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Women, Peace, Security: More than just words on paper

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Scott C. Warner
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

Women, Peace and Security is a policy that recognizes women as a critical component to achieve sustainable international peace and security

“This policy directly empowers women to impact their organizations and make a difference in the world,” said Master Sgt. Ana Mendiola, 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron training flight chief. “WPS gives us a platform and opportunity to address the issues women have faced. It shows our strength, courage and commitment to make things better for all.”

Between September 13-29, Mendiola deployed to Paraguay with eight team members from the 571st MSAS. Their mission was to train Paraguayan Armed Forces, demonstrate interoperability and build partnership capacity with the host nation. During their deployment, a real-life example of WPS in action was during Mendiola’s first flight with the Paraguayan Armed Forces (also known as the Fuerzas Armadas de Paraguay).

“The mission in Paraguay was historically significant because the first flight between the two partner nations included an aircrew comprised of only women, led by a female pilot,” said Mendiola. "When I found out Capt. Maria Jara would be flying the first flight, it became more than just flying with a partner nation. It meant that Capt. Jara has been empowered and entrusted by our partner nation to make an impact and a difference.”

Jara, originally born and raised in Paraguay, was once a student and pilot-in-training at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, where she attended Air Education and Training Command’s 14th Flying Training Wing pilot school. Now Jara is back home in Paraguay, passing on the knowledge she learned as a pilot to her fellow countrymen.

“This shows men and women can be leaders in whatever area they work in, that we can work together for a better and more united world where peace and equality reign,” said Jara. 

WPS continues to be pioneering as it promotes a gendered perspective as well as women’s meaningful participation in peace processes and security. 

However, it also unprecedented in how it is advancing and empowering women.

“In a field that was previously and exclusively dominated by men, it is interesting to a see an aircrew that is completely and solely operated by women,” said Jara. "It denotes the progress, capacity and professionalism of women while making the difference between men and women less and less.” 

According to the Pew Research Center, from 1973 to 2010 the number of U.S. active-duty enlisted women in the military has grown from about 42,000 to 167,000. While a smaller number of women than men serve overall, a slightly greater proportion among the ranks of women are commissioned officers, compared with the share of men who are officers: 17 percent for women vs. 15 percent for men. This trend continues today to support women growing and advancing within the military.

“At U.S. Southern Command, we are committed to integrating gender perspectives into all our activities,” stated Gen. Laura J Richardson, Commander of The U.S. Southern Command and first female USSOUTHCOM commander. “We encourage our partners to create structural changes in their militaries to allow for the same through our WPS program.”

Richardson’s statement on WPS was made before the 117th Congress Senate Committee on Armed Forces, March 24, 2022.

“Our main objective is to maximize the talents of the force through recruitment, retention, training and advancement,” stated Richardson. “We consistently encourage our partner nation militaries to provide more opportunities for the women in their ranks, because doubling the talent pool will vastly improve that military’s competitiveness and professionalism.”

According to the U.S. Institute of Peace, WPS was unanimously adopted October 31, 2000, by the United Nations, and subsequently, President Barrack Obama signed an executive order that established the U.S. Nation Action Plan for WPS in 2011. It was later revised in 2016 and built upon when President Donald Trump signed into law The U.S. Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017. 

This mandated training for relevant government personnel on WPS issues, encouraged consultation regarding women’s participation in peace processes and required a National Strategy for Women, Peace and Security, which was then signed and released by President Trump to Congress in June 2019.

President Joe Biden expanded upon that by creating a Gender Policy Council, the world’s first freestanding policy council solely focused on gender equity and equality.

As of 2021, 103 countries have officially created National Action Plans for WPS.

While the road for women’s equality has been long, there is still work left to be done to achieve peace and security for all. These stories show the footprints of empowered women, that progress is being made.