What is needed in terms of living a healthy, safe and dignified life? Is it a job and a stable economy? Or that we have access to nutritious food? Or is it more important to have good social relationships? Three years of university studies in Global Health have with base in various disciplines and different approaches tried to problematize and explain the essence of these questions. For me, however, a gender and feminist perspective have always been an essential analysing tool, mainly since inequity and gender inequality – created by destructive and discriminative patriarchal social structures – often are strong reasons to people being marginalized in their lives.
A course in humanitarian assistance visualized for me the lack of implementation of gender policies in international humanitarian operations. In my bachelor thesis I investigated this further, and more specifically the field workers’ role in the implementation process. By holding interviews with Swedish humanitarian field workers, I investigated their understanding of gender issues and experiences from working with gender policy in the field. I soon got in contact with Resolution 1325.
Saving lives or long-term change?
I realized that there seems to be a gap between ambitions and formulated policies, and what actually happens on the ground. Most of the respondents had insufficient knowledge of their employer’s gender policy and a majority were not aware of Resolution 1325. Many also argued that the highly chaotic environment, where work is mostly characterized by making a difference between life and death, results in difficulties and lack of initiatives to focus on long-term change.
The results of the study were unsatisfactory. If operational personnel seconded from Sweden, a country gladly boasting of being in the top of gender-conscious nations, doesn’t actively implement gender policies, who will? Moreover, since disasters and conflicts are chaotic by nature, the question is when the “ideal time” comes to begin including women and a gender perspective in these kinds of operations? I did not want to leave these questions be. Now I wanted to actively work towards a realization of what official documents for years had promised women. Thus, the day I found Operation 1325’s ad for a one term internship it felt like it was written directly to me.
Hope for the future
Now follows an exciting fall and I have already four weeks into my internship experienced feelings of inspiration, confusion and frustration, but most importantly, hope for a better future. Although gender issues still do not receive the right attention and face a lot of opposition and indifference on the global arena, I cannot help but being impressed by what is happening against all odds on the ground. Take for example the Syrian women mobilizing for peace in the midst of war (see blog post from 2013-09-04), or Afghan women demanding their right to participate in political processes in spite of death threats and attacks. Working with an organization that strengthens these women gives me hope for a better future, a future where policies and formulations of Resolution 1325 can help create real action and long-term change.