The Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) committee and members from the CJTF-HOA plans and policy section organized a three-day class in Djibouti City, Djibouti, Sept. 25-27.
The WPS level 100 class allowed students to engage in group discussions with their peers to focus on ways they can better integrate the WPS model and gender perspectives across management, development, and employment within the joint forces.
WPS focuses on teaching U.S. service members how to proactively integrate the needs and perspectives of women and empower them to participate in decision-making processes at all levels to influence international peace, security and prosperity. It also aims to work within both the ranks of the military and partner national defense and security sectors to protect the human rights of women and girls, especially during conflict and crisis.
U.S. Maj. Gen. Jami Shawley, CJTF-HOA commanding general, emphasized the importance WPS plays within the command, the African continent, and the military as a whole.
“If one woman is in the room, will she have a voice that has the power of every other voice,” said Shawley. “If not, use your voice, I promise you that for as long as you are here in my command, you will be supported and you will be listened to.”
As one of Shawley’s high-priority initiatives during her time at CJTF-HOA, the WPS program has welcomed engagements with both Djiboutian and foreign partners to find ways to educate service members on gender perspective and how to promote equal representation of all voices.
Leading the WPS level 100 course was Denise Phillips, the CJTF-HOA WPS gender advisor, and her team. The intent of the level 100 course is to maximize the success and reach of WPS objectives and give the students the necessary resources they need to serve as Gender Focal Points within their command.
“Every human being deserves the right to feel secure within their ranks, within their jobs, and within their lives,” said Phillips. “The goal of this week’s course was to bring over 40 individuals from CJTF-HOA and spend the proper time to teach them how they can better implement the lessons they’ve learned in their sections and in their components back home.”
During the class, men and women from all branches of service and backgrounds learned practical lessons on how to make their workplace more secure and accepting of different gender perspectives. They also participated in moderated group discussions on problems they have seen in the commands they have served under and how they can solve these issues in their own ranks.
Among the 40 students in attendance was U.S. Army Capt. Ronald Lofano, Civil Affairs East Africa team leader. Lofano and his Civil Affairs team facilitate an English discussion group in Djibouti, teaching English pronunciation and grammar to Djiboutian citizens. A key aspect of his mission is to engage with the Djiboutian community, something he feels more prepared to do with the lessons he has learned from the level 100 course.
“WPS impacts every facet of Civil Affairs operations,” said Lofano. “In our bi-weekly English discussion groups WPS plays an integral role in identifying and understanding the socio-economic and cultural experiences that impact women, children and men in vastly different ways.”
Another student, U.S. Army Col. Antionette Mulholland, CJTF-HOA logistics director, expressed the importance of looking inward before trying to help other nations.
“In a lot of cases we’re so focused on trying to fix other countries when we need to look at ourselves first,” said Mullholland. “One of the most important things with WPS for me is to empower that next generation of female leaders. I see WPS as one of the key drivers of making sure that we fulfill the promises we’ve made to our young women and service members and that we will promote inclusion and equal opportunity within our ranks.”