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Gender Advisor Speaks up for International Women's Day

Can you describe what your role is as NATO Mission Iraq’s Gender Advisor? 

In general, to look at any given situation through a "gender perspective” is to have the ability to identify when men, women, boys and girls are being affected differently based on their gender. 

The overall responsibility for the integration of gender perspectives within the NATO Mission Iraq mandate rests with the mission commander.  The Gender Advisor generally provides advice on the implementation and integration of gender perspectives including, but not limited to, operations/missions, crisis/conflict analysis, doctrine, procedures and education and training.

As GENADs, our main guiding principles come from the United Nation’s Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 and the related resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. 

As the GENAD for NMI, I provide guidance to NMI staff for the overall integration of gender perspectives within our headquarters’ planning, execution and evaluation of activities. I also advise and assist NMI members with the inclusion of UNSCR 1325 into their collective efforts of integrating a gender advisory capability and gender perspectives into the Iraqi military institutions and military schools they are working with. 

I also work closely with the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and non-NATO entities helping to coordinate their efforts with existing and developing programs related to gender perspectives in operations, women, peace and security, children and armed conflict, sexual gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse.

In your opinion, why is integrating gender perspectives important for militaries and security-sector institutions?   

Incorporating this essential perspective will help shape the protection and security a force provides  Additionally, it  will help increase overall situational awareness as well as force protection and operational effectiveness.

Many countries’ militaries and security institutions face significant challenges in integrating and protecting women, including in their forces. A combination of cultural impediments, weak recruitment and uneven application of policies can often hinder progress. As such, there is a strong requirement within many countries for the implementation and enforcement of better policies and procedures to integrate women and evaluate situations with different gender perspectives in mind. 

In your role as GENAD, what have you been able to accomplish during your time with NATO Mission Iraq so far?

I am very happy with what we have been able to accomplish in the relatively short time NATO Mission Iraq has been here.
I have been able to establish a strong network with many groups working on the gender portfolio in and around Baghdad, including Iraqi entities, non-governmental organisations, and  embassies. I have been fortunate to be able to attend numerous conferences, panel discussions, and meetings. All of them constituted important platforms to share views and develop a sound cooperation with different stake-holders.   In my opinion, these encounters have left everyone with a better understanding of what gender inequality means and the impacts it has on a wide range of areas, including security.

I am also developing gender awareness training programs and tailoring them to meet the specific needs and requirements of the Iraqi institutions NMI works with.  In the same spirit, we are ensuring instructors have the tools they need to continue to incorporate gender perspectives in their training.  Even little things, like a simple pamphlet we developed, seem to have gone a long way in helping people grasp the significance of incorporating gender perspectives in their day-to-day activities.   

Additionally, we are ensuring that all NMI personnel have a good understanding of the significance of these concepts.  To that end, all NMI members receive a gender awareness brief and complete two mandatory NATO courses which help keep gender perspective concepts top-of-mind within our own personnel.

If you had one thing people should take away from the idea of integrating gender perspectives in what they do, what would it be?

Policy-makers, soldiers and anyone responsible for the security of others must be mindful of the major aspects of gender and the specific needs of men, women, boys and girls in their society.  If policies and practices are to be successful and sustainable, they must consider gender perspectives in a wide range of areas including, but not limited to; health, education, decision-making, discrimination, sexual harassment, abuse, and sexual violence.

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