A Necessary Conversation {gallery}newsletters/13/2{/gallery}”Let’s Take Care of Our Security: an Evaluation of situational and objective Consultations on Gender and Security Sector Reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” a project initiated by the Geneva-based Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), Atlantic Initiative (AI) and Women to Women, was launched in early October 2010.  AI Staff spoke with project manager Željka Šulc in order to learn more about the impetus for this idea and her first impressions and expectations regarding this important project. DCAF is an organization which has dealt with the challenges of gender integration in the security sector for many years. The organization is currently completing a similar research project in Serbia. When the need to implement a similar project in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) arose, DCAF sought suitable partners in BiH which could competently explore the issue of gender equality in the security sector. Expert Input AI, in partnership with Women to Women, one of the best known Bosnian and Herzegovinian NGOs promoting women’s rights and gender equality, answered DCAF’s call for partnership. This cooperation allows for effective collaboration between experts on both security and gender issues. Students from the University of Sarajevo and the University of East Sarajevo (representing medical, political science, journalism and security and criminal science faculties) are also involved in project implementation. “We responded to DCAF’s call and presented them with our vision and possible project methodology,” said project manager Željka Šulc. “We suggested a research model which involves theoretical research, but also significant field work in 11 BiH towns. The general idea is to explore to what degree the two sexes are integrated in the security sector at state, entity and cantonal, or regional levels. Besides individuals working in the security sector, our staff will conduct interviews with NGO representatives who have dealt with similar issues.” The project will be implemented in several phases. During the first phase, an analysis of the existing legislation in BiH as well as previously implemented initiatives will be carried out. It is important to emphasize that BiH is the first country in the region which has adopted the Action Plan for UN Resolution 1325.  This resolution calls for better integration of women in security structures and decision-making processes. Phase two activities include field work and research. The third phase foresees the preparation of a preliminary report about the situation in BiH. After that, project staff expect to conduct consultations with local actors in order to either confirm the results of the preliminary report or make necessary changes based on any new regional developments. A final report presenting the research results will be published in May or June 2011. The initial phase of “Let’s Take Care of Our Security” began in October 2010.  Ms. Šulc shared her first impressions, stating that “a lot has already been done in the field of gender integration in security sector reforms. However, what we expect is to conduct a concise overview of everything accomplished thus far, including both activities and documents, and to create a high-quality platform for new activities for those of us examining these issues.” The project’s goal is not to simply note differences in the numbers of men and women employed within security structures, but rather to analyze the implications of the current situation.  This will allow for the competent prescription of possible solutions addressing issues of equal treatment of the males and females. Identifying Cause and Effect “Based on our first conversations, I can confirm that there are few women in decision-making positions, but in some cases the reason for this is not unequal treatment, but simply a lack of female applicants for certain positions. In other cases, we have seen many women at certain institutions, but their role within that institution is minimal. Both sexes are subject to gender discrimination, and we want to base our report on the situation in BiH on such cases,” Ms. Šulc said. “Our goal, which we expect to achieve through field work, is not only to find statistics which reflect the actual situation in the country, but also to reveal the reasons behind the numbers. We also hope to find examples of best practices within BiH. One positive example is the State Border Police where female candidates are given priority in hiring procedures as long as they are qualified,” Ms. Šulc concluded. The proposed research methodology includes quantitative and qualitative interviews, followed by consultations and finally verification of the obtained information. Interviews are to be carried out with employees of the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Security and all its affiliated agencies, the State Border Police, the State Information and Protection Agency and the Agency for Gender Equality.  Additionally, “Let’s Take Care of Our Security” will seek relevant information from individuals working within the public security sector, at gender centers in the Federation of BiH and Republika Srpska and for NGOs addressing issues of gender equality. Jasna PEKIĆ Photo: AI