Looking To Build Foreign Policy? Make Sure Women Are On Your Side.
It's no secret that women have been underrepresented in politics throughout history. The United Nations has documented the issue extensively. Without a doubt, it remains a problem to this day. This is particularly true among diplomatic organizations.
Women have proven integral to countries seeking to rebuild after war. This is because female peacemakers play an important role in both ending conflict and sustaining peace. As a result, women should have a greater role in international relations and nation building.
At a recent speech delivered at Georgetown University, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared her experience on the importance of women in diplomacy. "Women and girls must be a cornerstone of American global leadership," she said. This is particularly true in a political climate where diplomacy is understaffed and under-funded.
To be clear, however, women's involvement in international relationship building is not a political issue. Rather, it's a matter of fact that women are effective at establishing and maintaining peace. According to the United Nations, peace agreements last longer when women participate.
This research is based on a review of dozens of peace processes that have taken place over several decades.
This historical evidence remains true to this day. After all, lasting peace may begin with ending violence, but it doesn't end there. Nations affected by war must work hard to rebuild after conflict. More often than not, this is an incredibly challenging process wrought with peril.
The international community has taken greater responsibility for ending conflict over time. According to an article published in International Studies Quarterly, this has been a trend since Cold War times. Over time, modern diplomacy has created more robust and lasting peace. However, peacekeeping is incredibly complex.
Often, treaties that took extensive negotiating to be secured are broken very quickly. Thus, negotiating peace is not a permanent solution to ongoing conflict. Rather, systems must be established to maintain peace as the nation debilitated by war starts to rebuild.
Women are particularly skilled at building consensus, which is critical for lasting peace. Women are also more likely to raise issues like human rights and healthcare. These considerations are necessary for rebuilding a nation after war. However, women are also vastly underrepresented in foreign relations.
According to the Atlantic, women make up less than 30 percent of leadership in major foreign policy institutions. This includes the government, military, higher education, and research think tanks. But why is this the case?
Women are underrepresented in foreign policy for many of the same reasons they are underrepresented in other political and economic systems. Women often experience greater family responsibilities.
This includes housework, childcare, and elder care. There is also an ongoing issue regarding the lack of female leadership being self-perpetuating. In other words, there are less female leaders today because there were less female leaders in the past to serve as mentors.
Gender equality is often discussed in terms of social development. However, this does not reflect the entirety of the issue. Rather, gender equality is an important aspect of economic and political stability.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, empowering women has real benefits for developing countries. For example, women are effective at improving health. This translates to reducing birth rates and child mortality as well as curb to spread of HIV.
They also aid in building robust communities, which can develop to sustain themselves. Women are also critical to developing good educational systems and democratic principles. And, perhaps most importantly to stemming conflict, women have become integral in the battle against extremism.
Foreign policy is crafted by elite politicians, diplomats, and members of the military. However, these male-dominated perspectives often leave out important aspects of diplomacy. This is particularly true when it comes to issues impacting women and children.
The world is rapidly changing. To be effective, diplomacy must change with it. That means opening up peace talks and nation building to feminine voices. According to an article published in the Chicago Journals, we need to redefine the nation of security. National security is a critical goal of diplomacy, but who exactly is being secured?
Security means more that conflict subsiding for peace. Rather, security is holistic. It's a concept that reflects more than a lack of violence – it includes a balance of power and an end to targeted oppression.
By including women in nation building and peace talks, states are more likely to build long-term stability. This is because societies that focus on the rights of the oppressed are less likely to fall into violence and chaos. This increases economic and social development, which in turn facilitates stronger international relationships.
The RAND Corporation, a nonprofit political think tank, recently published a book on how women work into the nation-building process. The authors explain how including women in peace talks, particularly in war-torn countries, leads to more favorable outcomes.
"Gender equity and women's inclusion play a central role … shaping a more democratic, stabilized and developed society," says Cheryl Benard, the lead author of the book. Benard believes that women should be included in diplomacy and nation-building from the beginning.
"Incorporating women in the nation-building process as early on as possible will help make these improvements happen sooner," she says.
Some policymakers believe that including women in nation building will only make things more complicated. They point to cultural and social beliefs as the basis for this notion. After all, if women don't have power in society, why would anyone respect their authority as a political leader?
However, this belief is not only inaccurate, it's detrimental to peacebuilding efforts worldwide.
Afghanistan is a country that has been subject to the horrors of nearly 30 years of violent conflict. However, Afghani women have proven instrumental in rebuilding the nation. Much of this is due to the country's meaningful progress towards gender equality.
Afghani women now have more economic and community-based opportunities. According to the World Bank, greater female community involvement has helped soothe some of the country's economic and social issues. Programs aimed at including women in the nation-building process have been integral in this process.
This includes female education and skills training initiatives. Recently, Afghanistan has made meaningful progress in this regard. As Afghani women are empowered, the war-torn nation has experienced real progress towards lasting peace.
As Afghanistan continues to rebuild and establish peace, it will be turning to a new generation of leaders. Thanks to educational and economic development programs targeting girls, many of these future leaders will be women.
However, it can't be left up to the Afghan government entirely to create and fund these programs. On the contrary, private donors and benefactors have been and continue to be critical in this regard.
This makes the gallant efforts of the patrons supporting female education in Afghanistan, like Lady Jamil Kharrazi, all the more heroic. With help from benefactors and the public, women can continue to build lasting peace in Afghanistan and around the world.
Learn about the long life of Jamileh and all her accomplishments