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Women, girls and human security

Kristen Cordell considers the relationship between women and human security.
Kristen Cordell
3 March 2009

While the snowy weather and cool temperatures in New York made for a chilly commute this morning, the CSW was a warm reception! As I made my way through the snow into the first session, I couldn't help but reflect on warmer days in the DRC. I reminisced about my experience, and the difference between working on the ground and participating in the CSW at the UN's Headquarters in New York. For today's blog I would like to narrow in on the provision of human security as a much needed priority at both levels- one that was highlighted by several sessions I attended today.

A major shift in the approach to ensuring security for women has moved the community away from a ‘women as victims approach' to one of comprehensive security for women that recognizes and responds to their diverse roles as participants AND victims during conflict. Intrinsic to this approach is reforming the security sector in a manner that recognizes ‘security' not just the absence of flying bullets, but access to clean water, employment and medical care- that is human security. Today at the CSW there were a number of impressive presentations by NGOs working on the various tenants of promoting that very idea through a platform of better protection, prevention and participation of women.

Human security for women is legalized and promoted through a number of international statutes including the Beijing Platform for Action, CEDAW, Security Council Resolution 1325- and most recently Security Council Resolution 1820. The latter resolution, passed in June of 2008, was highlighted by Sarah Taylor, Coordinator for the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security during today's panel "Women, Men and Human Security," hosted by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice. Sarah discussed the origin and importance of1820 in ending the use of rape as a tool of war and creating accountability for perpetrators. The International Network on Small Arms (IANSA) was also represented at the panel- and suggested crucial mechanisms for deterring arms ownership and usage in the post-conflict context. IANSA is a group that is quite vigorous and involved; I look forward to their event tomorrow entitled "Towards an Arms Trade Treaty: Women's Rights," which will feature Annie Mbambi from WILPF in the DRC, who I had the pleasure of meeting today. Unlike 1325's grassroots and NGO origins (years in the making), SR 1820 came from above, relatively quickly, originating from high-level meetings and organized attention to ending sexual violence. This means its success will depend on people like Annie, working on the ground to implement the resolution in a manner that empowers the world's most disenfranchised women to secure themselves and their families.

So much of the debate around protection and prevention centers on women, while the child soldier's debate focuses on boy soldiers- these two groups leave out the girl child completely. New campaigns such as the Girl Effect launched as a joint effort between the World Bank, the Nike foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative are bringing light to the plight and potential of this previously forgotten group. Plan International previewed its newest research on the girl child in their panel "Because I am a Girl: Special Context for the Girl Child." The research starts with the premise that as females and minors, girls are doubly disenfranchised in the conflict and post-conflict setting. Through examining several case studies, the research report provides a series of eight recommendations for promoting security at a variety of policy levels. The recommendations are quite good but I believe in the long run they are much too general in Plan's attempt to be comprehensive. I look forward to reading the report in
its entirety.

At the end of the day, I reflected on the theme of engendering human security. What is the ultimate goal? Is it different from location to location? How will we know when we get there? Would the world look any different? I was reminded of a study commissioned by the Canadian Government to assess what factors make fragile states more so, (and not initially focused on gender as a component.) The study concluded, "Gender equality is not merely a matter of social justice but of international security in predicting state aggressiveness internationally." If we can provide localized national security for girls and women, we are really creating a more secure and stable international environment for everyone. And that is a goal, I think, we can all agree upon.

How do we work after coronavirus?

The pandemic has profoundly changed our working lives. Millions have lost their jobs; others have had no choice but to continue working at great risk to their health. Many more have shouldered extra unpaid labour such as childcare.

Work has also been redefined. Some workers are defined as 'essential' – but most of them are among the lowest-paid in our societies.

Could this be an opportunity?

Amid the crisis, there has been a rise in interest in radical ideas, from four-day weeks to universal basic income.

Join us on 5pm UK time on 20 August as we discuss whether the pandemic might finally be a moment for challenging our reliance on work.

In conversation:

Sarah Jaffe, journalist and author of 'Work Won't Love You Back: How Devotion to Our Jobs Keeps Us Exploited, Exhausted, and Alone', due to be published next year.

Amelia Horgan, academic and author of 'Lost in Work: Escaping Capitalism', also due to be published next year.

Chair: Alice Martin, advisory board member of Autonomy, a think tank dedicated to the future of work.

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