Translating WPS

As I sit here
struggling to figure out a cool, original take on something related to Women,
Peace and Security (the unit I am currently interning for) ­ perhaps the best
thing is to go back to basics. What is WPS? Why is it significant? Although attempting to satisfactorily answer that second question might
be a bit ambitious for this blog post.

So what is WPS? Well
on first glance it looks like a field that is overloaded, ­ arguably, ­ with
difficult to understand jargon: gender narrative, gender neutral, gender
essentialism, intersectionality. The acronyms aren’t much better – SSR, UNSCR 1325, DDR (see attached glossary). I guess this explains why any discussion on
gender, politics and security gets easily lost in miscommunication, lack of
understanding and interest to break through this dense wall of concepts and
vocabulary.

In
its simplest terms, WPS is about understanding the impact gender has on how we
understand security. Often this is framed in the roles men and women play in
conflict and peace building. Why do they play that role? Are
the gendered drivers for these actions something that comes from within ­ is it
due to biology that women are more peaceful and men violent? Or does this come from arbitrary social constructions created to
advance particular power relations? Unfortunately, due to the nature of WPS
content, there is no simple answer. The role of politics, religion, culture,
economics and so on all influence how people perceive what gender at its basic
level is. This feeds into definitions of femininity and masculinity. And,
ultimately, what the role of men and women in society should be.

WPS
themes and topics tend be sidelined by the more malestream (the male-dominated mainstream of society) debates in
politics – and in general – because it is seen as unimportant. The classic: why
do we need to highlight the role of gender in politics and security when these
are solely ‘women’s issues’? Maybe because even though it’s 2016, women still
occupy fewer leadership and decision-making positions, especially in security.
Perhaps the fact that despite the unanimous passing of UNSCR 1325 (another
acronym ­ United Nations Resolution 1325 on WPS) in 2000, which recognised the differentiated impact of war and conflict on
women, only 9% of negotiators at peace tables between 1992 and 2011 were women.
But hey ­ we have a women’s advisory
board at the Geneva conventions for Syrian peace talks. Questionable progress
as women remain outside the corridors of power…

WPS
is not just about increasing the presence of women at peace tables and higher
levels of decision-making. It is also acknowledging that security policies
cannot take a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Men and women experience conflict
differently. But that is not to suggest that men and women cannot engage in
conflict for the same reasons. The differentiated gendered impacts of war
affect men too. Masculinity defined as being the protector, strong, militant
negatively affects men who do not identify with these characteristics. Likewise,
the experience of one woman is not necessarily the same as another. Differences
in race, culture, religion, sexuality, socioeconomic backgrounds and so on,
create unique individual experiences that cannot and should not be homogenized.

WPS
seeks to advance research and policies focusing on all levels of interaction
between gender and security. From the individual level, for example, analyzing how
gendered divisions of labour
exposes women to greater security risks as travelling far exposes these women
to increased risks of rape. To the systemic level of policymaking, such as in the EU, whereby gender
issues are sidelined to a documents annex rather than being incorporated into
its main mandate despite strong rhetoric on gender norms forming an integral
part of its normative identity.

Gender
is not synonymous with women. These are not just women’s issues. It’s a matter
of human security. WPS attempts to address these questions holistically,
focusing on how individuals simultaneously experience gender and conflict. The
challenge is clarifying the link between the personal and the political in order to create inclusive security policies that reflect
the reality of these people.

The significance of all this?

Equality.
Security. Maybe even sustainable peace.

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