Veranstaltungen: Dokumentation

5.9.2002

Forum 3: Foreign and Security Policies

Women and their participation in international security policy and decision-making balances will challenge traditionally patriarchal views of security and war. Traditional gender identities not only exclude women from the public and political sphere but also produce and maintain war and its devastating impacts.

Traditional gender identities not only exclude women from the public sphere but also produce and maintain war and its devastating impacts.

Panelists Fotini Sianou of the KETHI research center on gender equality and mainstreaming in Athens, Greece, and Simone Wisotzki of the Peace Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, called into action female views to impact security-policy making throughout the world.

The two women emphasized gender equality as paving new paths to peace; as holding back the brutal and long-term impacts of war. A woman´s perspective isn´t a better view, argued Sianou, but the qualities women tend to learn such as nurturance, listening, compromise and empathy have had little place in traditionally patriarchal policy making. "Women have lost because men were making history," she said. "Men have lost because they have no idea of the beauty and difficulty of what takes place in a home."

The male gender shapes international security discourse, said Wisotzki, pointing out that only 5 to 10 percent of senior foreign policy executives from the world´s democratic countries are women. Male leaders, she said, tend to see women as ignorant about foreign affairs, so patriarchical values of strength, power and autonomy bloom at the exclusion of alternative ideas about resolution.

Wisotzki recalled a personal experience with sexism. She was a student working in international relations and assigned to pick up a U.S. general from the Gulf War who was visiting Germany. He asked her, "How can you be interested in such nasty stuff?" His question, she said, was a comment on the sexism inherent in international relations and the assumption that conflict must be uncomfortable . "The idea that I was a woman and interested in international politics didn´t fit into his view," she recalled. Wisotzki said the unequal showing of women in politics and on the international scene should be translated into balanced representation. She said socially constructed differences which shape political policies should be pointed out and contrasted with alternatives for handling conflict and national security.

Wisotzki called for countries to pull women into policy-making and implementation throughout the world. A good balance has been struck in Canada and Norway, where parliaments have reached the 30 percent consistency of women that´s necessary to impact lawmaking, she said.

However, she said, the United Nations is missing an opportunity. Crucial peacekeeping documents of the United Nations fail to mention gender issues, and the peacekeeping missions would be well-served by a greater proportion of women, Wisotzki said.

And Sianou questioned the political weight and merit of one specific two-year-old United Nations gender resolution (No. 1325) that calls for women to be involved in peace building and negotiating. She fears it is but a bureacratic tool that has yet to be used. "Women around the world need to start making noise," she said, "and start making use of it."

Women´s voices could balance and help resolve many heightening tensions, Sianou said, although it is difficult to see how fighting groups can learn to empathize and trust in the face of years of brutal wars and opposite takes on history. But she´s seen women come together outside of the structured international policy scene and make a difference. For years, Greek and Turkish women grouped as theWomen United for Peace have successfully helped resolve tensions between their countries, she said. In 1996, on the brink of war, the group of women´s work at open discussion, mediation and compromise had significant impact in preventing the eruption of a war, she said. "We refuse to be enemies," she said. "Isn´t this hope? ... This male warrior thing doesn´t fit the majority of men, but sustains moral authority in the patriarchy."

Sianou was the first woman trade union deputy for the General Secretary of Greek Labor. Today, to combat her experience of sexism in the public realm, Sianou treats gender research with a practical hand and to bridge the gap of gender inequity in conflict negotiations and international policy. She has attended peace marches and witnessed the concrete power of women working together to neutralize a tense situation with negotiations or peace committment in Greece, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ireland, Israel and Palestine. "You´re building something with a woman who the rest of the country sees as the enemy. This relationship – this exchange of understanding fears and needs – is very, very strengthening."

Several participants in the workshops drew on personal experiences to show the gender gap in international security issues just within Europe. And the theme of using gender issues to justify war grew into a focal point for both workshops. Several participants voiced concern that the War on Terrorism in Afghanistan had been sold on the grounds that women were brutally oppressed by the Taliban regime. One participant felt that women were "instrumentalized" to serve the purpose of a war which has left them still poor and vulnerable to future wars and oppression.

Sianou expressed great fear for a potential war against Iraq, and shared her views on the people of Iraq with whom she has worked, and the horrors of the Gulf War. But although panelists and many participants agreed that they oppose the policies of the Bush administration and his advisor, U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Sianou said any woman in a position of power is at least setting a good example. "Just by the picture of seeing a biological woman standing there is something and we shouldn´t disregard it," Sianou said. "It´s creating consciousness to women of the next generation."

Wisotzki referred to the strength a minority group has in numbers. She said it´s easier to stand up for gender issues and alternative viewpoints when a woman is not alone. In the German Green Party, for example, where 50 percent women representation is required, the roles and viewpoints on conflict, security and policy are as well-rounded and diverse as the women.
Europe can be a hopeful place for women interested in greater participation in international politics, Sianou agreed. "We have to empower these voices (of women) and make them louder," she said.

Referentinnen:

  • Fotini Sianou

  • Forschungszentrum für die Gleichberechtigung der Geschlechter (KETHI)
    Athen, Griechenland

  • Simone Wisotzki

  • Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
    Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland
    PDF-Icon CV


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