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4. Integrating gender in post-conflict security sector reform


I. Introduction

II. Gender and security sector reform

III. Gender mainstreaming and promoting women’s participation in post-conflict security sector reform

IV. Promoting women’s full and equal participation in post-conflict security services

V. Gender and specific post-conflict security sector reform issues

VI. Conclusions

Table 4.1. Examples of gender activities within security sector reform programmes

Table 4.2. Percentage of female officers in the police force of select countries

Box 4.1. Gender is also for men and boys


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Security sector reform (SSR) is essential to post-conflict peacebuilding in order to prevent the reoccurrence of conflict, to enhance public security, and to create the conditions for reconstruction and development. The importance of women’s participation and gender equality in peacebuilding and security is recognized by many governments and United Nations and donor agencies. However, efforts to promote these goals are often planned and implemented independently of each other, with the result that SSR fails to include women and to address the security needs of the entire population—including women, girls and boys.


Post-conflict SSR processes have used various approaches to address gender issues.


  • In Afghanistan, Kosovo and Liberia SSR measures to recruit and retain women, and to make security institutions more responsive to gender issues presented challenges but also yielded positive results.
  • In Peru, Sierra Leone and Timor- Leste truth and reconciliation commissions included mechanisms to address the experiences and justice needs of women.
  • Rwandan women parliamentarians made distinctive contributions to SSR by uniting across party and ethnic lines to address issues of women’s security.
  • In Liberia and Sierra Leone disarmament, demobilization and reintegration processes contributed to developing operational procedures to ensure that women and girls are not excluded, and that the needs of men and boys are also addressed.
  • In Liberia and South Africa women’s civil society organizations were important partners in linking SSR with local security and justice concerns.


Gender mainstreaming—assessing the impact of SSR policies and activities on women, men, boys and girls at every stage of the process—is a key strategy. It must be accompanied by steps to ensure that both men and women participate and are represented in SSR processes.


Participation of women in post-conflict security services is crucial to creating structures that are representative, trusted and legitimate, and are able to meet the security needs of both men and women.


‘Transitional justice’ and justice reform processes have made advances in responding to gender issues. Ad hoc criminal tribunals have prioritized prosecution of sexual violence.


Successful integration of gender in SSR shares the broader challenges of SSR. External actors can encourage and support, but initiatives must be led by local stakeholders. SSR has much to gain by integrating gender.



Megan Bastick (Australia/United Kingdom) is Deputy Head of the Special Programmes Division at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).