, note 11.
52 “Cybersecurity Industry Outlook, 2017 to 2021: Key economic indicators for the cybersecurity industry over the
next five years,” supra, note 3
53 Weingarten, supra, note 9.
54 Eli Sugarman, “Women in cybersecurity: 4 questions for New America’s Anne-Marie Slaughter and Megan Garcia,”
Interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter and Megan Garcia, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation (Nov. 16, 2015),
accessed June 6, 2017, http://www.hewlett.org/women-in-cybersecurity-4-questions-for-new-americas-annemarie-slaughter-and-megan-garcia/

Women In International Security (WIIS)
the gender gap in cybersecurity.55 The 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study,
Women in Cybersecurity, reported that 52 percent of millennial women under age 30 are
educated in computer science.56 However, while education is a promising fixture it is not going to
single-handedly push women into the profession, or make them stay.
Education alone is not going to solve this problem. For example, although more women are
now graduating with degrees in law and medicine than ever before, it does not mean women
receive equal treatment in their field, or that women have equal attrition rates in the labor force
as men.57 An American Community Survey presenting data from 2008 to 2010 showed that
women are still more likely than men to leave the workforce as early-career lawyers and doctors
(between ages 25 and 44).58
To strengthen women’s leadership in cybersecurity three things need to change:
(1) Social attitudes, gender stereotypes and unconscious bias
“The most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’”

  • Grace Hopper59
    Eliminating the ingrained social attitudes, gender stereotypes, and unconscious bias that prevent
    women from entering and advancing in STEM fields is critical to bringing more women into
    cybersecurity. Beginning as children, parents need to groom young boys to be better supporters
    of women later in life so that we can finally retrain the way we work together. “Supporting
    women has been dangerously equated with being less masculine,” says Ryan Ross, Program
    Director for the Halcyon Incubator that supports developing startup ventures. We have to work
    as a culture to change that. Both men and women have equal responsibilities to help reverse
    social attitudes and gender stereotypes and bias.
    Some critical steps include:
  • Acknowledging that gender discrimination is a continuing problem. In the words of
    Linda Kozlowski, Chief Operating Officer of Etsy, “Progress is difficult ‘if people don’t

55 In signing two bills into law to promote women’s enrollment in STEM fields, President Trump’s remarked that”…It
is going to change, and it’s going to change very rapidly.”
Melanie Arter, “Trump Signs Bills Supporting Women Entrepreneurs and Women in STEM Fields,” CNS News (Feb.
28, 2017), accessed June 8, 2017, http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/melanie-arter/trumps-signs-billssupporting-women-entrepreneurs-and-women-stem-fields
56 Weingarten, supra, note 9.
57 In addition to the pay gap as professionals, women are rarely accepted to top education programs equally with
men. Although women who pursue higher education are more likely to attend medical or law school, they comprise
less than 50 percent of the students at the top law schools. Debra Cassens Weiss, “Men Outnumber Women at Most
Top Law Schools, But the Imbalance Is Greater at B-Schools,” ABA Journal (May 09, 2011), accessed June 8, 2017,
_greater_at/. Philip Cohen, “More Women Are Doctors and Lawyers Than Ever—but Progress Is Stalling,” The
Atlantic (Dec. 11, 2012), accessed June 8, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/12/morewomen-are-doctors-and-lawyers-than-ever-but-progress-is-stalling/266115/
58 Id.
59 Charles Grosch, Library Information Technology and Networks, CRC Press (1994), 183 (quoting Grace Murray
Hopper in her 1987 interview, Information Week, Mar. 9, 1987, 52)

Women In International Security (WIIS)
believe there’s a problem.’”60 A recent survey of 13,331 adults across the U.S. showed
that the majority of men (58 percent) believe that “all obstacles [to the professional
gender gap] had been eliminated,”61 compared to 60 percent of women who claimed
that the gender gap remains a persistent challenge.62 If men and women have such
largely conflicting opinions on the current state and severity of the gender gap,
meaningful change will be slow to come. Men need to recognize that gender
discrimination is a continuing problem in order to address it.

  • Pursuing STEM careers, despite gender stereotypes. With 52 percent of millennial
    women under age 29 having computer science degrees, women are already more
    prepared than ever to enter cybersecurity and other STEM professions. 63 Just as
    women must cut against the pressure to “disidentify” with math, science, engineering
    and other technology related areas of study, men must acknowledge that no field is a
    “man’s field.” 64
  • Schools must increase investment in STEM education for girls and women, and raise
    girls’ awareness of job opportunities in cybersecurity.
    65 According to a 2016 study
    conducted by a UK not-for-profit IT security accreditation organization, the lack of
    female applicants that results from women being less informed of the opportunities
    within STEM professions is a key contributor to the current gender gap in
    cybersecurity. 66 Teachers and guidance counselors have an important role to play in
    inspiring girls to consider careers in tech, a critical step in bringing more women into
  • Both men and women must fight against both overt and unconscious gender
    discrimination in the workplace, through legal action if necessary.
    67 If we are going to
    aspire toward gender equality in the workplace, we need to reiterate what behavior
    and attitudes cannot be tolerated. For Anita Hill and other advocates, class action
    lawsuits are critical to effectuating change “even in the most entrenched, maledominated industries… especially if regulation is not an immediate or viable

60 Laura Entis, “Men Think Obstacles to Gender Equality at Work Are Gone. Women See it Differently,” Fortune (July
18, 2017), accessed July 31, 2017, http://fortune.com/2017/07/18/gender-gap-tech/ 61 Id. 62 Id.
63 Riccuito, supra. 64 Shenouda, supra note 44, at 5-6
65 A 2015 ISACA study indicated that neither high school teachers nor guidance counselors mentioned cybersecurity
as a career choice for 77 percent of young women in the survey. Riccuito, supra. 66 Maurer, supra. And Riccuito, supra. 67 Many refer to Ellen Pao’s 2015 gender discrimination lawsuit against Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Kleiner
Perkins Caufield and Byers as the pivotal event that inspired female tech professionals to be more vocal in reporting
sexual harassment and gender bias in the workplace. David Streitfeld, “Ellen Pao Loses Silicon Valley Bias Case
Against Kleiner Perkins,” The New York Times (Mar. 27, 2015), accessed June 15, 2017,
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/28/technology/ellen-pao-kleiner-perkins-case-decision.html?_r=0 68 Anita Hill, “Anita Hill: Class Actions Could Fight Discrimination in Tech,” The New York Times (Aug. 8, 2017),

Women In International Security (WIIS)

  • Men and women must support greater female involvement in sectors that regulate or
    otherwise influence the STEM professions, especially in the development and
    implementation of laws, policies, and best practices that regulate the cybersecurity
    industry. (E.g. increasing women’s roles in advocacy for legislation against sextortion,
    revenge pornography, and other cybercrimes that result from product errors or
    design flaws that facilitate compromises in users’ information security). If women
    have a stronger influence in creating the rules that govern cybersecurity product
    development and consumer use, cybersecurity companies will likely benefit from
    drawing women into all areas of its industry, from design labs and development firms,
    to marketing and legal counsel.
    “…[T]hough the numbers of women are small, we are doing some remarkable things…this is an
    exciting time to be in the field.”
    -Andrea Little Limbago, Chief Social Scientist, Endgame.
    (2) Laws & Policies
    A significant part of the effort must come from the national level.69 Legal reform is a critical step
    to bringing more women into all workforce sectors, especially when 90 percent of countries
    around the world enforce laws and policies that undermine women’s social and economic
    agency. Some possible reforms include:
  • Developing national similar to those in the Nordic countries, which promote equal
    representation in the workforce, provide broader access to higher education, and
    longer obligatory paid parental leave programs.70 While the Nordic Model is not
    perfect, it remains the forerunner of gender equality in the technology industry.
  • Offering federal tax breaks to companies who promote women’s hiring and
    advancement in leadership positions.
  • Establishing government-regulated quotas, requiring tech companies to hire and retain
    a set number of female professionals. For Kalpana Kochhar, quotas are critical. In
    1993, India amended its Constitution to require that one-third of local selfgovernment seats must be filled by women. The results were drastic. The number of
    female leaders in government, business, and other sectors dramatically increased
    because women were more likely to compete for elections and higher positions of
    authority, and parents developed much higher aspirations for their daughters, leading
    to better educational opportunities.71

69 Ulla Rønberg, Senior Visiting Scholar at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, Women in Innovation, The Perfect
Match, supra. 70 Id. 71 Kochhar, supra.

Women In International Security (WIIS)
“In the 4th Industrial Revolution that’s upon us, requiring laws and policies that advance women’s
roles should be the heart of our preparations… After all, jobs of the future will be much less focused
on brawn, and much more focused on brain.”
–Kalpana Kochhar, Director of HR at the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
(3) Corporate Practices
There are many initiatives that corporations can and should take in order to attract more
women in cybersecurity, including:

  • Specifically asking for female applicants: According to Ryan Ross, Program Director
    for the Halcyon Incubator that supports developing startup ventures, “the second you
    put out that specific ask, women are not only more inspired to apply, but both men
    and women are more likely to refer female candidates.” When Ross’ started asking for
    female professionals, women’s application rate doubled. From having more women
    on the taskforce, 50 percent of the Incubator’s startups now have a female founder or
  • Sponsoring more female professionals to ensure that both men and women receive
    equal professional development support in their industry.72 Professionals with senior
    member mentors (“sponsors”) are 23 percent more likely than people without
    sponsors to advance in their careers, and men are much more likely than women to
    secure sponsors in all professional fields.73
  • Setting permanent gender hiring and retention quotas, to ensure that more women are
    given equal opportunities as job candidates and that the workplace becomes a climate
    where female professionals want to work.
  • Maintaining a zero-tolerance policy for gender discrimination. Some strategies include:
    sponsoring mandatory training workshops on unconscious bias and sexual
    harassment for every new hire (male or female); conducting regular anonymous
    surveys on workplace climate to provide employees with frequent no-risk
    opportunities to report gender bias/discrimination, increasing female staff in Human
    Resources; administering thorough investigations of each report of gender
    discrimination/bias through a gender-balanced investigation team; and sending a
    public message of zero-tolerance to other corporations by immediately responding to
    employee conduct that promotes gender bias with appropriate penalties, following

72 Katy Zurkus, “Despite the gender barriers, women must persist in cyber,” CSO Online (Mar. 21, 2017), accessed
June 17, 2017, http://www.csoonline.com/article/3181765/it-careers/despite-the-gender-barriers-women-mustpersist-in-cyber.html 73 Jane Porter, “Yes, Gender Equality is a Men’s Issue,” (Sept. 26, 2014), Fast Company, accessed July 31, 2017,

Women In International Security (WIIS)
Google’s recent example in addressing an employee’s challenge to the company’s
diversity efforts.74
“My vision for the future is for us to embrace the technological change that’s upon us and to build a
workplace to match it, where men and women are equally hired, paid, and valued for their
–Kalpana Kochhar, Director of HR at the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
While the lack of female cybersecurity professionals has been a prominent discussion point for
women’s empowerment in modern culture and media, many of these discussions focus
exclusively on the pervasive obstacle of gender discrimination that prevents women from
building a presence in the cybersecurity industry, highlighting, for example, the workplace
barriers to female professionals in the Silicon Valley. Understanding that gender discrimination
is by no means unique to this field, it is important to underscore that women’s
underrepresentation has larger effect on cybersecurity as a global industry, even more so than
other professions.
Focusing solely on the persistent issue of workplace gender dynamics in tech labs
detracts attention from other important problems that result from a diminished female presence
in cybersecurity, from the development and security of the technology that controls how we live
and keep us safe, to the health of the global economy. The gender gap in cybersecurity is not an
insurmountable problem, however. With dedicated initiatives to dismantle gender stereotypes,
reshape discriminatory laws and policies, and implement new corporate strategies to help
women enter cybersecurity, we can all become smarter in the digital age.