Women Are NATO

It is time for more women to get involved in the security sector

Magda Jakubowska
11 lipca 2018

Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State, when commenting on the importance of women’s role in high-level discussions offered the following insight. “If you raise your hand, and you don’t get called on, by the time you do, what you had to say doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s not germane.”

Stability, socio-economic development, legal rights, civil freedoms and cultural frameworks are naturally imprinted in our lives. Thanks to these we can build families, open new business endeavours, spend summer holidays abroad or read any the bestselling foreign titles we wish. Do we ever think of who grants these freedoms and who or what guarantees them? What would happen if suddenly we had limited accessibility to books or had to have our marriages pre-arranged? Are these questions a matter of security? Oh, yes, they are! This answer is simple to arrive at because security is, FYI, not exclusively a war game for the big boys.

Thus, apart from securing a peaceful, stable and democratic political order – security in terms of military and defence – the definition of security includes also safeguarding cultural and ethical values (freedom of speech, media freedoms, etc.) as well as economical and humanitarian values. Such an approach implies there should be engagement from all social groups, especially women.

Women cannot stand aside or put an equal sign between security and war, trying to avoid everyday dangers, crime and terrorism. It is also not that we should all now be trained as soldiers (Lara Croft) or political tacticians (Claire Underwood) – but there are ways for women to engage, analyse their own actions and put collective pressure on issues broadly related to security.

Taking this definition into account, women’s roles in the security sector is crucial and might be very different to what many might imagine. This may seem trivial but there are still women who don’t belong to predefined categories like those on high-profile career paths, those more engaged in raising the future generations or with run-of-the-mill jobs, and many women do not see the importance of security in this broader sense.

NATO, therefore, makes a considerable effort to encourage women to be active and equally represented in the security world. While mine is not necessarily a typical experience, I must admit that in my already 5-year cooperation with NATO, I roughly meet only women! And this is highly important that we are there, that we have a say, that we take equal share in NATO’s actions.

Today beings the NATO Summit in Brussels, so this is a good time for reflection. Every other year, NATO gathers the current heads of states to discuss the on-going security situation – something that seems very far away from traditional women’s issues. No wonder many women, especially in the V4, ask if they should care what the summits’ results are or what the potential consequences could be. But they should!

They should not be removed from the issues, nor should they see it as men-in-suits’ gathering. Women must see the Summit as something that has direct impact on their everyday lives. Who would have thought that NATO resolves questions around the life-changing technologies, or social media and internet-based threats – which endanger our children and us? Who associates NATO as the instrument which can deal with contemporary media that is full of disinformation or fake news? And this is where women should know that NATO engages and therefore they should too! And that they should even be at the centre of the summit’s talks and be able to influence key decision-makers because no one will do it for them.

Magda Jakubowska is a Vice-President of the Res Publica Foundation and Director of Operations for Visegrad/Insight.