Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association organized 2nd International conference Resolution 1325 Women peace and security that took place on Friday March 10th 2017 at Parliament of Estonia conference hall. About 100 participants were registered and panelist were invited from Norway, UK, USA, Italy and Estonia.
Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid sent her greetings to the conference. She said „ we are used to consider national defence as iron, men in uniforms and ammunition but national defence begins with our values and our will to defend. Women have a place in our defence just like everyone- men, women, boys and girls, young and old- we are all necessary people who have their place in our defence. National defence is a combined effort from all of its citizens and community, therefore both men and women are expected to contribute to our national defence equally. Defence Forces offers equal opportunities to all of its citizens. We don´t look for a place for the women in the defence sector- we know they have a place there.
In his opening words Defence Minister of Estonia Margus Tsahkna said that now more than ever our country and citizens future depends on what is our society´s approach how to defend us. He called it a family model in a small 1,3 million society. We invite more women to conscription and women are treated just as men, they have same assignments as their male counterparts, same objectives and no discounts are made for women just because women themselves do not wish to be treated differently. What defence personnel confirm is that these units who have women serving or in conscription, are men’s morale and need for achievement higher.
Brig Gen Indrek Sirel emphasized three key aspects in his speech which are awareness, discussion and how we see it ourselves women in defence. Women who are involved in military operations are considered to be a real value especially when in conflict missions we communicate with local people.
Mrs Silva Kiili, Reseracher in International Centre for Defence and Security brought out her research results about Estonian Women in the Military structures. There are 10% of women in active personnel duty but mainly in support activities such as medics, staff personnel, logistics etc. In volunteer defence league the rate is 20%. To conscription the amount of women listed have been increased from 1% to 3 %. Womens motivation to join are patriotic values, will to defend the country, interest in the military subject and self-realization. Out of the women who have finished conscription no one has regretted their decision to join but most women do not support the idea of mandatory conscription for women.
Brig Gen Meelis Kiili, Commander of Estonian Defence League in his presentation „Comprehensive National Defence and how Women relate to it” asked if we are doing the right thing. We need to find the right implementation for both men and women, find a social balance and give free people in the free country the possibility to defend their country according to their will but we have to do that organized. He continued questioning if we are doing those things right? After all he agreed that we are moving to the right direction.
Daisi Želizko spoke about her experiences in military services and conscription. She declared that it is very difficult to work in military sector for anyone if you are lacking basic knowledge. She stated that is very important for the unit to share the same room in barracks that decreases loss of communication and makes the unit stronger because in fields operations women and men and in the same conditions anyway. She is very pleased with the current structure in defence forces- there is possibility to grow within the organization no matter gender, age or background so both have equal opportunities to apply.
Cristiana Carletti, Associate Professor of Public International Law at Roma Tre University and Chair of the Civil Society Advisory Panel – CSAP on Women, Peace and Security at NATO (Italy) gave her presentation in the subject of The Civil Society Advisory Panel – CSAP on Women, Peace and Security at NATO: new challenges for the international debate over women, peace and security“.
Panel discussion Women´s Role in War and Peace was carried moderated by Marica Lillemts, consisted of high rank women officers from Norway, United Kingdom and Estonia.
Lt Col Lena Pedersen Kvarving, Senior Staff Officer at the Norwegian Defense Staff, working on Equality, Diversity and Gender (Norway) says that conscription in Norway is gender neutral but it includes only 20% of total population, Norway has also been one of the first countries that had an action plan regarding resolution 1325 but the understanding how to implement that resolution in practice has meant to change organizational culture. It is still an ongoing process.
Lt Col Margot Künnapuu, Deputy Military Representative to EUMC shared her over 30 year military experience and missions the importance of training soldiers and officers, adding the gender related points already in planning phase and not to forget the importance of explaining reasons and causes. We are showing good example if women as part of society are included in different missions. To the question if she could be the first Estonian General she said that it does not matter what gender you are it´s all about person’s capabilities and suitability to the position.
Maj Lorraine Thomas from British Army brought out the issue how women can combine their family life with career- what UK army has done to offer more flexible working conditions for women as well regarding missions. Also networking for army women helps with integration.
A great motivational speech in the subject of „Women’s leadership in Peace and Security“ was made by Maj Gen Linda L. Singh, Adjutant General of the Maryland National Guard (USA). There has been a considerable development regarding res. 1325 in US army from the time it was initially implemented. Still even nowadays US army face gender and race issues but doing your job in expertise and competence- that is again gender neutral.
Conclusion speech was made by Lt Gen Johannes Kert, Member of the National Defence Committee saying that Estonian Defence system is not yet complete. We have things in our society what we can be proud of. Since Estonia has more women than men in our society and more educated women there is potential we have not seen to be used to its fullest.