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NEWS | May 12, 2022

U.S. military, Djiboutians champion Women, Peace and Security at co-hosted event

By Tech. Sgt. Lynette Rolen Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

U.S. leadership with the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) co-hosted a Women, Peace and Security (WPS) workshop with the Djiboutian Ministry of Women and Family at the Palace Kempinski, Djibouti, May 8, 2022.

The participating parties, including members of the Djiboutian Ministry of Women and Family, CJTF-HOA, and U.S. Embassy Djibouti, used the venue to initiate an update to Djibouti’s WPS National Action Plan (NAP). The NAP serves as a binding document for integration of WPS principles, including how they will be prioritized and governed within Djibouti.

“This event shows a continued commitment by so many of you, the organizations we represent… by all of us,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Zana, outgoing commander of the CJTF-HOA. “I’d emphasize to everyone that you cannot simply hold an event once a year, or occasionally engage in these discussions… We must integrate this and demonstrate through our collective work an enduring and focused effort.”

Zana further discussed integrating lessons learned from discussions into every-day, whole-of-government activities, exercises or operations. The WPS initiative is built to enable African partners to improve security within their sovereign borders, adhere to the rule of law and human rights norms, provide good governance, and promote economic prosperity. According to the Global Study on the Implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325, there is empirical evidence “demonstrating that women’s equal and meaningful participation in peace and security is vital to sustainable peace.”

Zana said the broad initiative, one that spans across all partner forces, particularly African, acts as a critical conduit between organizations and local communities, stoking improved relationships. It also allows involved parties to gain perspective and respect of communal knowledge and insights, accelerating lessons learned for all those involved.

“It’s a great partnership; we support the inclusion of women in African partner defense forces across the continent,” said Zana. “We also look at those efforts that are most important for the military, with regard to protection of civilians, specifically women, girls and children. We help them develop training and accountability mechanisms within all of our forces and establish professional standards of conduct to include preventing sexual and gender-based violence.”

In 2011, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development developed a Regional Action Plan for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 through a collaborative participatory process which launched Djibouti's WPS forum, in which Djibouti chairs for the region.

Since 2013, CJTF-HOA leadership and staff have engaged in WPS initiatives, including a continuing collaboration and partnership between the US military and Djibouti.

“Gen. Shawley and I have spoken at length about the importance of this program,” said Zana, referencing U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jami Shawley, incoming commander of CJTF-HOA. “She is absolutely committed going in; I know that she’s going to be a great champion and leader as our senior defense representative on the continent, across all of Africa – she’s going to be the champion for [WPS].”

Leading up to the event, CJTF-HOA and the Ministry of Women and Family-Djibouti participated in several WPS engagements over the past year.

“I’m proud of the ways we’ve been able to partner from the national to the local level” said Shawley. “Working closely with our Djiboutian friends, we’ve helped to build libraries, English language programs, and health clinics. Many of the supporters, the participants and the beneficiaries of these programs are women. I believe these efforts, combined with all of the elements of the three pillars [of defense, diplomacy and development] help women prosper, will take your Djiboutian communities to new heights of socio-economic success.”

Shawley further added that studies show that when qualified women participate in governments and conflict resolution, not only do peace agreements last longer, but effectiveness of security efforts increase. This is due to women bringing special community trust and communication skills to the table.

WPS was officially put into effect by the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 in October 2000. UNSCR 1325 recognizes the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women, affirms the importance of integrating gender perspectives in all negotiations and operations, and calls for measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence.

Shawley will propel the CJTF-HOA WPS agenda forward as she will be the first US female commander to lead CJTF-HOA and in Africa. Civil Affairs soldiers located on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, already have several community engagements lined up directly supporting WPS.

“WPS is not just a title for me,” said Shawley. “I truly, truly believe in the effective and tangible value of women participating, making and sustaining peace around the world.

I’ve already seen the resilience of the Djiboutian people, and the commitment of the government and the combined community to do the hard work, to move toward a more secure and prosperous and continued peaceful tomorrow,” she added. “For Djibouti, for the region, for Africa, for the world, I stand alongside you as a partner and as one of your strongest allies. I have hope and confidence – I see a bright future.”