By Max Santana *
Women’s participation in security positions around the world is a key component for a future of peace. U.N. Security Council’s resolution 1325 (2000) on “Women, Peace, and Security” highlights women’s role in peace and in the general well-being of populations during situations of conflict or political and social instability. Twenty-two years after its passing, Mexico has made progress in drafting initiatives and regulations to favor the inclusion of women in the security field. In January of last year, for example, the Government of Mexico published its first “National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security” which responds to the UNSC’s resolution and is consistent with its adoption of a feminist foreign policy.
Despite these positive steps, the participation of women in leadership positions in Mexico’s security and defense sectors still presents challenges. This is a statement in line with the ideas presented during the first National Women & Security Conference hosted by the Mexican and US governments last March within the new Bicentennial Framework.
A first step to understand how women are currently represented in Mexico’s security field is to review how integrated are women are in institutions such as the Armed Forces and other government offices that share security responsibilities like the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The current number of women working in Mexico’s Defense Ministry (SEDENA) shows that despite an existing political will to transform the organizational structure, progress has been modest and very gradual. According to the Mexican government’s Observatory for Equality between Women and Men at the Mexican Army and Air Force women comprised 11 percent of the entire workforce (25,257 in absolute numbers). The vast majority of women in Mexico’s Army and Air Force are in the lowest rank (soldado, in Spanish). Furthermore, only four women have reached the position of General in Mexico’s Defense Ministry.
On the other hand, the Ministry of the Navy (SEMAR) has a history of more openness and inclusion towards women. According to 2019, Mexico’s Institute for Women ( INMUJERES) showed women comprised 17 percent of the total Navy force (11,029 in absolute numbers). Unlike the Mexican Army and Air Force where women are concentrated in low-ranking positions, the presence of women in the Navy is more evenly distributed throughout almost its organizational structure. However, it is important to highlight that no woman holds yet any of the Mexican Navy-s highest ranks such as “Admiral”, “Vice Admiral” or “Rear Admiral”.
Another relevant government institution for security matters is Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While is not solely dedicated to security issues, the Ministry shares some responsibilities in the formulation of security policies and strategies. According to Mexico City-based think tank IMCO, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has achieved gender parity in the workplace which may sound positive. Yet, a closer look shows that women only occupy just one-third of leadership positions in the Ministry.
As the security agenda evolves, it is critical that the lack of representation of women in Mexico’s security sector gets more attention. One positive step forward occurred last year when the US and Mexican governments expressly committed under the Bicentennial Framework to reduce gender violence and to push for women’s inclusion in sectors related to security and justice. The goal should not only be to achieve gender parity in government institutions, but also to reach substantive representation of women in top decision-making roles within them.
Women participation is key to successful peace building efforts in complex sociopolitical situations across the globe. Any national security policy geared towards a more peaceful future must make sure to listen to women’s voice, expertise, and experience. In addition, governments must accelerate the inclusion of other minorities in security matters including indigenous, migrant, and LGBTQ communities which are frequently affected by violence.