DAKAR, Senegal (AFNS) --
This year’s African Air Chiefs Symposium was enhanced for the first time by a Women, Peace and Security Panel March 1, in Dakar.
To kick off this new addition, panelists from Malawi, Benin, Senegal, Tunisia and Ghana spoke on initiatives impacting recruitment, challenges they face and areas of improvement for each country.
“This is a great opportunity and an important audience,” said Michelle Tafur, Association of African Air Forces Permanent Secretariat member. “We’re bringing together the senior leadership of so many air forces and promoting advocacy for certain women’s initiatives. We selected officers that showcase a broad spectrum of different realities on the continent.”
Senegalese armed forces Lt. Col. Khadessa Sy, representative for Senegal, spoke about the struggles women face when it comes to equality in her service branch.
“Making up only 5.5% of the force, women are underrepresented and often misunderstood,” Sy said. “The life as a married woman and life as a member of the armed forces is not balanced. We need males and females to be able to live in harmony and understand each other so that they can give their best to benefit the armed forces and the nation.”
In the question-and-answer portion of the panel, panelists were asked how they envisioned the progress of women, peace and security in their countries during the coming years. Tunisian armed forces Capt. Ibtihel Youssef, representative for Tunisia, voiced her hopes for change on two major struggles: representation and violence.
“We are working so that women are represented in all professions,” Youssef said. “No more violence!”
Youssef went on to address a common goal of every country on the panel: mobilizing and training women in peace building missions. In many crisis regions, women have long been performing crucial work in peace processes – yet this work often goes unnoticed.
“We want women’s skills to be recognized and we want to be included in the fight against threats, both foreign and domestic,” Youssef said.
Ghanian air force Group Captain Sophia Jiagge, representative for Ghana, ended the panel by addressing the room with a call to action.
“The future looks bright for women, peace and security in our countries,” Jiagge said. “We need your advocacy and support to move toward a new era of lasting global peace and security.”
The 12th annual African Air Chiefs Symposium is a multinational security cooperation initiative that features a diverse range of workshops as well as cultural activities. It is intended to foster more effective military relationships between participating nations.