From 16-18 May 2016, IGE's Center for Women, Faith & Leadership (CWFL) participated in the “Women, Peace & Security” Conference at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. The conference focused on critical themes and perspectives in global security, with a particular emphasis on food security and religion, with the purpose of briefing those with the task of protecting national interest and security on the linkages between the security of women and the security of the state. Panelists submitted papers for a monograph covering a wide variety of current issues at the intersection of women, peace & security. Papers presented served to demonstrate the interconnectedness of the role of women in economics, climate change, social freedoms, countering violent extremism, cyber security, and global health.

CWFL was prominently featured on the second panel of the conference, on Tuesday, May 17th, focusing on the intersection of women and the role of religion in global peace & security. The panel was composed of Chaplain Judy Malana CHC, USN, Deputy Chaplain of the U.S. Coast Guard and 2015-16 CWFL Fellow; Ednah Kang’ee, 2015-16 CWFL Fellow; Afeefa Syeed, Head of School at Al Fatih Academy, and CWFL Senior Fellow & Advisory Council Member; Katherine Marshall, Professor of the Practice of Development, Religion and Conflict at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University, and CWFL Advisory Council Member; and, RADM Margaret Grun Kibben, CHC, USN Chief of Chaplains of the Navy.

Highlights from the panel on religion, included the emphasis on the critical nature of working with religious leaders who are able to speak into the armed forces regarding the important role of women. Faith, in this regard, should be a matter of cooperation and not of division, and has been demonstrated as such through the positive contributions of women. Several case studies were presented that demonstrated different challenges and approaches that have been taken in bringing the role of women and religion into the spotlight in contexts such as Afghanistan, Denmark, and Kenya. Interestingly, when talking about the role of religion in these contexts, the sub-issue of gender is always at the top of the discussion list; demonstrating that if you’re doing to deal with religion you have to deal with gender as well.

Panelists also noted that the central role of religion and gender in world affairs, also demonstrates the need for increasing religious literacy, and the distinct need to create a skilled way of identifying women religious leaders in order to bring them into key dialogues and the policy table. Once identified, often religious women benefit from spiritual, psychosocial, and legal support and empowerment. Providing these services and support would ensure that gender inclusion becomes more of a priority within global peace and security measures. Additional panels focused on perspectives on women, peace & security from the NGO community, USAID, Military & War Colleges, several branches of the U.S. military, Universities, Medicine, and Philanthropy. Access to the corresponding papers within the monograph from these panels, can be accessed via this link.