Gender Equality in the Military

Improving Recruitment and Retention of Women in the Military in South East Europe

"If peace and recovery are to be sustainable, women must be empowered, their voices must be heard and they must be included as active participants in peace negotiations and peace building”.
          - Helen Clark,  former UNDP Administrator

In order for both women's and men's needs and priorities to be addressed adequately in a society, both need to be involved and represented in the decision-making process, in policy creation and its implementation. This holds true in the security sector as well.  Security Sector Reform (SSR) in the Western Balkans (WB) has only marginally tackled the issue of gender in security and in particular the equal access and career opportunities for women in the military. Although military careers are open to women, a more systematic approach is needed to attract and retain them in the defense and armed forces, particularly in management and command positions.  In order to ensure that, Ministries of Defence in the WB will need to integrate gender perspectives into human resource policies and practices, institutionalize and train gender focal points and have staff sensitized for gender equality.

UNDP/SEESAC's project Support for Gender Mainstreaming in the Security Sector Reform in the Western Balkans is assisting Ministries of Defense in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia to integrate gender equality into the security sector reform through regional cooperation.  This three-year-long project was launched in March 2012 in Belgrade, Serbia, when the representatives of MoDs signed a Joint Statement committing themselves to achieving three key project goals:

  1. Establishment of strong and effective Gender Focal Points
  2. Support for human resource policy reform to improve the recruitment and retention of women and
  3. Increased gender sensitization of the armed forces staff.

The aim of the project is to ensure better integration, retention and professional development for women in the armed forces as well as stronger participation of women in decision-making and gender sensitive change in the organizational culture of the MoDs. 

A regional approach of the project will ensure that confidence-building as well as knowledge and information sharing contribute to increased security in the Western Balkans.  The project will advance the gender agenda fully in line with the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Platform for Action, the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and the UNDP BCPR "8 Point Agenda on Women and Girls in Crisis".

Equal participation of both genders in governance is a part of international obligations of states, including:

  • UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • The   Beijing   Declaration   and   Platform   for Action
  • UN   Security   Council   Resolution   1325   on Women, Peace and Security




Activity 1: Support for MoD Gender Focal Points

  • Support for the institutionalization of MoD Gender Focal Points.
  • Capacity building of MoD Gender Focal Points for mainstreaming gender issues into defence policies.

Activity 2: Support for Human Resource Policy Reform to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Women

  • Support to MoDs in developing the methodology and carrying out the baseline research on the position and role of women in the military and in identifying necessary steps for recruitment and retention of women.
  • Review of recruitment and retention policies and development of gender responsive approaches;
  • Support in sharing best practices regarding strengthening human resources policies and practices in a gender responsive way;

Activity 3: Gender sensitivization programme

  • Train-the-trainers programme for gender sensitization of military personnel developed and implemented;
  • Support  for curriculum review to include  issues  on gender and security in the military education system
  • Regional Network of trainers established.
  • Support for female personnel career development through a scholarships system for attendance of course and exchange programmes.