This talk was in the CCUN Drew Room and focused on how women are viewed within conflict and what roles they play. There was a panel of 4 speakers, including NAWO YWA's Alysha Bodman, and the chair, Juliet Coleman.
The first speaker was a man named Pablo, who has been featured in this weeks TIME magazine and is a protection specialist in the peace sector of the UN. He gave a general overview of women in security, including saying how in the space of 15 the number of women in UN peacekeeping has changed from only 1-2% to the still low figure of 3-4%.
Brenda was the next speaker. She highlighted how in conflict women play a huge, unrecognized role in conflict, for example, in rebel groups. One quote in particular that resonated with me was 'if you don't get women in the beginning, it will be far harder to integrate them [in security roles]'. It was very interesting to see how women have to be engaged in all sectors of military reform, and she made it clear that women are not just peacekeepers; they are fighting on the frontline too.
Alysha Bodman from NAWO YWA gave a passionate and well researched speech on women in security. She mentioned some shocking statistics, like the fact that 26000 women were raped and sexually harassed in 2012. Alongside this she questioned how women in societies where they are prohibited from interacting with men can get a feeling of safety and security and provided examples of solutions such as female Nigerian peacekeepers visiting high schools.
Finally we heard from General Rachel Grimes who spoke from experience of how the role of women is so overlooked within the military specifically. She emphasized that you CAN be a feminist in the military, although there are few and far between. She also explained how, sadly, you need support from male senior advisers if you want to get women included.
Overall, this was a very informative topic, and one that most of us went into not knowing much about, yet came out feeling inspired and certainly more knowledgeable.