The recent side event, “Change Makers and Peacekeepers: The Journey toward Equal Representation,” was an interesting discussion on the vital role women play in military service, security operations, and peacekeeping missions around the world. Sponsored by the UN Entity for Gender Equality, panelists highlighted efforts by the United Nations, international organizations, and national governments in the transformational role of women in securing peace and stability in various contexts worldwide. UN Women Assistant –Secretary-General and Executive Deputy Director Lakshmi Puri emphasized that women are one of the keys to establishing sustainable peacekeeping operations. In post-conflict affected societies, Puri also expressed the importance of gender components in UN missions and gender-sensitive training for all.
This event made me think of my work in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria and how women have played a crucial role in creating avenues for peace in an often volatile region. The panel mentioned the importance of giving women the opportunity for equal representation in key leadership positions. In the Niger Delta, women have become critical agents in resolving conflicts and sustaining peace. They have contributed greatly to the formation of civil society in Nigeria, actively pushing for corporate reforms in the oil industry and supporting the development of democratic institutions. One of the speakers of today’s panel said “leadership begins with what’s possible” and “when you break one barrier, you are poised to break others.” I think these statements reflect the work of both urban and rural women in the Niger Delta.
The panel left you with the message: An institutional environment of empowerment and equality must be created and sustained in various elements of our society. Admiral Ferguson, U.S. Chief of Naval Personnel, reiterated the significant position women currently play in the U.S military and the number of opportunities that have arisen over the past twenty-five years. Continuing to encourage and place women into strategic leadership positions will serve as a catalyst in this “journey” toward equal representation. It will be interesting to watch the rise of women leaders in both state and non-state organizations in the years ahead!