WPM Conference discusses gender-inclusive policy making
Editor in Chief
This year’s annual Women PeaceMakers conference entitled “Who’s making policy? What difference does it make?” is co-convened by the IPJ and the United Nations Development Fund for Women. The conference began last night and will continue through Thurs., Oct. 19 and Fri., Oct. 20.
It will focus on making gender-inclusive policy in four key sectors, which include governance, security, religion, and the economic and civil society sectors.
To address each sector in detail, the conference will feature five plenary sessions, which are free and open to the public, as well as several working and knowledge-building sessions reserved for registered conference delegates.
“Knowledge-building sessions are specifically targeted to the students that will be attending,” Laura Taylor, program officer, said. “[We want to reach] not just those who are in power now, but those who will be in power … so that when they’re in the position to make decisions, they’ve already thought about this, they already know what tools are available … and they’ll be better advocates in the future.”
Since working and knowledge-building sessions are for registered conference delegates only, Taylor encourages undergraduate USD students to attend any and all of the plenary sessions to be held on Thurs., Oct. 19 and Fri., Oct. 20.
The IPJ worked closely with organizations they call “panel partners” to select key experts in each of the four sectors to illuminate the challenges of creating gender-inclusive policy for peace with justice. On Thurs., three panels are scheduled for the morning (9:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.), afternoon (2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.), and evening (7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.).
The afternoon session will specifically address “Getting gender-inclusive/gender-sensitive military and peacekeeping policies into action.”
“We are here in San Diego, which has a strong military presence,” Taylor said about the relevance of the plenary session topics. Taylor explained the importance of gender-sensitive training for military or peacekeeping operations before entering a conflict situation.
“In times of war, if women are raped they are less likely to tell that to a male human rights worker or peacekeeper. Does there need to be an all female peacekeeping force?” The afternoon panel will address these types of issues.
The list of panelists boasts such influential people as Medea Benjamin, fouding director of Global Exchange and co-founder of CODEPINK, a women’s peace group that has organized Iraqi and American women to take creative action against U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Comfort Lamptey, gender advisor for the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations; and Alma Viviana Pérez, consultant to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Office of the Presidential Advisor on Women and Gender Equality and the Colombian Agency for International Cooperation—just to name a few.
This year’s conference makes a special attempt to connect the USD community with the international networks the IPJ is a part of. Friday morning’s plenary session, “Gender-inclusive, faith-based strategies to create human security and peace,” will be moderated by Sister Barbara Quinn, director of the Center for Christian Spirituality at USD. Karma Lekshe Tsomo, assistant professor at USD, will be a panelist for the session.
Associate Professor Stephen Standifird from USD’s School of Business will moderate the economic and civil society panel on Friday afternoon.
The IPJ has also made strides to include men in this conference.
“The whole idea is that men and women need to work together to have gender-inclusive policy,” Taylor said. “We’re really trying to show and model that men can be advocates for this as well. We are especially encouraging young USD males to come and hear the panels, so they can be advocates and informed on these issues … We’re trying to make sure we’re addressing the next wave of policy makers.”
Each of the four Women PeaceMakers currently in residence at the IPJ will be participating in the conference as a delegate, and Rebecca Okwaci of Sudan will moderate Thursday evening’s Women on the Frontlines plenary session called “Women’s inroads and blockades to peace with justice in current conflicts.”
For students who are unable to attend this year’s conference, Taylor recommends participating in another of the IPJ’s programs or events, including the remaining Women PeaceMakers Program events or the IPJ Speaker Series.
“Who’s making policy? What difference does it make?” is an opportunity for students to learn and grow, to network with key people in the field of peacekeeping, policy making and conflict resolution, and to meet other students engaged with these issues.
By the start of 2007, the IPJ will produce a final report, which will be available online and by request. It will serve as a reference tool and will include full summaries of all plenary and working sessions.
Peace processes are complicated, but conferences such as this intend to give those currently involved in the processes, and those who hope to be involved, the tools, resources, support and inspiration they need to move forward.
The Vista, October 19, 2006Original Article