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Leadership for Stability and Security

Time and Place

6th Floor, The Wilson Center

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Event Details

Around the world, bold leadership is needed to combat high crime rates, non-state armed groups, terrorism and war. Women leaders are uniquely positioned to address these critical issues.

Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by violence and conflict, and are often the first to detect insecurity. It is for these same reasons that women leaders are well-positioned to mitigate the impact of insecurity on women and girls, as well as civilians in general, to foster a culture of peace. Women leaders at multiple levels are actively pursuing greater security and stability for the sake of not only women and girls, but also their community as a whole.  

On April 25, 2017, the Wilson Center's Women in Public Service Project and Plan International USA welcomed Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Plan International Colombia; Robin Lerner, Senior Policy Advisor and Counselor in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women's Issues, U.S. Department of State; and H.E. Dr. Joyce Banda, Former President of Malawi and WPSP Distinguished Fellow. They discussed how women are making a difference to proactively advance the security and stability of societies. The conversation was moderated by WPSP Director Gwen K. Young, with opening remarks from Dr. Tessie San Martin, President and CEO of Plan International USA.

Key Quotes

Dr. Tessie San Martin

  • “When we talk about women’s empowerment, we focus on the economics of it. Today we are discussing an other important dimension, that is not as often discuss: the role of women and girls in creating the conditions for sustainable peace and stability. And this is actually a precondition for sustainable economic growth. You can’t be talking about economic opportunities and growth if you don’t have the fundamentals.”

Gabriela Bucher

  • “Colombia is coming out of an important negotiation with the largest illegal armed group [the FARC]. It’s definitely a turning page in the country, and the actual peace deal is very much recognizing women as leaders of the reconstruction. It also recognizes that the majority of the victims have been women and children.”
  • “In Colombia, we are below average in terms of female representation in Congress, that’s around 20%. But we are particularly low in terms of mayors: less than 10% of municipalities are headed by women. And it is actually at this local level that a woman leader would be impactful.”
  • “We should build self-esteem with girls more than imposing quotas that we wouldn’t be able to achieve. I was speaking to a Congresswoman recently, and she was saying that yes, she had been elected, but that she still felt in a male dominated environment, where she couldn’t act in the way she wants. Even if quotas are a good step, a wider transformation is required.”
  • “In Colombia, an average girl spends 18 hours a week with domestic chores, while it's on average 9 hours for a man. We need to negotiate those gender roles, and the most basic distribution of time at home. (…) If that time is liberated, then there’s more possibility for women with talent to run for office.”

Robin Lerner

  • “We have to realize that leadership doesn’t have a specific face or a specific level, especially in post conflicts and transitioning societies. (...) If we understand that then we can understand what kind of leadership we might be looking at for women and help them to achieve it in their communities.”
  • “There’s an increasing amount of research that talks about where women are absent. I would like us to step back and look at what we know women are doing and where they are, how they adapt to a changing environment. I was in Croatia in the 90’s and in Kosovo in the 20’s. I watched women going from being the face of sexual violence in conflicts to the new civil society, to the new economic drivers for their families, to the communicators between international community and their own population, and the glue that held it together because of their ability to adapt.”
  • "During Ebola, women were disproportionally affected by the disease, because they were working in care sectors. But at the same time, because women were there so much, they could be the communicators to the community about the harmful facts and how to mitigate the transfer of Ebola. And U.S. government responses were included how we empower women to mitigate."

H.E. Dr. Joyce Banda

  • “I come from a country like Malawi were we have never seen any conflicts at all. So why Malawi, one of the poorest country of the world, has enjoyed that kind of peace? (...) When women are in charge, when women control the land, when the children belong to the women, when domestic violence is minimum, then you find more tranquility and peace. We need to see what role women has played in avoiding conflicts in Malawi.”
  • “There is a link between economic empowerment and social empowerment. You can gain respect, you can make decisions about your life, you can provide a better health and education to your child if you are economical empowered.”

As emphasized by the speakers’ statements throughout the discussion, women are often more impacted than men by violent conflicts. But they are also a response to those conflicts, especially as peace facilitators and communicators. Post-conflicts situations are a fertile ground for women leadership. However, to allow this empowerment, societies need to assure high education for girls, economic independence for women, and gender equality at home.

By Amelie Petitdemange, WPSP Intern

Header Photo: Sojoud Elgarrai - UNAMID (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


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