Lucy Woods

Defence Attache Assistant

Guest blogger for UK in North Macedonia

Part of UK in North Macedonia

8th March 2016 Skopje, North Macedonia

Step it up for gender mainstreaming in defence

Today we are marking International Women’s Day. It is usually the day when we are reminded that women are today represented in a multitude of fields: community builders and advisers, soldiers, diplomats, homemakers, doctors, analysts and officials. Different countries have different policies and different gender representation, but there are some issues which are shared topics in various countries – equality of pay, treatment, opportunity and access. Because equality is different everywhere.

One of the areas getting more prominence in recent years is the issue of gender mainstreaming in international peace-building or peacekeeping operations. UK has taken the lead in several issues of the Women, Peace and Security agenda and from experience in the Western Balkans, the countries are doing well. Macedonia and other Western Balkans countries have signed up to the UN-led process on women, peace and security. They recognise the role of women in prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace keeping negotiations, peace-building, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction, the importance of women’s equal participation in the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

Whenever we debate with the women and men we work alongside in Macedonia, we ask them to set one specific goal, one objective that can make the difference to their work, lives and diversity. Such an example is to make gender dimension a regular parameter for plans for international operations that Macedonia will take part in and training that institutions need to develop. We need to change the view of gender dimensions from added value into a necessary component, no matter the field in which we work. Gender mainstreaming is crucial in many areas such as conflict prevention, conflict management, negotiations and not least as victims of sexual violence in conflict. To effectively change a mindset, it is not enough just to adopt a strategy, or have Parliamentary debate, we need measures put into effect.

One of our recent successes came last year when our first female candidate from the Macedonian army, Lt Selma Biberovikj, graduated from our prestigious British Army Officer Selection and Leadership course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Selma graduated in December 2015, following the gruelling 44 week commissioning training, which is one of the world’s most challenging officer training courses, alongside her peers of men and women.

UN Women’s motto is ‘Step it up for Gender Equality.’ This motto reminds us that gender equality spreads through various crucial areas and that we need to work step by step until we achieve tangible goals in issues that matter to us. It’s not about men’s rights or women’s rights, it’s human rights issue.