The Gender Advisor | Ensuring Women Have a VOICE at the Table

Whether you are in the field or in a Capital, you are probably asked to “consult with women” in order to increase the participation of women in decision-making on matters of security and peace.

This may lead to increasing the numbers of women at the proverbial “table” however, just being present at the table does not guarantee a VOICE at the table, nor does it lead to gender-sensitive outcomes.

Finding Women Experts

Finding women experts takes time and effort, because unfortunately, women are still largely professionally invisible.

They do not take part in public debates through opinion pieces or editorials, as often as men. And few women hold leadership positions in political parties or in businesses.

A place to look is in civil society where women have powerful leadership roles providing essential services, like health care and education, to the local population. Women’s caucuses and women’s cooperatives are also good places to look for women experts.

Meaningful consultation with women goes beyond hosting a photo opportunity on International Women’s Day, or the occasional high-level meeting. True collaboration between security actors and women’s groups requires relationship building and regular communication and dialogue.

Meeting With Women

If you are in a meeting or consultation with women where decision-making is taking place, and there are either,

1) More women in the room than men, or
2) There is a gender balance between the men and women in the room

REMEMBER, this does not necessarily reflect or lead to gender equality outcomes!

Questions you should ask before, during, and after the meeting are:

1. Who are these women?
2. Do the women in the room hold positions of authority and decision-making responsibility, and can they exercise this authority in this meeting?
3. Who has access and control of the resources required to execute whatever decision has been agreed to at the meeting?
4. Is this engagement with women ongoing, long-term and strategic, or is it just tokenism, window-dressing—a one-off women-only event?
5. Are there any men in the room who can be allies, or advocates to promote gender equality?
6. Is there a policy framework, legislation or mission mandate that can support the ongoing, strategic consultation of women in your project context or area?

As long as you ask the right questions, your consultation with women will yield the right results.

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