This article discusses the Elsie Initiative on Women in Peace Operations, an initiative to overcome the barriers to women’s meaningful participation in peace operations.
Through our feminist foreign policy, Canada is demonstrating its deep commitment to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment around the world. In 2015, the United Nations (UN) Security Council adopted Resolution 2242, which noted the substantial link between women’s meaningful involvement in peace operations and the achievement of long-term, sustainable peace. The resolution set targets to double the current rate of women’s participation of 3.7 percent of military peacekeepers and 9.5 percent of police peacekeepers by 2020. However, despite broad agreement that their increased participation would contribute to the effectiveness of UN peace operations, the percentage of women deployed in uniform has only increased by 0.2 percent. That is why Canada will launch the Elsie Initiative on Women in Peace Operations.
Canada will work with the UN and interested member states to develop innovative approaches to overcome the barriers to women’s meaningful participation in peace operations. Canada will pilot these approaches with a small number of countries that share Canada’s ambition.
The Elsie Initiative will:
To improve operational effectiveness and advance UN peace operations reform, Canada will also provide support that will help ensure women have access to a full range of training.
The Elsie Initiative is named after Canadian women’s rights pioneer Elsie MacGill (1905-1980). Born in Vancouver, Ms. MacGill graduated from the University of Toronto in 1927 and became the first Canadian woman to receive a degree in electrical engineering.
She was also the first woman to design aircraft and was in charge of the production of the Hawker Hurricane fighter at Canadian Car and Foundry, which employed 200 women during the Second World War.
Ms. MacGill overcame numerous challenges to achieve a lifetime of accomplishments. At 24 years old, she contracted a severe form of polio. She was a champion for women’s rights and the rights of people with disabilities. She fought for their advancement, including through volunteering on numerous national committees. She served as a commissioner of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada. In addition, she was the Canadian representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization.