Gudrun Thorbjornsdottir: The Human Security Profile of April 2018

This is a post from The Human Security Angle: the newsletter of the Master’s Programme in Human Security at Aarhus University.

Gudrun, why did you decide to study human security at Aarhus University?
My academic background is in Political Science and Gender Studies and I have spent a lot of time researching the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security. The resolution specifically addresses the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls, and recognises the critical role that women play in peacebuilding efforts. It also stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.

This is rooted in human security and I wanted to gain a deeper understanding of the approaches to human security. I thought the programme at Aarhus University looked interesting, offering a broad variety of courses exploring social, economic, political, and environmental factors of security.

Gudrun Thorbjornsdottir: The Human Security Profile of April 2018

Where did you do your work placement, and what did you learn?
I did my work placement in the Fiji Islands with a feminist community media and policy network based in the capital Suva. Their activities focus on gender inclusive conflict prevention and media initiatives for rural women grounded in a human security framework. I conducted interviews with women that were members of women’s groups within the rural area of Nausori, examining the link between women’s empowerment and human security. Rural women in Fiji are particularly vulnerable due to their limited opportunities and isolation. They struggle to be seen and heard, and very few women are in decision-making roles. When I spent time with the women in Nausori I found that the network was providing them with a platform that empowered them to speak up and express their security needs. And when you ask women, their perception of security and their priorities are different from men’s perceptions. This is why it is so important to include women, otherwise we will only respond to half of the population.

Setting up a mobile suitcase radio station in Nausori. Much of the work of the suitcase radio has been bridging the intergenerational gap that exists – with young women learning the technology and older women finding their voice.

What are you doing at the moment?
I am now an advisor to the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace, and Security. The Special Representative serves as the high-level focal point on all aspects of NATO’s contributions to the Women, Peace and Security agenda. We support NATO and its partners to ensure that a gender perspective is mainstreamed into policies, activities and efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts. In order to do this we need to understand how the social roles of men and women may lead to different risks and security needs as well as different contributions to conflict prevention and resolution.

The annual conference of the NATO Committee of Gender Perspectives, which was established more than 40 years ago. This committee provides advice to the military leadership and promotes gender mainstreaming in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies, programmes and military operations.

What have you taken with you from your human security studies?
I have a broader understanding of what security can mean to different individuals and groups, and this has been valuable in my work. The work placement was also a great learning experience and I appreciate having had the opportunity to do research and advance my skills in data collection, analysis and reporting.

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