“Whether it's ending conflict, managing a transition, or rebuilding a country, the world can no longer afford to continue ignoring half the population.”
– Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, December 19, 2011
As governments and international organizations continue to work towards peace and national security, the role of women in these efforts can no longer be ignored. In recent years research and policy have coalesced to give an important picture of the role women play in community building and shaping of national psyches. With this new understanding, the US State department has put together the United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP) with the aim of reassessing current security procedures and updating them to include women-centered interventions.
The goal of the first-ever United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP) is as simple as it is profound: to empower half the world's population to act as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence, and insecurity. Achieving this goal is critical to our national and global security and it builds on the work of the Department under Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, since the first United Nations (UN) Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace, and Security was passed in 2000.
Adding to the conversations, the Institute for Inclusive Security shares six reasons why it is crucial to include women in security and peace building activities.
Women inspire a culture of inclusion for the next generation
While including women in peace building is proven to be effective, little time has been given in the conversation to discuss the grave importance education plays in a woman's ability to contribute in a national or international arena. When governments are looking for female leaders to guide us towards peace, will there be enough women from every war-torn area who are literate and knowledgable that can contribute?
In the National Action Plan the State Department writes, “The United States Government will promote women's roles in conflict prevention, improve conflict-early warning and response systems through the integration of gender perspectives, and invest in women and girls' health, education, and economic opportunities to create conditions for stable societies and lasting peace.” Yet when looking at the 2013 foreign assistance breakdown, little is going into peace and security…
…and even less is spent on assisting higher education programs abroad.
Women-centered interventions should be supported and expanded but when much of the world lacks universal education systems or purposefully excludes women from the education sector, how can these interventions take root and succeed? Additionally, education itself fosters peace. Global Partnerships reports that “if the enrollment rate for secondary schooling is 10% higher than the average, the risk of war is reduced by about 3%.” The necessary first step is focusing on education and educating women. It's a matter of national security.