Power to Women in Peace Processes

Women's Organisations Cooperating in Realising Resolution 1325

Adam Bergman, Swedepeace, argues that a gender perspective is a prerequisite for transforming the security sector.
FOTO: Privat

No successfull security sector reform without gender

Security sector reform has become somewhat of a catch-phrase in contemporary work on peace and security, but despite its massive appeal, generally the conceptual understanding of SSR seems to be mediocre with significant flaws in implementation of such processes. This goes for both the international community as well as national and state actors, who are all essential components of an SSR process.

Key principles that are all too often sidelined are the fundamentals of national ownership and an inclusive and holistic approach, and more often than not, the essentials of gender and conflict sensitivity are overlooked, resulting in substandard results if any at all. If that wasn't enough, working with SSR means working for change that will not come tomorrow, but years and more realistically decades down the line. Thus, any SSR initiative that is not long-term is either doomed to fail, or is not really SSR.

Acknowledge that women and men are affected differently

Given the end goal of SSR – to transform a security sector in such a way that it can effectively and democratically provide safety and security for all citizens in a country – necessitates an understanding of what the flaws of the security sector are, and how its citizens perceive security in various contexts. Ultimately, such an understanding cannot be achieved without applying a gender lens to distinguish the security needs for men, women, girls and boys. This does not mean that men are necessarily the perpetrators of insecurity or that women are necessarily victims of such insecurity. All a gender lens does is to acknowledge that women and men are affected by violence differently, and therefore an initiative that aspires to help both men and women, must take this into account.

Enhance security for coutries citizens

The problem with SSR and gender that is often cited is the unchallenged fact that the security sector in any country is predominantly run by men, and thus working with these actors per default means working only with men. This, however, is true only if one views an SSR process as strictly a top-down state reform to enhance the effectiveness of government institutions. This viewpoint fails if one sees the broader picture of SSR as a systemic institutional transformation to enhance the security for a country's citizens. Such a process must necessarily take into account the systemic nature of security, including both state and non-state functions, as well as the citizens as the ultimate clients of a well-functioning security sector.

Gender is a prerequisite

A holistic initiative to transform the security sector in Zimbabwe is currently attempting to tackle some of these issues. The Zimbabwe Peace and Security Programme (ZPSP) is designed and implemented by the Zimbabwe Peace and Security Trust (ZPST), and the main objective of the programme is to contribute, through impartial and professional technical assistance to the effective and sustainable modernization and transformation of the security sector in Zimbabwe in order to enhance democratic governance, peace and security and the national sovereignty of the people of Zimbabwe. The issue of gender is high on the programme's agenda, not because it sounds good, but because it is a prerequisite for a successful transformation of the security sector.


Adam Bergman
Programme Associate Swedepeace
Supports in the coordination of a security sector transformation (SST) program in Zimbabwe