By Stacey Schamber

In 2018, the Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL), spearheaded by the International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN), in partnership with Our Secure Future, a program of One Earth Future, and World Pulse launched a survey, and forthcoming report, to explore how women define security. A growing body of evidence shows that the participation of women in all aspects of peacebuilding has a tangible impact on human security, however, women’s voices, experiences, and expertise are often left out of security thinking. As we celebrate the 18th anniversary of the WPS UNSCR 1325 this week, it’s important to reflect on the challenges which still remain to including women’s participation and perspectives.

UN figures indicate that women constitute fewer than eight percent of peace negotiators and fewer than three percent of signatories on peace agreements.  Women remain significantly underrepresented in national leadership positions. They are largely missing from senior-positions of governing and societal groups that influence decisions about armed conflict and long-term recovery from conflict. Women remain on the outside of formal international peace and security decision-making.

A global survey of women’s experiences of security is a starting point to including women’s perspectives, community networks, activism and expertise in the mainstream debate and informing the dominant narrative about what security is and “how” to do security. Please complete the survey available on the World Pulse website here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/definesecurity.

A sample of ICAN’s Women’s Alliance for Security Leadership (WASL) experts in women, peace, and security from 12 countries piloted this survey which includes these preliminary results:

  • 76% of survey respondents link security concerns and priorities to civil and political rights, especially the right to life and personal safety, while 59% identify security concerns under the category of socio-economic rights.
  • 47% of the respondents mention sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), 53% mention domestic violence and 47% mention organized political violence as types of violence experienced.
  • 59% of the respondents describe lack of protection and insecurity in their community and country as caused by radicalization, violent extremism, state authoritarianism, political Islam, increased targeted securitization and surveillance, and reduced or ineffective efforts of public protection.
  • 59% of the respondents express security concerns over extremism based on faith or ethnicity.
  • 53% of the respondents have concerns over rising economic inequalities with 41% identifying the spread of weapons and 29% the rise of authoritarianism as significant issues.
  • 71% of the respondents express disagreement and negative attitude towards the definition of security at the state decision making level. Local views on security vary considerably.
  • 59% of the respondents think that the presence of women in the security sector changes the behavior of security actors. However, this is contingent on the training provided and level of gender awareness among all security actors.

Security has moved beyond defense from other states to defense from state political violence against its own citizens, and how to ensure community safety as well as political and socio-economic rights. The rise of violent extremism, authoritarianism and closing space for human rights and civil society activism present new challenges to protection and security from the local to the global level. It’s time to democratize the conversation about what security means, how to include women’s perspectives and improve it for citizens in today’s world.

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