The Ministry of Defence’s first Gender Training of Trainers course at the end of January 2016 was an important milestone in the UK military’s engagement with gender. As researchers at the University of Edinburgh, we were pleased to be asked to contribute. As part of implementing the commitments of the UK’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, the aim of the training was to enable military personnel to understand how adopting a gender perspective increases operational effectiveness. As well as gender awareness training, participants were enabled to offer advice on the planning, conduct and evaluation of gender education and training within their own functional areas.
It is significant that the first UK military Gender Training of Trainers course made use of University of Edinburgh academics. Academics play a crucial role in monitoring the impact of the UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security and the wider international gender architecture. Adopted 15 years ago, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 affirmed at the highest levels the important roles of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building and peacekeeping, as well as in post-conflict reconstruction, stressing the importance of women’s equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 was the result of intense lobbying by the women’s movement, including feminist academics. Edinburgh University remains engaged in this discourse and activism, including through the Global Justice Academy, Global Development Academy, and the work of many scholars in SSPS and Law engaged with feminism, gender and security.
Presenting at the Gender Training of Trainers gave the opportunity to raise awareness of the soon-to-be launched military/academic Knowledge Exchange Network on “The Women, Peace and Security Agenda in the British armed forces.” This network, a collaboration between the University of Edinburgh, Newcastle University and the Ministry of Defence, will bring scholars and researchers together with British military personnel in order to explore key issues relating to the women, peace and security agenda. In the UK, academic and military reflections on women, peace and security have largely taken place in isolation from each other, perhaps to the detriment of both. The network will offer a space for critical reflection, to step back from the day to day work, and to consider the long-term goals of the women, peace and security agenda and the military’s roles.
The Gender Training of Trainers course presented the opportunity to engage in dialogue about what academics might have to offer the military. We highlighted three types of research approaches which might be relevant to the military. Firstly, legal research, which can elucidate the legal obligations that militaries have to respond to, for example, gender-based violence in conflict. Secondly, sociological and political comparative research can share the approaches of other militaries in, for example, opening combat roles to women, deploying female engagement teams, and the project of gender mainstreaming more broadly. Thirdly, through their focus on the origins and meanings of concepts – even such seemingly self-evident concepts such as ‘women’, ‘peace’ and ‘security’ – academics can contribute to critical reflection on the aims and achievements of military operations. These three types of academic endeavour, to name just a few, may all play a part in helping the military in its efforts to protect civilians, promote women’s human rights, and facilitate human security. At the same time, participation in the training helped us to develop our own research around military responses to sexual violence, use of gender advisors, and female engagement teams.
For details on the Knowledge Exchange Network contact Claire Duncanson.