On Monday, November 5, 2018, the Bush School of Government and Public Service hosted the 4th Annual Texas Symposium on Women, Peace, and Security: Implementing the Vision of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017. The symposium was started by Dr. Valerie Hudson, the head of the Women, Peace, and Security program at the Bush School and founder of the Womanstats Project. Each year the symposium brings together experts from various backgrounds such as government agencies, thinktanks, non-profits, and academia to discuss and present on various developments within the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) realm.
Jamie Dobie from Peace is Loud began the day with a talk concerning the power of stories. She emphasized the need to tell people’s stories in the right way and the powerful effect stories can have on individuals. Additionally, she gave the participants a sneak peek at Women, War, and Peace Part II, a follow-up series to be aired on PBS early next year.
The first panel of the day consisted of Lt. COL. Bradley Orchard (UN Women), CMD Suzanne Mainor (Joint Staff/ J5 Stability and Humanitarian Engagement Division United Stats Department of Defense), and Olivia Holt-Ivory (an independent consultant), who all spoke to the importance of women in defense and national security policy and practices. Women bring a unique perspective and should have a seat at the table. The United States should utilize the best teams for defense and that includes both men and women. The second panel was made up of women from the Council on Foreign Relations: Rachel Volgelstein, Jamille Bigio, and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. They echoed the importance of women on United States foreign policy teams and peacebuilding coalitions.
The keynote speaker of the symposium, Sarah Chayes (author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security), explained the roles she has discovered that women play in fighting and participating in corruption. She emphasized that, as women, we must ensure that we do not become a part of corrupt circles to advance our agenda, but rather use our natural coalition building skills to fight against it.
A panel on human trafficking consisted of Janet Kasper (East Texas Regional Administrator, Child Sex Trafficking Team, Texas Governor’s Office), Melissa Torres (Director of Human Trafficking Research Portfolio The University of Texas), and Ashley Alley (Former Intern with the Child Sex Trafficking Team from the Office of the Texas Governor). They discussed initiatives being put into place in Texas to streamline responses to victims of human trafficking. These initiatives are leading the way in the United States.
Our last panel focused on the new research being conducted about Women, Peace, and Security. Natalie Wright Romeri-Lewis (Brigham Young University), Dr. Michelle M. Taylor-Robinson (Texas A&M University), and Dr. Maria C. Escobar-Lemmon (Texas A&M University) each presented on their current research endeavors and the findings thus far.
These amazing individuals are all at the front lines of the Women, Peace, and Security initiative. However, as was emphasized over the course of the symposium, we all must work together to promote this agenda. Jacqueline O’Neill gave the closing remarks and implored us to look beyond our small group and dialogue with people from many backgrounds in order to achieve a better future, not only for women, but for everyone.