Two members of the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa attended the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Level 100 Course April 12-14, 2022.
Sponsored by United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), the course generated unit-level gender focal points who can ultimately assist with command-level gender and security decisions.
“From AFRICOM’s perspective, WPS has a huge influence to create a more stable, prosperous Africa,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Kenneth Eckman, U.S. AFRICOM director of strategy, engagement and programs.
Due to varying gender concerns throughout different parts of the region, the gender focal points can closely examine cultural norms, societal expectations and many other factors to provide data for critical decision-making with regard to military operations.
During the course, the members were provided with training to advocate for the integration of gender perspective, develop and deliver training on gender considerations, monitor and coordinate data collection and report on achievements. Gender perspective associated with WPS is commonly referring to the process of exposing gender differences, especially how being treated as a man or woman in society shapes a person’s immediate needs, long-term interests, and security. “The gender focal points are really the force multipliers when it comes to advancing WPS and applying gender perspectives,” said Monica Herrera, United States Indo-Pacific Command WPS curriculum developer. “They’re experts in their functional areas, so they’re the ones that can determine and develop strategies and help move the ball forward in meaningful ways that are actionable and we can really start to see meaningful effects.”
The course participants bring what they learned back to their current station. In the case of CJTF-HOA, the members work with key leadership, expanding the command’s capability to achieve meaningful effects. AFRICOM implements WPS legislation tenets by supporting defense institutions’ inclusion of women in African partner defense forces; ensuring security cooperation activities include requirements to protect civilians, specifically women and girls; and helping develop training and accountability mechanisms within partner defense forces that establish professional standards of conduct and prevent sexual and gender-based violence.
“It fundamentally is about ensuring women’s meaningful participation and the inclusion of gender perspectives in all spaces where decisions are being made about peace and security,” said Herrera, further detailing the importance of WPS. “It’s an inclusive, wholistic human-centered approach to security.”
WPS was officially put into effect by the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in October 2000. UNSCR 1325 recognizes the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women, affirms the importance of integrating gender perspectives in all negotiations and operations, and calls for measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence.
The United States enacted the WPS Act of 2017, tasking the Department of Defense, Department of State, USAID and DHS as implementing departments. This further spurred the U.S. strategy on WPS in 2019 and the DoD WPS strategic framework and implementation plan of 2020.
CJTF-HOA is currently employing WPS into operational planning and includes the themes in knowledge exchange opportunities with Djiboutians. They are also using their lessons learned as needed. As of the writing of this article, CJTF-HOA is scheduled to support the revision of the Djiboutian National Action Plan for WPS.
“These are internationally recognized strategies to improve security outcomes anywhere,” said Herrera. “You can apply it to any security sector problem that you have. Looking at how does any particular security challenge affect men, women, boys, girls and minority gender groups differently, and how can we take those perspectives to improve our operational planning, to ensure that we are creating and developing interventions that positively influence the entire affected population.”