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Time to put emphasis on women participation

October 30th marks 20 years since the adoption of the landmark Security Council Resolution 1325.

The resolution urged Member States to increase the participation of women at all decision-making levels -- national and international alike -- in the sphere of peace and security.

 

The first five operational clauses of the resolution “urge” (a strong word in UN terms) more women to participate in peace process negotiations; in conflict resolution; in field-based UN peacekeeping efforts; and call for more women to fill senior UN leadership positions.

 

UNSCR1325 is a clear statement from the most prestigious UN body that women should be at the table where the most important decisions are made, that women should be in a position to make meaningful contributions to the political process.

 

Remarkably, the UN system that produces countless resolutions every year, has produced only four resolutions on women’s participation in 75 years. Why?

There are two complementary aspects of gender equality: Protection and Participation.

The first aspect, protection, is well known: protection against violence, rape, sexual harassment, discrimination at the workplace, etc. Protection is important as it deals with dire and immediate needs, real danger and palpable obstacles.

That said, the concept of “protection” fits neatly into the old order of patriarchal thinking, where women are considered a weak and vulnerable group in need of protection.

In contrast, participation is less comfortable for many, as it demands the sharing of power and, at time, even for the traditional male patriarchy to relinquish power, or, more concretely, their seat at the table.

Participation poses bold, unapologetic questions: how many women are in your government, how many in the army, how many women advisors are there to the prime minister? Given these dynamics the majority of UN resolutions on gender equality remain focused solely on the issue of protection.

Even UNSCR 1325 itself contains a “protective” element. Its second half calls for the protection of women in war, protecting women from conflict-related sexual assault, and the like.

The UN system has made a meaningful effort to comply with the call of 1325, and currently, eight of 17 UN Special Representatives are women, and several reforms have been adopted to increase women’s participation in UN peacekeeping.

Nonetheless, it still seems, 20 years later, that the UN and Member States remain more comfortable with adopting and implementing decisions focused on “protection” rather than on crucial “participation” at the highest levels.

Indeed, the last UN report (November 2019) summarizing 20 years since the adoption of Resolution 1325, deals almost exclusively with protection.

In fact, of the 16 key findings noted in the report, only two deal with the status of women’s participation.

While these issues are certainly vital for gender equity, they are only part of the larger picture.

The revolutionary call for participation has been overshadowed time and again by the more comfortable, traditional “protection” agenda.

In Israel, we are proud of our international involvement and contributions to the issue of women’s protection.

Israel initiated a groundbreaking resolution on the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace; offers international training for developing nations on women’s empowerment, and has cutting-edge laws on sexual harassment and domestic violence. However, on the participation level, an honest overview reveals a mixed picture.

In the Israeli judiciary system 51% of the judges are women, including Israel’s Chief Justice. In addition, a recent October 2020 cabinet decision has set a goal that 50% of Israeli civil service most senior staff should be women (currently only 11% hold this rank).

On the other hand, the Israeli ministerial cabinet is still predominately male (80%), with the special 10-member “Coronavirus Cabinet” having only 1 female member.

There are also only 17 female Israeli ambassadors around the world, out of 103 Israeli heads of mission.

Rwanda on the other hand has much better numbers than Israel when it comes to representation of women in the Government, but also in the Parliament and the Senate, and we salute the women of Rwanda and the Leadership for that important achievement.

Protection is important but we must not stop there. Twenty years after Res. 1325, its time to put an emphasis on participation. In the words of the late American Supreme court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "Women belong in all places where decision are being made." Let this be both our national and collective global goal for the next 20 years.

The writer is the Ambassador of Israel in Rwanda.

The views expressed in this article are of the writer.

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