Women Peacekeepers: A meeting with the Irish Defence Forces

Some meetings are just so satisfying. This week I met with a General in the Irish Defence Forces to discuss the findings from my PhD research. The title of my thesis is 'Gender Discourses in the Social Relations of Irish Peacekeepers & Possibilities for Transformation'. In the meeting I was deeply gratified to find myself sitting opposite a military man who really got what my research meant and warmly engaged with me on how it could be used within the Defence Forces to support their diversity policies within the framework of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (on women, peace and security). Ireland signed up to this resolution through the adoption of a National Action Plan which is available on the Department of Foreign Affairs website.

I outlined the discourses in my research that position women as bringing new energy, perspectives and ideas to peacekeeping; the discourses that can inhibit women's inclusion and retention within the Defence Forces; and those that could be transformative by supporting women's leadership and decision-making roles within the institution. Fo nearly two hours we discussed what it all meant and how my research both confirmed some of his own thoughts and experiences and challenged others.

The meeting ended with my suggestion that the Defence Forces engage with women in Ireland who are asylum seekers/refugees from war-torn countries. Not only is it necessary to gather women's perspectives on their particular security needs, but it is also important that troops have clear understandings about cultural differences on gender and the best way to support women's needs in conflict situations (there is typically a bias towards communicating with civilian men). The General responded to this idea with enthusiasm and mentioned how only one other EU country is taking this approach at the moment...you guessed it...Sweden. I left the meeting feeling optimistic and look forward to my future engagements with the Defence Forces.

So watch this space. I will be sharing more about my research findings here and my engagement with different institutions and individuals to raise awareness of the issues and opportunities that could impact on women's participation in peacekeeping missions.

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