By Gonzalo Silva Infante/Diálogo July 24, 2017 The role of women in society is occupying new spaces, and their presence in different settings, such as the armed forces, is being promoted. In the Americas, there are 16 nations with women in these institutions, and the process of integration has evolved over the years. This theme was presented during the “Gender, Peace, and Security” workshop, held from May 8th to 17th at Chorillos Military Academy in Lima, Peru. The workshop was sponsored by the Canadian government and organized by the Peruvian Ministry of Defense. In all, 47 officers participated – male and female – from Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, and Peru. The level of female participation in the armed forces of Latin American is below 10 percent, on average. Only the Dominican Republic has reached an honorable 21.76 percent. The Dominican Republic is closely followed by Uruguay (18.92 percent), and Argentina (17.17 percent), according to the 2016 edition of the Comparative Atlas of Defense in Latin America and the Caribbean. This shows that there is still a lot of work to be done in Latin America to create true gender integration. “The women got very excited because they found out that in [other] countries, women do their military service under the same conditions as men,” Peruvian Army General (R) Baltazar Alvarado Cornejo, the director general of Doctrine and Education at the Vice Ministry of Defense Policy for the Ministry of Defense, told Diálogo. “As for the nations that didn’t join us, the reality there is quite similar. However, those giving us the workshop were Canadians, and you could tell there was a big difference between their experience and that of the other countries,” added Peruvian Air Force Major Grace Peralta Fleming, who was one of nine women in Peru’s first coed class. Equitable conditions The workshop was an opportunity to demonstrate the progress that has been made and the challenges that remain for the armed forces and their members, both male and female. “The workshop revealed the opportunities available in all fields of military endeavor, whether academic, cultural, or physical, for competing with equal opportunity,” Gen. Alvarado said. Equality and not discriminating based on gender are two concepts that are quite clear in the armed forces. That is why the importance of equitable integration and, thus, the ability to equalize opportunities were addressed during the workshop. “We are given some opportunities in the admission process so that we can have the same access as the men,” Maj. Peralta said. “The idea is that, to the extent that things are balanced, those differentiations will be done away with.” “Women are treated with equality. There is equity according to your gender and your physiology,” said another workshop participant, Peruvian Army Captain Elizabeth Mercado Cortez, from Legal Services at the Army’s Public Graduate Technical Institute. “We are placed into military life but following the scale of equity,” she added. The humanitarian side An important aspect of the role of women in the armed forces involves their more sensitive side and dealing with situations that go beyond their military training. “We’ve managed to fill some gaps, such as the humanitarian aspect, both in wars and negotiations. It was explained to us that during negotiations, women can achieve better things,” Maj. Peralta confirmed. When women participate in peacekeeping processes, the probability of reaching an agreement increases by 20 percent. The probability that that agreement will last at least 15 years increases by 35 percent, the United Nations reports. During the workshop, a case was presented which exemplifies this situation. During a peacekeeping mission, there were many complaints filed concerning rapes committed against the local population. The resentment towards the service members was evident. The seven women in the battalion on that mission calmed the situation and, thus, avoided a conflict. “In any mission, women need to go. We can all be trained to meet the objectives and the assigned duties,” Capt. Mercado said. The experiences at the workshop showed that there is still a long way to go but they also provided a good reference point. “It was hugely important to learn about other realities, to know that we are not an exception. Twenty years ago other countries were going through what we are going through now,” Maj. Peralta concluded.