Equality is essential to achieving the desired effect

It is not only men but also women and children who suffer in a situation of conflict or war. In international operations it is therefore important to improve our knowledge and skills in relation to questions of gender and diversity, and to ensure that all population groups have a voice and are able to take part in the decision processes.  The Swedish Armed Forces have gender advisers who are able to give advice on these questions and, just as in real life, they have an important function to perform in VIKING 08.

In real life Kenny Sörqvist is a Major with Intelligence Battalion K3 but in this exercise his role is that of Gender Adviser. Photo: Johan Ardefors/FBB

As long ago as 2004 the Swedish Armed Forces entered into a development partnership known as Genderforce, partially financed by the EU, together with the Swedish Rescue Services Agency, the Police, the Association of Military Officers, the Swedish Women’s Voluntary Defence Service and Kvinna till Kvinna [Woman to Woman] with the aim of improving Sweden’s military and civil contributions to international operations from a gender perspective. Participation by women must be maintained and increased, as must our competence in matters of gender and diversity. These operations, for both military and civil organisations, will thus be of increased benefit of all population groups in the areas concerned. The Armed Forces now have gender advisers who have been trained and are now ensuring that a gender perspective is taken fully into account in the planning, execution and evaluation of an operation.

Exercising in matters of gender and diversity

In VIKING 08 the scenario is based on just such a peacekeeping operation and, with both military and civil parties involved, questions of gender and diversity form an important part of the exercise. In real life Kenny Sörqvist is a Major with Intelligence Battalion K3 but in this exercise his role is that of Gender Adviser, Special Staff, Land Component Command.

“Exercises like VIKING help me to gain a better understanding of how I ought to use and treat a Gender Adviser, and I now understand, for example, how I can involve them to best effect in a staff setting. When civil and military organisations have to work together and coordinate their needs in the interests of achieving the final objective, it is important to include women, and their views, in the decision processes involved,” says Kenny.

Resolutions built in from the start

The Gender Adviser has several roles. One is to see that UN Resolutions 1325 and 1820 are taken into account right from the initial planning stage of a mission. Another is take part in the appointment and preparation of personnel in advance of a mission in order to give them an increased appreciation of the subject and of the interplay between men, women and exposed groups in a conflict area.

One example which highlights the importance of a knowledge and understanding of matters of culture and gender stems from the situation in Chad. Initially the mission forces used a generalised form for the reporting of violent incidents, which meant that the rape of women was included and thus lost visibility under the general category of maltreatment and abuse. Later, when attempts were made to find the perpetrators, it turned out that searches were being conducted in the wrong areas since rapes almost always took place where women tended to congregate, for example by wells or communal ovens, while violence against men tended to be committed somewhere else altogether.

“If we fail to bear such details in mind it is difficult, if not impossible, to establish a safe and secure environment for the women, which is one of our aims. If the women cannot, or dare not, fetch water, for example, it will be hard for families to survive. Essentially this means that if one cannot put a stop to the rapes, women will be rejected and the whole family structure will collapse, and it is this that has led in many cases to rape being used as a weapon.

Important to identify key figures among women

Gender work is thus only to a very small extent about equality in the usual sense, but more about opening up access to women and ensuring that both men and women are included in decision making and the democratic process.

“It is just as important to identify key figures among the women in the area of operations as it is to identify their male counterparts. It is also important for the women’s voice to be heard in the decision processes and for their needs to be expressed by the women themselves and not simply by the men. This should be true at all levels and it should happen naturally and as a matter of course.

Provides another dimension

Different nations have succeeded in implementing the gender work in their operational activities to varying degrees, but in general there is a good understanding of the subject.

“Most take this very seriously because it provides a whole new dimension and because they realise that allowing all to make their views heard contributes to the achievement of the desired operational effect.”