One Year Later: The Importance of GBA+ on Op REASSURANCE
By Lieutenant-Colonel Rhea MacLean, Gender Advisor, Task Force Latvia Headquarters and Major Andrew Straatsma, Senior Gender Focal Point, enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia
August 2018 marks the one year anniversary of the first-ever deployment of a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) gender advisor.
Major Mike Duteau was part of Task Force Latvia Headquarters. At that time, the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group (eFP BG) Latvia also established a network of gender focal points (GFP). They created the foundation for the task force to use Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) and apply gender perspectives into all aspects of daily operations.
Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) Rhea MacLean is the current gender advisor, and Major Andrew Straatsma is the senior gender focal point for the eFP BG Latvia. They have worked hard to build on that legacy.
For the past six months, there were two main gender-related areas of focus. The first was to further teach members of the battle group about NATO and its commitment to gender inclusivity through the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. Through various training initiatives, members of the battle group improved their understanding of how integrating gender perspectives applied to NATO’s three essential cores tasks: collective defence, crisis management, and cooperative security. These efforts result in being better prepared, more responsive, and increasingly effective.
As part of the focus on training, a diverse network of gender focal points was established at battle group. This network was led by Maj Straatsma. It is made of 15 members who are dispersed among the battle group’s headquarters, Manoeuvre Companies, Combat Support Company, and Administration Company.
There is also a multinational GFP working group. It enables all focal points to solidify their baseline knowledge, enhance their confidence in this new role, and learn together through case studies and discussion. Their work with GBA+ and applying gender perspectives has led to the provision of more inclusive and diverse morale and welfare opportunities delivered off-camp.
In one instance, using the GBA+ methodology resulted in identifying a critical training gap for potential sexual assault victims. While conducting a medical assessment of resources, the eFP BG Latvia Surgeon identified that he had access to sexual assault kits, but that he was the only person qualified to administer the test. This led the Surgeon to ensure that both male and female health care practitioners were trained to use the kits. Now, there is an increased medical capability which equally respects and supports all service members.
The second focus was the promotion of gender-based capabilities within the CAF, primarily GBA+, and our commitment to inclusion and diversity. LCol Maclean and Maj Straatsma participated in events and discussions related to gender equality and gender integration with various stakeholders.
Most notable was their participation as key speakers in a roundtable discussion on Women and International Security hosted by the Canadian Embassy to Poland. Through this forum, LCol MacLean and Maj Straatsma were able to showcase the institutionalization of GBA+ and gender perspectives through the CAF’s top down approach. They highlighted the tactical benefits of integrating gender into military planning and operations.
LCol MacLean and a number of battle group personnel also participated in the Canada Day event hosted by the Canadian Embassy to the Czech Republic, a new contributing nation to the eFP BG Latvia. Hosted by the Canadian Ambassador in Prague, the Canada Day event was themed around gender equality and included numerous high profile guests, including the Czech Minister of Defence. During this event, the CAF commitment to inclusivity and diversity was highlighted, as well as Canada’s commitment to the field of gender equality.
The integration of GBA+ and gender perspectives into daily operations has yielded tangible and enduring benefits. The results show how the systematic inclusion of gender perspectives and GBA+ increases operational effectiveness and contributes to mission success.