A spotlight on women’s security

A new global index highlights why security can’t neglect gender

Jeni Klugman, Sharon Bessell, Nicky Lovegrove

Government and governance, National security, Arts, culture & society | Australia, Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, The Pacific, The World

2 February 2018

On the latest Policy Forum Pod, we chat with the lead author of a new global ranking of women’s wellbeing and security – the Women, Peace, and Security Index.

The world has a number of global ranking systems, from the Human Development Index to the Global Peace Index. However, not until now has the world had an Index shining a spotlight directly on the security aspects of women’s wellbeing. On the latest Policy Forum Pod, we chat with Jeni Klugman, a lead author of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Index, and discuss what insights this new global ranking can provide to policymakers in building a more just, inclusive and secure world for women. Listen here: http://bit.ly/PFPwomensecurity

Dr Jeni Klugman is a Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government’s Women in Public Policy program at Harvard University, and Managing Director at the Georgetown Institute for Women Peace and Security.

Her previous positions include Director of Gender and Development at the World Bank, and director and lead author of three global Human Development Reports published by the United Nations Development Programme.

She holds a PhD in Economics from the Australian National University, and postgraduate degrees in both Law and Development Economics from the University of Oxford where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

The Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Index measures women’s wellbeing along three dimensions: inclusion, justice, and security. In doing so, the WPS Index is the global ranking system that explicitly bridges the gap between gender and security.

“Security doesn’t only happen in the context of war,” Dr Klugman says. “It can happen in the community, it can happen within a household. Most women are actually much more likely to be affected by intimate partner violence in their home.”

As we might expect, the lowest ranked countries on the Index tend to be ones racked by conflict. But as Dr Klugman explains, the relationship between war and women’s security is far from simple.

“Syria and Afghanistan, who are the bottom-ranked in 153rd place, are clearly those which are characterised by large-scale battle deaths, but in fact, that’s only a small contributor to their overall ranking.”

For the countries at the bottom of the Index, they’re often doing poorly across the board. In other words, it’s not just the presence of war which distinguishes them.

“The countries that are in conflict… are also characterised by, on average, one-third higher rates of intimate partner violence, so the violence in society is associated with higher rates of violence in the home.”

An interesting takeaway from the rankings, however, is that even the countries that do poorly across most measures are usually doing well on at least one indicator, Dr Klugman says.

“In the case of Afghanistan, it does fairly poorly across a range of fronts, but on Parliamentary representation it’s actually amongst the top third of countries.”

The reverse is also true of the higher ranked countries, including Australia.

“Among the good performing countries, a number of Nordic countries actually have quite high rates of intimate partner violence,” Dr Klugman says. “Australia comes out, I think somewhat shockingly, as the worst country amongst the developed country group, in terms of women feeling unsafe in their community.”

Another interesting finding is that every region has its standout countries – even the poorer parts of the world more prone to conflict.

“Whilst there are some regional commonalities in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, there are several countries above the global average, including Tanzania, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa.

“The implication here is that countries need not be looking to Scandinavia for good practice, [but rather] within their region looking to neighbours.”

When asked what she saw as the main hurdle preventing the world from gender equality on security issues, Dr Klugman says it comes back to the norms and social expectations held by both men and women.

“The greater the extent that we can move towards more equal conceptions or attitudes, I think it will have a multitude of benefits, not only in terms of security but also in terms of social, economic and political opportunities as well.”

The 2017-18 Women, Peace and Security Index report can be found here

Dr Jeni Klugman was in conversation with Sharon Bessell and Nicky Lovegrove. This episode of the pod was produced and written by Sharon Bessell and Nicky Lovegrove, and edited by Crystal Yuan.

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