Women and girls living in conflict areas are frequently the targets of specific forms of violence and abuse. Thus women develop a unique perspective on the causes and effects of conflict on the population. Yet they are severely under-represented during efforts to resolve hostilities and on missions devoted to peacekeeping.
The United States helps address this gap through the Global Peace Operations Initiative, or GPOI, which was founded in 2004. This U.S.-funded security assistance program works with 53 partner governments to help stabilize countries in conflict, and helps support United Nations and regional peace operations.
One of GPOI’s key tenets is to engage, consult and protect women in all aspects of peace operations. “The inclusion of a greater number of women in peace operations, to include peacekeeping, makes those operations more effective by ensuring that the needs and talents of local women are seen and considered. Women peacekeepers can also do things like address the needs of female ex-combatants during the process of demobilization and reintegration into civilian life, interview survivors of gender-based violence, and make the peacekeeping force more approachable to the entire population. Lastly, women peacekeepers can and do serve as role models to empower local women,” writes Dana Houk of the State Department’s Office of Global Programs and Initiatives, a sub-division of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
The Global Peace Operations Initiative aims to increase the role of women in peacekeeping through diplomatic engagement, by helping partner countries recognize that women significantly contribute to conflict resolution and peacekeeping.
Through the GPOI, we enable women’s participation in peace operations by ensuring that facilities suitable for women are available. We encourage partner countries to include more women in peacekeeping exercises, and to deploy more women on peacekeeping missions. We conduct courses on gender integration in peace operations and support the UN’s development of women, peace, and security-related training materials for peacekeeping training. And we train peacekeepers on the prevention and consequences of sexual exploitation and abuse.
“GPOI promotes women, peace, and security with all our 53 partner countries,” writes Dana Houk. “Working closely with like-minded countries and the UN to develop and deliver training and by drawing on the expertise of civil society organizations, GPOI is making tangible contributions to international peace and security.”