The conference was organised in cooperation with the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association, the NATO Headquarters, Estonian Ministry of Defence, Embassy of Canada and Estonian Ministry of Education and Research.
The main topic of the conference introduced and reviewed the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, its impact on women in conflict, the important role women play in resolving conflicts and peace building, as well as the overall work of women peacekeepers in a global and national security framework. The conference held two panel discussions from international and national perspectives.
The conference was opened with the remarks of General Riho Terras, Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces. He noted that the societal attitudes towards women in the Defence Forces are still largely driven by medieval gender roles and thus need to be changed. He stressed that it is wrong to leave half of the population out of national defence. Today, the Estonian Defence Forces consist of only 9% -10% of women, which is too little. General Terras also noted that it is very difficult to eliminate the rooted prejudices and that the positive attitude towards women in the defence forces must become normality.
The opening speech “Integration of Gender Perspectives in Allied Armed Forces” was given by Lt Col Magdalena Dvorakova, International Military Staff Gender Advisor at the NATO HQ. She stated that the adoption of Resolution 1325 was a paradigm shift, as it was the first resolution that addressed the disproportionate impact of the armed conflict on women.
The international panel discussion examined the Nordic experiences and solutions on how to involve women in conflict prevention, participation in armed forces, conflict resolution and peace building processes. Prof. Robert Egnell from Sweden delivered a presentation on “Gender and Military Effectiveness”. His debate focused on the question why we should pursue gender equality and how it can be achieved. Frank B. Steder presented the unique All-Female Norwegian Special Operations Command (NORASOC) Pilot Project and its success in recruiting women to the armed forces. Kaisa-Maria Tölli talked about “Perspectives on Women’s role in Finnish Military”. Tölli pointed out that women in Finnish Defence Forces often experience sexual harassment and bullying due to their gender and physical abilities. The last speaker of the panel was Ambassador Kristín A. Árnadóttir, Special Envoy for Gender Equality, MFA Iceland. In her presentation she talked about Iceland’s role in NATO without a military presence and especially about Iceland’s role in promoting equality in the organization.
The national panel discussion evaluated the progress of Estonia’s Women, Peace and Security agenda and discussed how to integrate gender aspects into the security sector. Karmen Laus, Director of Division for International Organizations at MFA Estonia presented the Estonia’s National Action Plan on UN Resolution 1325. Andres Siplane, adviser for Social Affairs to the Estonian Ministry of Defence, presented the report “Women in the Estonian Defence Forces – Motivation, Attitudes, Experiences and Challenges”. The further topics in this panel were dedicated to women’s participation and role in cyber security, women’s voluntary contribution to National Defence and “Women into Uniform!” campaign.