Archive for the ‘guest post’ Category

Women’s empowerment: Perspectives from near and far

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Guest post by doctoral student Brian Keilson

A second international videoconference was held on February 19, as part of the on-going partnership between the Global Gender Program at the George Washington University and the Gender and Development Studies Department at Lahore College for Women’s University. In Washington, DC, participants face an early morning, beginning at 8am, while, in Lahore, the get-together means a late evening with the event starting 10 hours later.

IMG_2867[1] (1)

Discussion between GW and LCWU students, staff, and faculty at the February 19 videoconference.

Each side was pleased to welcome a special guest. At GW, in attendance was Elliott School alumna, Ms. Arifa Khalid Parvez, a member of the Pakistani National Assembly (equivalent to a U.S. Senator). At LCWU, we were honored by the presence of Vice Chancellor, Sabiha Mansoor.

The one-hour meeting began with presentations from faculty and students at LCWU addressing aspects of women’s empowerment in Pakistan,

Key points from the four presenters were:

  • although higher education policies in Pakistan have promoted equal opportunity, there is still a significant gap between female graduates and employment, due to less opportunity because of religious or cultural biases toward different occupations.
  • for many females, teaching is the culturally preferred occupation.
  • however, there are females in every industry from politics to IT, to the army, judicial system and even taxi drivers.
  • Pakistani women have attained success in many areas, including:
    • Samira Baig- 1st Pakistani women and only 3rd Pakistani and youngest Muslim women to ascend Mt. Everest.
    • Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy- won an Oscar Award for best documentary.
    • women are truly agents of change in Pakistan from politics to philanthropy
    • there are more women in government in Pakistan than in Sri Lanka, Iran and India
    • there is a separate government ministry for women and there are many prohibitions against discrimination including in the country’s constitution
    • these protections, however, are not enforced evenly throughout the country

After hearing from our partners at LCWU, Candice Matthews, a doctoral candidate in Human & Organizational Learning at the Graduate School of Education & Human Development discussed her dissertation research on American female social entrepreneurs’ identities as an example of qualitative research. She highlighted her methods and findings from her in-depth interviews will 11 women entrepreneurs in the U.S. This presentation generated interest from the attendees at LCWU and GW, especially, about how these women succeeded and felt empowered in their roles. Key points were: a support network and having meaningfulness in their work, while still keeping in mind that stereotypes were still present regarding women.

Open discussion at the video conference also addressed U.S. laws regarding women’s empowerment, negative stereotypes about women and how women may overcome them, training opportunities for women entrepreneurs, and in what sectors women are succeeding.  At one point, a participant from LCWU asked the GW male audience to explain the male perspective of female empowerment. This question put the author of this post on the spot – the answer was a bit complicated but in essence shared that some men might feel threatened by the concept of female empowerment, but not all do.

The conference wrapped up by discussing how to integrate women’s empowerment opportunities into education. GW’s Shaista Khilji emphasized the importance of paying attention to words such as “empowerment” and what it means in different contexts. She reminded the participants that “women’s empowerment” is a cultural construction and needs to be explored in that sense, from a multi-disciplinary perspective, and with attention to studying the different meanings of empowerment. LCWU’s Sarah Shahed provided a very positive note by saying that this conference was even better than the first one that we had in December 2013.

PictureBrian Keilson is a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in the Department of Human & Organizational Learning in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at GW.  



The activity reported in this post is funded by a grant to the Global Gender Program (GGP) from the U.S. Department of State to support a three-year partnership (2014-2016) between GGP and Lahore College Women’s University (LCWU) in Pakistan. At GW, faculty leading the project are Barbara Miller, director of the Elliott School’s Global Gender Program and professor of anthropology and international affairs, and Shaista Khilji, professor of human and organizational learning in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and faculty member of the Elliott School and the GGP. Leading the partnership at LCWU is Sarah Shahed, chair of the Department of Gender and Development Studies. The two groups will work together to share knowledge and understanding about women’s status and empowerment in both Pakistan and the U.S. Another goal is to build capacity of faculty and students at LCWU, and during the first year, the partnership will focus on the curriculum of LCWU’s M.A. degree program. Each year, GW will host video conferences and provide webinars to facilitate intellectual exchange and cross-cultural understanding of shared challenges and solutions. Faculty and student exchanges will further contribute to the goals of the partnership. Every year, several LCWU MA students will attend classes at GW in the second summer session. LCWU faculty will visit GW to offer lectures and develop collaborative research projects, and GW faculty will spend time at LCWU delivering courses.

Anthropologist Manduhai Buyandelger wins the 2013 Levitan Prize in the Humanities

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Office of the Dean | MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences 

Manduhai Buyandelger, an MIT associate professor of anthropology

Manduhai Buyandelger, an MIT associate professor of anthropology


Associate Professor of Anthropology Manduhai Buyandelger has been awarded the James A. (1945) and Ruth Levitan Prize in the Humanities, a $25,000 research grant that will support her ethnographic study of parliamentary elections in Mongolia, with specific emphasis on the experience of female candidates.

In announcing the award, Deborah K. Fitzgerald, the Kenan Sahin Dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, remarked that there were “many excellent proposals” for this year’s Levitan, the School’s top annual prize for research. “It is a real tribute to your depth of intelligence and experience … that the committee chose [this project] as the winner,” Fitzgerald wrote in congratulating Buyandelger.

A project on Mongolian women and political power 

“The Levitan Prize is going to transform my life,” Buyandelger says, “because I’ll be able to finish this project” — a book highlighting the “unconventional and creative strategies” women politicians in Mongolia have employed to meet the challenges of the postsocialist era, and the ways in which women’s early electoral failures in Mongolia helped spawn a women’s movement there.

“During socialism, the state promoted top-down strategies to equalize the sexes,” Buyandelger says. “With the collapse of the state, women were left on their own … and their marginalization at the top levels of politics became even more stark.”

Although women rarely secured election during Mongolia’s early democratic years — women’s representation in the national parliament never exceeded 8 percent until 2012 — Buyandelger finds that this failure helped spur the launch of a wide range of small nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that advocated for women’s rights.

“The individual fruits of these little NGOs in the end contributed to building a new culture and awareness about gender issues,” Buyandelger says. While the Mongolian NGOs did not always explicitly work together, “in the end they collectively transformed the perception of the populace regarding women in politics,” she says. “They also leveraged the government to designate an agency to attend to gender issues.”

Travel to Mongolia

The Levitan Prize will enable Buyandelger to travel to Mongolia to finish the research for her forthcoming book, “One Thousand Steps to Parliament: Elections, Women’s Participation, and Gendered Transformation in Postsocialist Mongolia.” It will be the second book for Buyandelger, who is the only anthropologist in the United States focused on Mongolia. Her first book, “Tragic Spirits: Shamanism, Memory, and Gender in Contemporary Mongolia,” was released by the University of Chicago Press in November 2013.

“Buyandelger explores how individuals and groups interpret, resist, and accommodate these drastic socioeconomic transformations, by both reviving traditional cultural practices and creating new ones,” says Professor Susan Silbey, who heads the Anthropology Section. “In ‘Tragic Spirits’ [she documents] the revival of shamanism in the transformation from Soviet communism to liberal capitalist subjects.”

A documentary film on Parliamentarian Burmaa Radnaa

Buyandelger says she also plans to use the Levitan Prize to complete a related documentary film, “Intellect-ful Women,” centered on the experiences of Burmaa Radnaa, a Mongolian politician she shadowed during the 2008 campaign. The film should provide a wholly novel perspective on the election process. “There are very few studies of women politicians in anthropology,” says Buyandelger, who was afforded rare access to top parliamentary politics while shadowing Radnaa on a daily basis.

After Radnaa lost the 2008 election, she took her case to court alleging ballot fraud — and won. And, although the court did not award her a seat, the publicity surrounding the case helped earn both her and her party a fair shot at election in 2012. As a result, Radnaa is now serving as a member of parliament.

“The film concentrates on Burmaa’s extraordinary analytical skills and mercurial but nuanced ways of thinking and solving problems,” Buyandelger wrote in her Levitan Prize application. “Against the commercialized elections and party politics where networks and money pave much of the road to parliamentary seats, Burmaa won a seat with limited resources but with much thinking. Her electoral strategies are embedded, primarily, in her intellect.”

The Levitan Prize prize was established through a gift from the late James A. Levitan, a 1945 MIT graduate in chemistry, who was also a member of the MIT Corporation and of counsel at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom of New York City. The prize, first awarded in 1990, supports innovative and creative scholarship in the humanities by faculty members in the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.

Story by MIT SHASS Communications
MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences 
Editorial and Design Director: Emily Hiestand
Senior Writer: Kathryn O’Neill

The original article can be found here.

Book review: Gender & Justice: Why Women in the Judiciary Really Matter

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

By guest contributor Josh Doherty

Image via Routledge

Image via Routledge

In her new book, Gender & Justice: Why Women in the Judiciary Really Matter, Sally J. Kenney proposes that scholars and policy-makers reject the rationale that women should be represented in greater numbers on the bench because they, as women, will render decisions that are different from their male counterparts. Rather, Kenney advocates increasing the number of women judges, and in particular women serving on higher courts, for two reasons: (1) increasing the representational legitimacy of the courts and (2) pursuing equal citizenship rights for women by remedying discriminatory judicial nomination and hiring practices. In making her case, Kenney regularly reminds the reader that gender is a social process, a “social relationship based on perceived differences and symbolizing power,” and not just a “euphemism” for women. (16). She, however, also highlights the utility of using binary male/female distinctions as a means for identifying gendered discrimination (such as highlighting situations in which women are under-represented or “herded into the lower-status corners of the legal and judicial professions”). (24-25). Throughout her book, Kenney strongly supports her assertions (referencing over 900 endnotes), and presents a highly persuasive argument.

After laying out her argument briefly in Chapter 1, Kenney dismantles the widely asserted but weakly supported rationale that female judges decide cases differently from their male peers, and as such render different judgments. She asserts instead that these essentialist differences are not based on a judge’s sex, but rather on a judge’s adoption of feminist ideas and life experiences, regardless of whether that judge is a male or female. Kenney then uses the experience of Rosalie Wahl, the first woman appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, to discuss the importance that a symbolic appointment and an emotional connection between the nominee, the women’s movement, and the greater public have with respect to galvanizing and maintaining a diverse judiciary. In Chapter 4, Kenney explains the three key ingredients for successfully implementing a policy of gender diversity in the judiciary by using the appointment of federal judges under Jimmy Carter’s presidency as an example. These ingredients are: (1) political discourse identifying gender equality as a goal, (2) motivated internal actors in positions of power, and (3) a strong feminist movement to exert external pressure on the administration.

Rosalyn Higgins, former President of the International Court of Justice. Source: Wikicommons

Rosalyn Higgins, former President of the International Court of Justice. Source: Wikicommons

Kenney then jumps the Atlantic to discuss the unique set of circumstances in Britain that culminated in the appointment Lady Hale to the House of Lords, namely focusing on the changes to the power of the gatekeeper and reform of the judicial selection process that the feminist movement in the United Kingdom was able to foment. Staying in Europe, Kenney uses the example of the European Court of Justice as an institution that serves as a strong exemplar of a judiciary that would do well to re-imagine “representation” beyond nationality and include a “gender theory of a representative judiciary.” Returning to the United States, Kenney identifies five forms of backlash that female judges face (discrimination during the selection process; direct hostility by colleagues once appointed; lawyers’ challenges of female judge’s authority through, e.g., calls for recusal; charges of misconduct and electoral challenges; and the replacement of female with male judges following a token appointment), using the story of Rose Bird in California as an example. In her conclusion, Kenney reiterates that essentialist differences should not be relied upon, and that instead advocates for greater female representation on the bench should focus on democratic legitimacy of the judiciary through gender-representative judiciaries, and equal citizenship as embodied by non-discriminatory hiring practices.

Kenney’s work is an exceptionally thorough, well-researched and coherent guide to advocates and policy-makers on why and how to pursue a more gender-diverse judiciary. The tangential (and fairly lengthy) discussion in her concluding chapter addressing gender discrimination in juries seemed a bit out of the blue and not particularly helpful in addressing the specific problem of a paucity of female judges (other than the fact that it is another area of the judicial system from which women were excluded) and could perhaps have been excluded. However, it does present a related issue that has, at least to some extent in the United States, been remedied. Additionally, Kenney’s work could perhaps have been improved with a more geographically diverse series of examples (she primarily focused on the United States, and to a much lesser extent the United Kingdom and the European Court of Justice). I, and perhaps others, would be interested in learning more about how certain other judicial systems have been more successful at realizing a gender-balanced judiciary, and to what extent judiciaries in developing countries are embracing gender-representative judicial systems. In fairness to Kenney, however, her principle familiarity is with the American judicial system, which has been extensively studied and documented, providing a much richer base upon which to conduct the type of critical research Kenney undertook with this work. With Gender & Justice, Kenney makes an important contribution to scholarly understanding of the importance of and challenges to increasing the number of females in the judiciary.

Photo courtesy of Josh Doherty

Photo courtesy of Josh Doherty


Joshua Doherty is a M.A. candidate in International Affairs in the Elliott School of International Affairs and a J.D. candidate in the George Washington University Law School.

Gender mainstreaming as an urban policy tool: Best practices from Vienna, Austria

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

By guest contributor Josh Doherty

Stephansplatz and Graben street, Vienna Austria. Photo via Marek Ślusarczyk

Stephansplatz and Graben street, Vienna Austria. Photo via Marek Ślusarczyk

As highlighted recently in an article in The Atlantic, the city of Vienna, Austria has been incorporating the concept of gender mainstreaming into its urban planning policy since the early 1990s. Over the last two decades, officials have been attempting to provide equal access to the city’s resources and ensure that laws, rules, and regulations benefit both men and women equally.

Some examples of specific measures that the city has taken include high quality lighting in parks and along streets and ensuring that the city’s budget is fairly distributed across the genders. The city provides more detail of its model on the local government’s website.

UN Habitat provides a summary of the 23-year history of Vienna’s gender-mainstreaming efforts that details how the city has shared its experiences with others in order to promote the use of gender mainstreaming in other cities. As cities across the U.S. struggle with managing budget constraints and attempt to revitalize fragile economies by attracting new residents and investment, could incorporating Vienna’s gender mainstreaming lessons help constituents and the bottom line?

Photo courtesy of Josh Doherty

Photo courtesy of Josh Doherty


Joshua Doherty is an M.A. candidate in International Affairs and J.D. candidate in the Elliott School of International Affairs and the George Washington University Law School.

March 22 World Water Day: No women, No water, empowering women to manage water

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Guest post by Julia Collins

women and water

photo courtesy of Women and Water in South and Central Asia

Accessing and managing one of the most basic, and yet most crucial, life-sustaining resources is a big deal.  Today, on World Water Day, we take a moment to consider what a large role water plays in security, development and conflict around the world and how crucial women are to this important resource.

You name it, water affects it: gender, health, security, poverty, sanitation, hygiene, policy. 

The Elliott School of International Affair’s interdepartmental project ‘Women and Water in South and Central Asia’ has identified 4 challenges related to water that women face in South and Central Asia.

First, the domestic use of water is generally viewed as women’s concern in the region and the physically demanding task of water collection and water management in the household falls to women and girls. Because of this household water responsibility, women’s health is adversely affected by the physical strain of water carrying, water-borne diseases and poor sanitation and hygiene conditions.  Further complicating the issue, the water supply is projected to decrease due to climate change, which will likely exacerbate tensions and fuel conflict. Lastly, and despite their integral involvement in all things water, women do not often hold water/property rights nor do they have decision making power to distribute or manage water.  This results in a decision-making gap where preferences of women and girls aren’t considered in allocating the precious resource.

What can be done?

Treating women as partners, not passive recipients of aid is a start.  The idea is to empower women to work together with men on water decision making and planning.  It is also important to tailor women-empowerment programs to fit the local needs of the community because ‘one-size’ does not fit all.

Find out more

Click here to find events, reports, videos, blogs, and more on women and water!

More about the project

The Global Gender Program, Sigur Center, and Central Asia Program’s joint project – Women and Water in South and Central Asia – brings together women social entrepreneurs and activists from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, to discuss their experiences and innovative solutions on community-level water management, enhance their competencies and leadership skills, and expose them to U.S institutions and the policy community working on water management and gender issues.  This project, funded by the State Department, will support Track II diplomacy (people-to-people relations) and enhance capacity on water resource management as a key element in enhancing stability and prosperity in Central and South Asia.

Photo courtesy of Julia Collins

Photo courtesy of Julia Collins

Julia Collins is a Research/Program Assistant for the Women and Water, South and Central Asia Project at the Elliott School and a 1st year Master’s Candidate studying Conflict Resolution and Security Policy Studies. Particular areas of academic interest include Post-conflict reconstruction, memory politics and dealing with the past, and promoting good governance in transitional democracies – Myanmar in particular.

She graduated from UCLA in 2009 with a BA in Political Science, and minors in Environmental Geography and German. Julia has worked on Guam, lived in Hungary, taught along the Thailand-Myanmar border at a political training school for Burmese democracy activists, and advocated for refugees at a Californian refugee resettlement agency.


Jody Williams and the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Guest post by Kerry Crawford

To view videos from Global Gender Program’s celebration of International Women’s Day, see here.

Jody Williams at International Women's Day event on March 4, 2013. Photo by Milad Pournik.

Jody Williams at International Women’s Day event on March 4, 2013. Photo by Milad Pournik.

On March 4th the Global Gender Program and Gender at Work co-sponsored a day-long series of panels and talks honoring International Women’s Day 2013 at the Elliott School of International Affairs. Jody Williams gave the morning’s keynote lecture, focusing on her work with the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict.

Jody Williams is a tireless advocate for human rights and gender equality. In 1997 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her successful work toward banning and clearing anti-personnel landmines through the International Campaign to Ban Land mines. Williams was the 10th woman and the 3rd American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

The International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict, steered by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, is – as the name implies – a global coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals working toward an end to rape and gender violence in conflict. Williams emphasized the importance of coming together and forming a coalition to create change, as individuals and organizations are far more influential when they work as a whole.

The campaign is based on three core approaches: prevention of rape and gender violence in conflict; protection of civilians and survivors of sexual violence; and effective prosecution of perpetrators and those responsible for rape and gender violence in conflict.

So why focus on rape and gender violence in conflict when violence against women happens every day in alarming numbers? Williams- and many of the members of the campaign- are quick to remind us that sexual violence in conflict is part of a broader continuum of violence against women. Rape and gender violence do not spring up suddenly at the onset of political or military aggression; rather, a larger and more insidious system of gender inequality breeds sexual and gender violence long before, during, and long after conflict. Focusing on rape and gender violence in conflict provides a valuable entry point through which NGOs and individuals can work to shed light on the continuum of violence against women and create broader and changes in gender relations.

Many creative and inspiring tactics have arisen from the International Campaign to Ban Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict. One Billion Rising united individuals in mass global action to speak out against violence against women and girls. The Stephen Lewis Foundation unites grassroots efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa by supporting women, orphaned children, grandmothers, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

Jody Williams is a captivating speaker, in no small part because of her astounding humility. Selecting one key takeaway point from her lecture is a difficult task. Yet, the most essential lesson that should stay with all of us at all times is that violence is always a choice. Always.

Williams underscored the fact that we need to abandon our entrenched belief that there is something about the human condition that makes us inherently violent. Once we do that ending impunity for atrocities, especially rape and gender violence, may come more easily and the world may be safer for all of us.

If you would like to learn more about Jody Williams, you can read her new book: My Name is Jody Williams.

Myanmar’s peace process: where are the women?

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Guest post by Christina Fink

Myanmar’s Current Peace Processes: A New Role for Women explains why women in Myanmar played no role in closed peace talks in the past, and how they are engaging in the current, more open peace-building process.

Local_EWHkhlhl$taThe authors, who are female peace-builders themselves, emphasize both the development of women’s networks and the more open political environment as factors that have led at least some women to see themselves as having a role in the peace process. According to a survey carried out by the authors, many women in Myanmar civil society organizations believe women should be engaged in peace negotiations and other peace-building activities.

Respondents hoped that women’s involvement could lead to greater attention to human security concerns and the particular needs of women and children affected by war.

Nevertheless, the authors conclude that women will only be able to play an active role if they themselves push for it. In addition, they require support, including mentorship, specific knowledge and skills training, study tours to meet other women with experience in peace-building and politics, and financial assistance to sustain their organizations.


fink-christinaChristina Fink is a professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. An anthropologist who has focused on Burma for many years, she is the author of Living Silence in Burma: Surviving Under Military Rule (2009).

The United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security—commitment and institutionalization one year later

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Guest post by Kerry Crawford 

Photos by Milad Pournik

The United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security is now a little more than one year old. On December 19, 2011, President Obama issued  Executive Order 13595 directing the implementation of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP), which was drafted through the collaboration of US government agencies and civil society.

Last Wednesday, January 30th, members of civil society and the US Government gathered at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) to celebrate progress made to date and the challenges that continue to confront implementation of the NAP.  The panel discussion, which was co-hosted by USIP, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the US Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, brought together key representatives from government agencies and civil society.

Panelists discussed the NAP’s recognition of women as equal partners in peacebuilding and the need to provide protection and consideration for women and girls in order to promote effective security and stabilization initiatives. One of the most important aspects of the NAP’s development and implementation is the level of collaboration between civil society and government. Indeed, civil society members provided the momentum for the Women, Peace, and Security agenda, both within the US and internationally, and their involvement is crucial.

Recognizing that gender equality and empowerment of women and girls are not only essential to women’s rights but are also essential to national and international security is key to prioritizing the NAP’s provisions and promoting its full implementation.


The panel, from left, included Kathleen Kuehnast (USIP), Chantal de Jonge Oudraat (SIPRI North America), Carla Koppell (USAID), Rob Berschinski (National Security Council), Joan Timoney (Women’s Refugee Commission), Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense William Lietzau (Department of Defense), Sanam Anderlini (International Civil Society Action Network), Ambassador Melanne Verveer (State Department), and Victoria Holt (State Department- not pictured).

Although the US was not the first state to develop a NAP—it was 36th out of 37 states with a NAP—government agencies have worked to implement the NAP’s provisions during the past year. The Department of State, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Centers for Disease Control, have released Implementation Plans outlining specific objectives and responsibilities related to the NAP. These implementation plans help to ensure the institutionalization of the NAP in day-to-day work. The Department of Defense has not yet publicly released its Implementation Plan.

For more information on the progress on the US NAP, see the USIP News Feature. (more…)

New U.S. Department of Defense instruction on sexual assault within the DoD

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Guest post by Kerry Crawford

On January 25th the Department of Defense (DoD) released a new instruction establishing policy, assigning responsibilities, and providing procedures for investigating cases of sexual assault within the DoD.

dod-seal-fullDepartment of Defense Instruction 5505.18 (Instruction) establishes policies and procedures for investigating any case of adult sexual assault linked to the United States military; this includes sexual assault occurring on military installations and cases in which a service member or his or her dependent (over the age of 18) is accused of or victimized by sexual assault. The Instruction outlines clear responsibilities for investigating sexual assault, including provisions for involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, and local police jurisdictions when appropriate.

If you are interested in reading the Instruction and its enclosures, you can do so via this link:

Why is this Instruction important? Three related reasons come to mind.

The first is that even the most casual Google search for “military sexual assault” will yield scores of news articles and academic publications discussing the prevalence of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment within and related to military institutions.  For just one example, see the Huffington Post news stream. Sexual assault is a sadly common occurrence—but not an inevitable one. Although this is not a problem unique to the United States military, it is certainly one that needs greater attention from DoD and the Instruction takes a step toward addressing military sexual assault.

The second reason is that the DoD just lifted the ban on women serving in combat positions. Now, women have already been serving in de facto ‘combat’ positions for years since modern warfare lacks clear battle lines. Lifting the ban simply allows policy to meet reality and opens an additional 230,000 positions to women. For a veteran’s insight, see the Slate article by Kayla Williams.

The third reason why outlining the specific policies, procedures, and responsibilities for investigating military sexual assault is significant stems from a combination of the first two: with the combat ban lifted, women may hold more positions traditionally held by men and this leads to the question of whether or not sexual assault within the military will decrease or increase. For one scholar’s discussion, see the Columbia Journalism Review’s article.

When discussing military sexual assault, we must be careful not to paint women as victims or as the only victims of sexual assault; the Instruction itself adopts gender-neutral language when discussing perpetrators and victims, and specifies that sexual orientation should not factor into the investigation unless it is an essential aspect of the investigation.  Women serving in the military deserve the same respect, honor, and recognition as their male colleagues, and relegating survivors of sexual assault to mere victim status detracts from the esteem they deserve.

We can hope that more consistent recognition of women and men as equal in the eyes of the military and clear, enforced policies and procedures for addressing military sexual assault may lead to a steady decline in the problem.

Lifting the combat ban and issuing the Instruction certainly offer food for thought.

Keeping hope alive for 1325

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Guest post by Kerry Crawford

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325(Resolution 1325), adopted 31 October 2000, calls on the international community of states and organizations to ensure that women are fully involved in decision-making and processes related to peace and security. Unprecedented in its nature, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 marks the first time the United Nations Security Council recognized war’s disproportionate burden on women and girls and linked ‘women’s issues’ to the international peace and security agenda.

The consistent refrain on Resolution 1325 is that much progress has been made but much work remains to be done. UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet reiterated this observation on 30 November 2012 during the UN Security Council Open Debate to mark the 12th anniversary of Resolution 1325.

Ms. Bachelet also commended the civil society organizations and women’s groups that introduced and championed Resolution 1325 in 2000 and that have fought to keep it alive over the past 12 years: “The very origin of this historic resolution is the courage, leadership, and the extraordinary accomplishments of women’s civil society organizations that promote peace and build women’s protection under unimaginably difficult circumstances.” (For more on the Open Debate, see UN Women’s press release here.)

Civil society monitoring and reporting has been essential to progress on Resolution 1325. Earlier this month the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) released its third report monitoring the implementation of Resolution 1325, entitled “Women Count” Security Council Resolution 1325: Civil Society Monitoring Report 2012. (Access the full report here.)

The Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) is comprised of 67 women’s organizations and networks. Its central goal is to bridge the gap between policy rhetoric and action on the Women, Peace, and Security agenda through monitoring and reporting on progress. GNWP released its first monitoring report around the 10th anniversary of Resolution 1325.