Our alumni are working in ways small and large to make an impact in their communities. This “Alumni Profiles” blog series will feature some of our over 7,000 changemakers in 27 countries around the world who are working to transform conflict.
At Seeds of Peace, we equip leaders with the skills and relationships needed to accelerate the social, economic, and political changes essential for peace.
Seeds of Peace’s 2016 GATHER Fellow Alina is a perfect example. Ms. Catt, the organization she developed as part of her GATHER cohort, works to accelerate gender equality in the field of international security. In honor of Ms. Catt’s launch, we spoke with Alina about the new organization, as well as the change she hopes to bring to her community.
Seeds of Peace: Can you tell us about Ms. Catt and how you’re working to close the gender gap in international security?
Alina: Ms. Catt [named for the American suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt] aims to strengthen the security leadership pipeline by empowering current and future female leaders in realms of international security (e.g. public policy, strategy and economics). If we want see leadership excel, we must fully incorporate women into all global security efforts—as was recommended in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 back in October, 2000. Ms. Catt implements this resolution in non-Western conflict countries.
Seeds of Peace: Inclusive Security’s 2015 study found that when women are included in peace processes, the agreement made is 20 percent likelier to last at least two years and 35 percent likelier to last at least 15 years. Why do you think that is?
Alina: For one, research shows that women tend to seek long-term, stable gains over short-term gains. For example, the Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus observed in his micro-lending ventures in Bangladesh that women used small loans to invest in livestock or plants, which could then provide food or a steady source of income, while men often used their funds on luxuries or snacks. The family/community-first approach adopted by women is more likely to create peace (long-term stability) over war (short-term gains).
Secondly, incorporating women and gender perspectives into male-dominated fields brings in new and innovative perspectives to the challenges at hand, allowing for a stronger pipeline—from research to policy, theoretical frameworks to implementation, negotiations to agreements.
And finally, women have more to lose in war, as shown in research conducted by the United Nations: “Women and girls suffered disproportionately during and after war, as existing inequalities were magnified, and social networks broke down, making them more vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation.”
Seeds of Peace: What advice do you have for women who are looking to become leaders in male-dominated fields or societies?
Alina: I believe that women must adopt two simultaneous strategies: focusing on oneself and focusing on the currently male-dominated environment.
Madeleine Albright once said, “there’s plenty of room in the world for mediocre men, but there is no room for mediocre women.” If we want to sit at the negotiation table, we must strive to be the best and the brightest while proactively leaning In. While we do so, we must not forget to help our fellow female colleagues be their best, allowing us to leverage our collective power.
Simultaneously, we should strive to create mutually beneficial, interdependent relationships with the men in our field, as equals. While women have a lot to gain, men seem to think they are only losing. However, this is not what the data shows us.
Seeds of Peace: Can you expand on that?
For one, a McKinsey Global Institute report from 2015 found that women’s equality in the workforce can add $12 trillion to global growth. Furthermore, as the Inclusive Security research showcases, peace agreements last longer when women are included in the peace processes.
These mutual benefits for men and women are why Ms. Catt focuses on fully incorporating women and gender perspectives into all global security efforts, especially in conflict countries in the global south. Carrie Chapman Catt once said, “In the adjustment of the new order of things, we women demand an equal voice; we shall accept nothing less.” I believe it’s not only we, women, but also men who demand nothing less than an equal voice for women.