A 96-page document released this month is a South African government-led roadmap for action as regards women, peace and security.
It aims, according to Naledi Pandor’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), to provide “a guiding framework toward creating a safer and peaceful South Africa, Africa and world for women, girls and gender non-conforming persons; enable representation and meaningful participation for women in peace processes; and prioritise their needs, experiences and agency in all conflict and non-conflict contexts”.
In her preface to the document, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula points out the security sector reforms and integration which accompanied South African democracy in 1994 created “a favourable environment for women to swell the ranks of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF)”.
“Women moved to central positions, participating in military operations and in leadership roles. As an example, Lieutenant Colonel Tiisetso Segobela is a 7 SA Infantry Battalion commander who deployed in North Kivu (in DR Congo) as part of the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) in 2018. Women are thus recognised as full members of the SANDF. Many women in the SANDF are eager to learn and grow in operational experience and enthusiastic about opportunities to serve in peace support operations (PSO) and border safeguarding.”
She goes on to state the majority of female soldiers are currently in support corps of the four services.
This will change with the DoD’s gender mainstreaming strategy calling for a 40% target of females at entry level.
“This ensures creation of a pool of officers from which to select candidates for promotion at various rank levels. At this juncture, women are represented at all rank levels except lieutenant general. We are pleased the SANDF is recognised as a troop contributing country deploying a significant number of women in its contingents during PSOs.
“Research conducted on women’s participation in PSOs indicates the benefits of deploying them include the ability to put military training into practice. Female peacekeepers also serve as role models to local women and influence decisions to join their countries’ armed forces.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s defence minister maintains gender perspectives are incorporated in all SANDF military development courses adding there is “still a need to review military education and training as a critical success factor for the creation of a just, equal, fair and inclusive organisation.”
She maintains there has been progress in mainstreaming gender in the national defence force “but challenges remain”.
“There are still patriarchal attitudes that persist in the organisation as well as incidents of sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and abuse. Moving forward, we must remain vigilant and never become complacent. We must strengthen our organisation’s compliance and accountability mechanisms to defend and consolidate our democratic gains. The integrated and collaborative implementation of the NAP (National Action Plan) will bring the DoD closer to the people of this country and promote social cohesion and safety in all our communities.”