The important role women play in peace and security was discussed March 12 at a William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies forum held at the National Defense University on the Fort McNair portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
The forum, entitled “women in peace and security,” was held in recognition of International Women's Day and in response to the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and Presidential Executive Order 13595, explained Robert Kravinsky, director, International Humanitarian Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense.
President Barack Obama released the national action plan, which represents a government-wide effort to leverage U.S. diplomatic, defense and development resources to improve the participation of women in peace and security issues Dec. 19, 2011.
Kravinsky said the national action plan encompasses five high-level objectives, including women's participation in national integration and institutionalization; participation in peace processes and decision making; protection from violence; conflict prevention and access to relief and recovery.
Ambassador Wanda L. Nesbitt, who serves as senior vice president for international programs and outreach at National Defense University, stressed the importance of diplomacy's role in helping to ensure peace throughout the world. She also said providing educational opportunities to women was vital to that effort.
“It's important to empower half the world's population,” she said.
Dr. Rebecca Chavez, deputy assistant secretary of defense for western hemisphere affairs, discussed women in peace and security efforts in the Americas.
“Over the past 10 years, women have increasingly taken on leadership roles in national security,” she said. “Twenty-five percent of legislators in Latin America are women.”
Dr. Johanna Mendelson Forman, president of the board of visitors, Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, noted that women are the drivers of political change at both the national and local level. She said security assistance models should be revised so that gender inclusion meets community security needs.
“We must look beyond women as victims of violence to women as part of the solution to insecurity in their communities,” she said.
The forum also included a question and answer session among the panel and audience members and introductory remarks by Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, commander, U.S. Southern Command.