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Keywords:

  • sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV);
  • learning and teaching;
  • role-play;
  • simulation

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. SGBV as a peace and security issue
  5. Role-play simulations as teaching tools
  6. Blue Zimbala overview
  7. Gendering the role-play simulation
  8. Moving forward
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Biography

Addressing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in international peace and security frameworks is crucial. Yet SGBV often remains silenced in the peace and security literature. Relatedly, SGBV tends to be marginalised in the classroom. This can perpetuate challenges to achieving peace by producing graduates and practitioners who are neither knowledgeable about, nor prepared to deal with, SGBV in practice. To explore possibilities for engaging with this challenging topic, this article reflects on a role-play simulation in a graduate course on International Peacekeeping. In doing so, it discusses prospects for educating students around SGBV and challenges to doing so effectively. Role-play simulations may be useful tools for engaging with such complex topics. At the same time, learning outcomes will improve if the role-play is introduced after discussing a broader range of relevant literature and debates around gender in general and SGBV in particular. Furthermore, even with prior discussion, educators may need to prompt reflection and discussion around gender if students do not initiate such conversations themselves. Actions like this may have positive outcomes for gender mainstreaming of the discipline insofar as they in better prepare students for future professional roles in peace and security.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. SGBV as a peace and security issue
  5. Role-play simulations as teaching tools
  6. Blue Zimbala overview
  7. Gendering the role-play simulation
  8. Moving forward
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Biography

Tompkins (1995, p. 852) explains that stories of sexual violence need to be heard in order to secure deterrence. For that to occur, she says: ‘People must hear the horrifying, think the unthinkable and speak the unspeakable.’ Yet evidence indicates that getting these stories out is not enough to make real change – the disclosure of such knowledge must be followed by concrete actions, not just high-level rhetoric. Here I examine prospects for teaching about sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the peace and security classroom, especially when studying peace operations. I use ‘SGBV’ rather than ‘conflict-related sexual violence’ or other more specific terms because I want students to think broadly about these types of violence both in the classroom and in practice. I aim for students in the peace and security classroom to understand the links between various types of SGBV that occur during conflict as well as in the ‘post-conflict’ or ‘peace’ time, as these all represent significant security concerns students may be faced with in their future professional roles. In doing so, I acknowledge that SGBV cannot be understood in isolation and must be studied in a context in which a range of violence and abuses occur (Eriksson Baaz and Stern, 2010).

Global institutions have highlighted the problem of SGBV in conflict and post-conflict settings, especially since 2000 when the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 specifically calling for special measures for protecting women and girls from SGBV in conflict. Nevertheless, the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) ten-year impact study on UNSCR 1325 finds that only modest advances have been made in physically protecting women from conflict-related SGBV, which ‘has proven a formidable challenge for peacekeeping missions’ (Ospina, 2010, p. 10). Hence, we must teach students of peace and security, not just by ensuring they hear the stories, but by providing opportunities to consider how best to engage with them and pose questions around responsibility. Meeting this challenge is a feminist imperative and will require a high level of sensitivity and reflexivity in both curriculum design and implementation. Successful outcomes may eventuate through a variety of methods. This article explores the process through reflecting on incorporating SGBV as one facet of a role-play simulation exercise. I found that role-play simulations may be useful tools for engaging with such complex topics, yet learning outcomes would likely improve if the role-play were conducted after the introduction of a broader range of literature and discussions on the topic of gender in general and SGBV in particular. Moreover, regardless of prior training, educators may need to actively prompt reflection and discussion around gender in the classroom if students do not take the initiative to do so. Overall, such gender mainstreaming of the discipline may have positive outcomes of better training students for future professional roles in peace and security.

SGBV as a peace and security issue

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. SGBV as a peace and security issue
  5. Role-play simulations as teaching tools
  6. Blue Zimbala overview
  7. Gendering the role-play simulation
  8. Moving forward
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Biography

Although conflict-related SGBV has occurred in many diverse locations, mainstream studies of International Relations have often ignored or marginalised wartime sexualised violence against women (Lee-Koo, 2002). Feminist approaches challenge the discipline of International Relations to analyse and recognise how hierarchical gender regimes often have a harmful impact on individual and group security (Tickner, 2001). Peterman et al. (2011) charge that: ‘Wartime sexual violence has rightly been called a hidden epidemic; in truth, we know very little about its actual magnitude and impact’, arguing that there is still a need for deeper analysis of causes and trends.

Nevertheless, a significant body of scholarly work exploring issues of conflict-related SGBV continues to develop, as does acknowledgement from the UN that this is a problem that must be addressed. Sexual and gender-based violence has featured in documentation on conflicts around the world for hundreds of years. Rape and sexual violence have negatively impacted hundreds of thousands of people, by far most frequently women and girls. This is a matter requiring urgent attention in the field of peace and security. Recent conflicts have brought attention to the systematic targeting of women in acts of sexual violence in a wide range of locations (Lee-Koo, 2002; Schia and de Carvalho, 2009; Skjelsbaek, 2001; Tickner, 2001; Tompkins, 1995; Vlachova and Biason, 2005). These are not rare, low-impact occurrences, but rather widespread and systematic violations of huge numbers of people in the population.

Though women and girls are disproportionately targeted, men and boys are also impacted on a regular basis (Carpenter, 2006). Sexual violence against men has been documented in numerous armed conflicts, though it tends to be under-reported, partially because the victimisation often leaves male victims feeling emasculated or socially ‘tainted’ with homosexuality (Sivakumaran, 2007, pp. 257, 272). Sexual violence against men has not often been noticed, studied, prosecuted or punished, partly because ‘gender-based violence’ and ‘sexual violence’ have been seen as meaning violence against women, so male survivors face challenges to finding recourse (Eriksson Baaz and Stern, 2010 and 2013; Grey and Shepherd, 2013; Lewis, 2009).

SGBV is often used in an attempt to gain power over opponents through degrading and inhumane tactics to humiliate and demoralise by instilling a culture of fear, intimidation and terror (Vlachova and Biason, 2005). Such tactics have been deployed in conflict to scatter or forcibly displace civilians from certain groups or communities (Jones, 2008).

Unfortunately, studies show that even a cessation of hostilities does not mean the cessation of widespread sexual violence, which may even increase in the aftermath of conflict (Schia and de Carvalho, 2009; Vlachova and Biason, 2005). Beyond affecting survivors, conflict-related sexual violence seriously impacts prospects for peace and security through: hindering reintegration and reconciliation; encouraging the escalation of sexual violence in the post-conflict era; and permitting the continuation of SGBV by normalising it, which negatively impacts social relations and can encourage civilians to take up these practices that have been made popular by soldiers (Bekoe and Parajon, 2007; Jones, 2008).

Social movement scholars argue that transnational feminist networks have pushed the UN to include violence against women in its security agenda (Harrington, 2011, p. 557). Gibbings (2011) says that in the lobbying phase leading up to UNSCR 1325's passage, advocates were seeking to change perceptions to seeing women as potential agents for peacebuilding rather than solely as victims. Indeed, some would argue that UNSCR 1325 and related Resolutions 1820, 1888, 1889, 1960 and 2106 that followed marked a significant shift toward recognising SGBV in conflict as a crucial security matter.

Nevertheless, scholars remain divided as to what the ‘Women, Peace and Security’ agenda may produce in practice, how slow advances in implementation have been, and whether tensions will continue between highlighting women's agency and ongoing structural issues that may limit their agency (Pratt and Richter-Devroe, 2011, pp. 489–499.) Shepherd (2011, p. 505), for example, highlights that 1325 is legally binding on UN Charter signatories, that over one hundred translations of the Resolution are available, and that several countries have developed national action plans for implementing the Resolution. Likewise, she argues that: ‘UNSCR 1325 represents not only successful claims on gender equality and empowerment but also significant moves towards the same.’ However, Aroussi (2011, p. 576) charges that sexual violence remains so pervasive due to the larger problem of the UN's agenda being mired in a masculine, conservative framework that prevents it aiding most people affected by such violence in conflict zones.

Even the UN acknowledges that progress toward implementing 1325 has been varied, as the DPKO's ten-year impact study reached a mixed verdict, noting that gains have been modest in the areas of protecting women from conflict-related SGBV and attracting more women to work in peacekeeping roles (Ospina, 2010, p. 5). The problem of neglecting to address SGBV in peacekeeping missions can have wider impacts, as True (2013, p. 152) notes that such ‘[v]iolence is a barrier to women's participation in postconflict peacebuilding’. Attention to this topic is thus sorely needed in the peace and security studies classroom.

Feminist theory and analysis pursues an account of existing conditions at the same time as it critiques them; in other words, a feminist approach has both a politics and an explanatory dimension (Kirby, 2012, pp. 9, 28). This kind of analysis and recognition is crucial for research, but also for teaching practice. Most mainstream textbooks pay little or no attention to these issues or how they relate to peace and security. There are a number of quality texts by feminist scholars integrating questions of gender and international relations (see this article's reference list for a start), so educators may need to look more broadly, pursuing creative approaches to ensure their courses actively engage with questions of gender inequality. Failing to do so could perpetuate the dominant discourse that assumes gendered violence is not a security concern. When such assumptions are not challenged in the classroom, students may graduate with a lack of knowledge and preparation for recognising and contesting SGBV. This is especially important, as many of our students had previous work experience in the UN, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and other institutions dealing with peace and security, and many others may hold future roles as policymakers, practitioners or educators.

Role-play simulations as teaching tools

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. SGBV as a peace and security issue
  5. Role-play simulations as teaching tools
  6. Blue Zimbala overview
  7. Gendering the role-play simulation
  8. Moving forward
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Biography

While there are a variety of methods for teaching SGBV in peace and conflict studies, such as using pop culture artifacts and visual media (Rowley and Shepherd, 2012), this article focuses on role-play simulations as one potentially useful tool. Role-play simulations are aimed at imitating real-life situations and tend to include interaction and cooperation between students (Goon, 2011, p. 252; Schaap, 2005, p. 48). They have been used as teaching tools in courses dealing with war and conflict to model interactions between opposing groups, as they can help students understand the complexity and difficulty of managing peace operations (Goon, 2011, p. 250). Many benefits have been ascribed to role-playing, such as: simplifying complex theories through concrete real-world examples, overcoming inhibitions to participation, providing teachable moments through identifying gaps in understanding, developing critical thinking skills, testing whether students comprehend material, encouraging dealing with complicated issues that may otherwise have been ignored, applying feminist pedagogy through helping students appreciate complexity instead of pushing for authoritative answers, and challenging the educator's views (Asal, 2005, p. 364; Delaet, 2012; Goon, 2011, p. 252; Ruben, 1999, p. 499; Schaap, 2005, p. 48; Shellman and Turan, 2003, p. 281). Options like this for seeking ambiguity as opposed to certainty are important, since disciplinary boundaries are so often deemed to be ‘common sense’ in what they include, like states and war, and what they exclude, like gender and race (Chowdhry and Rai, 2009, p. 85).

Role-plays generally promote a deep-holistic approach to learning, which correlates with enhanced outcomes and fun for students by encouraging them to relate to key concepts purposefully and in doing so improve understanding and knowledge retention (Ramsden, 1992, pp. 53ff, 96–102; Schaap, 2005, p. 47). Moreover, the role-play environment requires reflexive thinking and the adoption of different perspectives (Schaap, 2005, p. 48), which may be especially useful in dealing with the often-unaddressed issue of gendered violence. At the same time, role-play simulations may encounter challenges and disadvantages such as time away from lectures, derailment by uncooperative students, dislike by students preferring solitary learning and chaotic classrooms with uncertain learning outcomes (Asal, 2005, p. 364; Goon, 2011, p. 252; Hativa, 2000, p. 111; Schaap, 2005, p. 48; Torney-Purta, 1998, p. 95).

Of course, it is important to acknowledge that difficulties can emerge in discussing such sensitive topics among both educators and students, as they often instill discomfort in both speaker and listener. This is not to imply that SGBV is somehow ‘worst’ in a hierarchy of conflict-related tactics of violence. Rather, it may tend to cause discomfort due to more people having personally experienced SGBV, even if they have only lived in ostensibly peaceful locations. Nevertheless, it is crucial that educators make a concerted effort to elicit and engage in such conversations in the feminist spirit of acknowledging the role of gender in violence and seeking sustainable peace. Doing so should include attention to creating a safe classroom space for participants who may be survivors of SGBV through means such as providing context-specific and culturally relevant support contacts should they wish to discuss any issues. On reflection, we should have included a ‘warning’ in the course packet for the various types of violence discussed in the simulation to give survivors of various types of violence the chance to respond in the healthiest way for them. Should any students report feeling uncomfortable on this basis, accommodation should be made for their needs in the most sensitive and appropriate way possible, which would vary by context.

Blue Zimbala overview

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. SGBV as a peace and security issue
  5. Role-play simulations as teaching tools
  6. Blue Zimbala overview
  7. Gendering the role-play simulation
  8. Moving forward
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Biography

Blue Zimbala1 is a role-play simulation that was conducted in 2009 at the University of Queensland in the graduate-level course International Peacekeeping. It was adapted from an activity developed by Professor Alex Bellamy when he taught the course in earlier years and has since been an ongoing feature of the course. In 2009 Sebastian Kaempf was coordinating the course (as he continues to do) and I co-taught through running the other half of the weekly seminars throughout the semester and cooperating in preparing and implementing the Blue Zimbala throughout the last few weeks of the course. The aim of Blue Zimbala was to familiarise students with theories of peacekeeping and how they might apply in a real-life context, including what challenges might emerge and how to respond to them. We hoped this would provide valuable information for students' current or future occupations while constructively challenging their views of peace and security and providing hands-on learning experience.

The exercise was a central component of the course, accounting for 50 per cent of assessment, including an operational plan worth 25 per cent and a final report also worth 25 per cent. Weeks before the simulation began, students were given information packs on the conflict in the fictional country of Mendu, including maps of the country and surroundings, rules and procedures, a refugee information sheet and a 40+ page background brief on the conflict. The background brief covered information on geopolitical context (including terrain, communications, political parties, economic factors and neighbouring countries), historical background (including previous civil wars and belligerent factions), a cease-fire agreement with numerous conditions and the UN Security Ccouncil resolution authorising the peacekeeping operation. Students' preferences were taken into account in assigning them to various teams to carry out the mission, including military, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), special representative for the Secretary General, media and numerous NGOs.

The exercise ran over three weeks. Operational plans were due before the first week, and teaching staff responded by creating the situations for the first week of in-class simulation. The groups needed to respond afterwards by liaising with teammates and other groups to address any issues flowing into the second week. Blackboard (an online learning management system) forums for discussion were available, and students could directly email each other or teaching staff, who were available to interact with students and represent any actors not played by the students, such as political figures, locals and belligerent groups. In the second week, the simulation continued, incorporating follow-up actions by students and introducing new scenarios.

Following two weeks of simulation, in the third week the press team presented a video and live show covering events to date, and a final summary of outcomes was distributed. The class then engaged in an in-depth discussion around what had worked, what had not and why. Most students actively participated and engaged deeply with the issues throughout the exercise and reflection period, employing theories and ideas learned from the lectures earlier in the semester. In the teaching evaluations at the end of the course one student stated that: ‘I feel this is the best tutorial I have ever experienced.’2 Another said: ‘Fantastic tutorials! There were interesting activities to participate in each week that covered important points, yet simultaneously enabled learning to be interactive and enjoyable. The atmosphere was always warm and friendly and participation was made to feel very easy.’

While Blue Zimbala has many commonalities with role-play simulations previously reported on, it has several distinct characteristics. Perhaps the most related teaching tool would be Peacekeeping: The Game. Goon (2011, p. 251) emphasised how this board game simulation uniquely incorporated both economic and military aspects with a view to long-term peace. Our activity embedded the goal of sustainability even further by accounting for and highlighting social and humanitarian aspects as essential components of security. Like Goon's simulation, Blue Zimbala dealt with the relationship between peace, security and reconstruction, and included material obstacles to building peace, such as specific acts by spoilers and episodes of violence, as well as funding decisions (Goon, 2011, p. 253).

However, Blue Zimbala differed in that students took on a variety of roles, built shared experience and included a human element in decision making. Throughout and after the decision-making process, opportunities emerged for introducing reflexivity through discussions. Moreover, while Goon's project incorporated economic liberalisation as a necessary component (Goon, 2011, p. 264), Blue Zimbala did not presume a particular economic model of peacekeeping, leaving it up to the students, who did tend to follow standard international norms rather than employing new or creative strategies for managing economies. Finally, unlike Goon's activity, which encouraged competition and risk-taking (Goon, 2011, p. 265), Blue Zimbala challenges the assumption that such frameworks are necessary, seeking to transform notions of peacekeeping from competitive–antagonistic to cooperative through work requiring students to organise within and across teams pursuing the same goal of creating durable peace. Organising in this way may also have gendered implications for participation since some researchers have argued that males tend to place more importance on identifying through competition and differentiation (Snyder, 2003) as compared to females. Hence, non-competitive frameworks may facilitate participation by some female students, although it is important to acknowledge that some women will enjoy and participate in competition more than some men.

Gendering the role-play simulation

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. SGBV as a peace and security issue
  5. Role-play simulations as teaching tools
  6. Blue Zimbala overview
  7. Gendering the role-play simulation
  8. Moving forward
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Biography

Another unique aspect of the simulation was the opportunity to consider gender awareness in conflict. In previous iterations of the exercise, gender had been mentioned rarely if at all in the simulation scenario, with the exception of the UNSC Resolution that authorised the peacekeeping mission including a clause stating that that the Security Council:

Underlines the importance of providing UNFOM personnel with appropriate training in international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law, including child and gender-related provisions, negotiation and communication skills, cultural awareness and civilian-military coordination.

I recalled how, as a student in this course several years prior, I had taken part in the exercise as a member of the military team, and had been frustrated when the appointed male leader of the military group, on the first day of the exercise, told me and the one other female in the group that we were assigned to deal with ‘humanitarian outreach’ for seemingly no other reason than that gender stereotypes indicated that to be the most appropriate option. I discussed this in my reflection paper for the course, explaining how perhaps this was a useful representation of what women often encounter in male-dominated security institutions, but it was disappointing in a classroom environment allowing creativity and novel responses to conflict. That experience made me particularly motivated to include more gender awareness when teaching and the course coordinator shared the vision that this ought to be included as a central aspect of peace and security.

Likewise, we modified the background brief and refugee information sheets, which were provided to all teams, to include reports that women in particular refugee camps were being repeatedly targeted for sexual violence whenever they went outside the camp. It was then left to the students to decide, along with the many other issues outlined, which team, if any, would address the SGBV issue and how. Ideally we hoped to see the teams with various roles, such as NGOs and military, coming together to discuss this issue, as they did with many others, to troubleshoot and propose plans for addressing the problem. Instead, what we saw in the first week of the simulation was humanitarian groups stating that they were not dealing with SGBV because it was a ‘security issue’ and military members stating they were not dealing with it because it was a ‘humanitarian’ or ‘health’ issue. It was notable how clearly simulations can reflect global realities of inaction on matters that have an impact on women's health and security. To be clear, no students were asked to play roles that included victims or perpetrators of the sexual violence, as we did not believe this would be a safe and sensitive way of dealing with the topic in the classroom.

Care must be taken to avoid gender stereotypes in calling for more women peacekeepers, as the UN and the media have often referred them as ‘naturally’ more peaceful (Pruitt, 2013). These instrumental arguments for more operational effectiveness rely on ‘affirmative gender essentialisms’, while principle-based arguments, like the notion that more women peacekeepers would help achieve gender equality in peacekeeping, tend to be marginalised, with the Secretary-General stating that gender parity ‘is not an end in itself’ (Jennings, 2011, pp. 1, 4–5). Women face many barriers to participating at all levels of peace processes, including stereotypes of peacefulness, responsibilities for family and work, limited access to training and education, and the reluctance of some men to give up power (Pankhurst, 2003; Porter, 2003). Likewise, Lopes (2011, p. 13) suggests that: ‘Peacekeeping operations still embody a hypermasculine militarised environment and thus, female peacekeeping personnel do not feel welcome, they often experience ridicule for being “feminine” and worst of all, they often become victims of sexual harassment and abuse.’ When women do participate it should not be assumed that they will ‘naturally’ improve the plight of other women since researchers have reported female peacekeepers noting that locals would react to their uniform rather than their sex (Karame, 2001). Henry (2012) argues that other identity factors certainly influence women's roles in peacekeeping. For example, she points out that caste and ethnicity-based differences persist in Indian peacekeeping, allowing ongoing marginalisation reminiscent of colonialisation. She cites comments by female peacekeepers expressing dislike of certain gendered behaviours of locals that conflict with the peacekeepers' own cultural views and expectations of how women should behave as evidence for this point (Henry, 2012, p. 26). Additionally, research suggests that within the masculine peacekeeping environment women may tend to adopt the ‘boys will be boys’ attitude and refuse to report their male colleagues for committing sexual abuse against locals (Jennings, 2008).

However, students should learn that research suggests that including women in peacekeeping can lead to important outcomes. For one thing, local women may feel more comfortable with them, especially in cases of SGBV where many may be reluctant to report to a male officer and barriers to justice may thus occur when women are absent (Pruitt, 2012; Vlachova and Biason, 2005). Research indicates that having female peacekeepers present may result in: calming dangerous situations, better behaviour among mission staff across the board – including reduced criticisms of male staff behaviour, greater mission effectiveness, enhanced legitimacy, fewer cases of HIV, fewer abandoned children fathered by male peacekeepers and fewer brothels around peacekeeping posts (DeGroot, 2001; Hudson, 2005; Mazurana, 2003; Simić, 2010; Sion, 2009; Stiehm, 1999).

With these points in mind, we wondered whether appointing a young female student who had volunteered to act as chief military officer (a novel change compared to simulations in previous semesters) would mean SGBV issues would be likely to be addressed. After all, the UN has regularly reported that the presence of women working as security personnel in peacekeeping operations will improve access and support for local women (United Nations Peacekeeping, 2012). However, much like research that has suggested that women peacekeepers will not necessarily be more empathetic to local women's needs or concerns (Simić, 2010), the young woman leading the military component of this role-play did not noticeably pay any more attention to gendered issues than previous or current male students. She, like other students, appeared at times overwhelmed by the complex realities of competing interests, limited resources and difficult coordination faced by those involved in peacekeeping, and along with her teammates in the first instance decided to ‘pass the buck’ on these issues to the NGOs, who, not having communicated with the military group on this issue, assumed the military group would handle it. To be clear, the young woman was not intentionally appointed to ‘test’ some essentialist claim about women being better equipped than men to respond to SGBV. Rather her assignment to the role was based on her volunteering when the course coordinator asked students to list the roles they wanted to take on in the simulation.

After the first week we pointed out to the students that the conflict-related SGBV had not been addressed. The military group, assuming that the women who had been attacked were leaving the camp to retrieve food, included as part of their operational plan for the following week the increased distribution of food in those camps so ‘the women would not have to leave’. While students were well aware that any ‘players’ in the simulation not represented by them could be communicated with via request to the teaching staff, at no time did any of the teams register any request or concern about talking to local women, though they did at numerous times take up this opportunity with male political, military and rebel leaders, among others mentioned in the original background pack or weekly update. The military group in the next week thus received the following summary response for results of their actions:

US and French troops have been re-allocated as ordered. Still no troops have reached the area where refugees pushed over from Ithana camp have been stuck, as the troops deployed by air to Dijian do not yet have any ground support vehicles to reach them there. They should arrive soon, but there have been major hold-ups given the poor state of the roads between Luaba and Dijian and between Dijian and the newly established Ithana II, making the transport of vehicles go slowly. Unfortunately, sexual assaults have continued unabated in the camps previously reporting this as a concern. As it turns out, the women were not leaving the camp to retrieve food (as assumed by UNFOM). In fact, they were (and still have been) going out to collect wood, which they need to use for cooking, heating, and boiling water to prevent disease. The numbers of child abductions from Hiringa camp are down this week. However, peacekeepers patrolling the perimeter of the camp have been fired on at least 3 times by belligerent forces seeking to stir up dissent among the local population. The peacekeepers have returned fire, killing at least 20, which has led to riots in the local area, as family members and supporters protest this use of force. Shabangu is also experiencing serious unrest and fighting over resources as a result of a huge influx of refugees arriving from Kimikanu after major flooding caused them to flee the camp there.

In the final session, when discussing the many issues and challenges that had emerged during the simulation and whether/how they had been addressed, we highlighted that conflict-related sexual violence had not been addressed, creating space for students to discuss the reasons and broader implications. Members of the humanitarian aid groups had deferred to military members, and military members had expected humanitarian groups to deal with SGBV. Members of both groups were able to reflect on and critically evaluate how complex gendered issues may not always fit neatly into the boxes of how we tend to understand conflict or peacekeeping, while acknowledging that SGBV must not be continually marginalised in practice. We asked questions to prompt reflection on whether they had communicated with local women at all, or attempted to do so, and the negative response led to some discussion around the implications of focusing solely on traditional masculine actors in conflict for peacekeeping operations' outcomes. We saw this as a significant teachable moment, in which it was possible to engage with gendered notions of security through including the issues within a broader complex security framework. While this is only about a quarter of the overall course, we hope students will recall the significance and reflect on it in future endeavours in the field of peace and security.

In reflecting on the students' failure to address the SGBV issues presented in the scenario, it became clear that we should have prepared them better for thinking in gendered terms by spending more time in the course on highlighting the importance of Resolution 1325 and feminist scholarship around peace operations. After all, in their masters programme very little time is dedicated to gendered analysis. There is one elective course that focuses on gender in international politics and development, but only around one-quarter to one-half of the students in a given cohort enroll in that course. Likewise, this scenario highlights the importance of further mainstreaming gender across International Relations programmes by including relevant readings and resources in courses across the curriculum. In a course like this, for example, where gendered violence was only a small component of the simulation, future cohorts could be assigned readings by authors such as Bridges and Horsfall (2009), Carey (2001), Cohen (2013), Higate and Henry (2009), Leiby (2009), Nordas and Cohen (2012), Olsson (2000), Sion (2008), Skjelsbaek (2007), Valenius (2007) and Wood (2010). They should also be provided with links to relevant UNSCR resolutions, such as 1325 and 1820. Through providing such readings and a couple of classroom sessions covering feminist theories and gender-aware empirical evidence, students could gain an understanding of existing intellectual debates, historical accounts and current insights into SGBV in the peacekeeping environment, including context-specific issues.

Conflict-related SGBV has tended to be defined as a women's issue, yet the gender-based violence men experience, including sexual violence, must also be recognised, condemned and addressed. This may pose particular challenges since there has been little data collected to determine how vulnerable men may be to sexual assault (Carpenter, 2006, p. 94). In future simulations it could be useful to direct students to readings (such as those listed previously) that address the issue of sexual violence against men and boys and/or include sexual violence against men and boys as a factor in the simulation to avoid reinforcing the notion that SGBV is a ‘women's issue’.

Moving forward

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. SGBV as a peace and security issue
  5. Role-play simulations as teaching tools
  6. Blue Zimbala overview
  7. Gendering the role-play simulation
  8. Moving forward
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Biography

This article has sought to share ideas on creative methods for introducing gender, particularly SGBV, in the peace and security classroom in engaging and dynamic ways. Doing so is not an easy, clear-cut task. For one thing, this simulation had the benefit of a substantial amount of time (three weeks) for implementation and reflection, yet some departments may not allow so much curricular flexibility. However, the exercise could be modified to take up less class time by further utilising online teaching resources or condensing the materials used in the classroom.

Although in conflict and post-conflict environments many forms of violence occur, sexual violence has been gaining increasing attention; some scholars, like Eriksson Baaz and Stern (2010 and 2013) critique this distribution of attention and resources as problematic, arguing that other violence receives inadequate attention, creating a hierarchy of gendered harms, with rape as the ‘worst’. However, I believe Henry (2013, pp. 4–7) disputes this argument well, charging that the attention to wartime rape may not be cause of ignoring other gender-related harms and may indeed open up options for dealing with gendered violence in other forms. In this case we included many different types of violence to consider, which I think is an appropriate way of teaching complexity and critical thinking skills.

Moreover, like Henry (2013) and Simić (2012), I believe there is a crucial need for disrupting dichotomous constructions of agency and victimhood. While I hoped the role-play simulation might offer ways of breaking this down since there were women serving in a number of roles, including military commander, my expectations were not met as the silences that occurred where women were victimised were not addressed. Had the students chosen to request to speak with the women affected (as they did with other populations) it could have been a chance to put forth other notions around agency even when victimised. At the same time, their mindsets were probably influenced by the lack of gendered analysis in this course in general and their degree programme overall, so in the future I would seek to serve them better in their preparation to see if their oversights might be addressed if we were to correct our own oversights as educators. Then, if students still did not include gender in their discussions, I would actively prompt reflection on the topic to query why that might be, attempting to denaturalise the ignoring of gender as an important security issue. These discussions should highlight that gender is not just a ‘women's issue’ and critically engage with differing views of gender for men as well. Higate (2007, p. 102) challenges researchers to avoid constituting militant men, including peacekeepers, as ‘controlled’ by their masculinities since this can certainly limit approaches for addressing sexually exploitative behaviour. Thus, gender stereotypes of both masculinity and femininity are important to break down in the classroom.

While this article focuses on SGBV, further mainstreaming gender in the peace and security classroom requires including gender across all elements of peacekeeping. As Bond and Sherret (2012) have argued, considering women and girls solely as victims can entrench false gendered stereotypes and fails to account for the complex realities of conflict. Likewise, future simulations could include gendered analysis frameworks across fields such as the makeup of peacekeeping forces, mandate and governance-building. Positive engagement with gender issues is possible across the International Relations curriculum, so further reflection on what works and what doesn't is certainly needed.

Doing so may have concrete benefits as many of our graduates return to, or begin, roles related to peacebuilding, including working for governments, NGOs and the UN. By exposing them to gender analysis, we have the chance to impact their future practice and policy making. At the very least, students may be challenged to apply gendered concepts to other aspects of peace and security studies. In seeking to continuously improve our teaching methods we may even be able to significantly challenge their understandings of peace and conflict and the impact of gender in the field. In both the literature and the classroom there has been and remains a tendency to overlook the importance of gender in the pursuit of peace and security. Creative, reflective teaching methods such as the one introduced here may play a vital role in filling this gap in a way that engages and effectively educates students about these important issues.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. SGBV as a peace and security issue
  5. Role-play simulations as teaching tools
  6. Blue Zimbala overview
  7. Gendering the role-play simulation
  8. Moving forward
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Biography

The author would like to thank the editors and anonymous referees for their helpful suggestions on this article. She would also like to thank Sara Meger for comments on an earlier version of this article, and Sebastian Kaempf for making it all possible.

Notes
  1. 1

    The name was chosen by the original course coordinator and has no significant meaning to my knowledge.

  2. 2

    In the Australian higher education system ‘tutorial’ is used to refer to what those in the American higher education system normally refer to as ‘seminars’.

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  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. SGBV as a peace and security issue
  5. Role-play simulations as teaching tools
  6. Blue Zimbala overview
  7. Gendering the role-play simulation
  8. Moving forward
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Biography
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Biography

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. SGBV as a peace and security issue
  5. Role-play simulations as teaching tools
  6. Blue Zimbala overview
  7. Gendering the role-play simulation
  8. Moving forward
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References
  11. Biography
  • Lesley J. Pruitt is a McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. A Truman Scholar and Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, Lesley has published in such outlets as: International Feminist Journal of Politics, Global Change, Peace and Security; International Peacekeeping, the Journal of Women, Politics and Policy and the International Journal of Peace Studies. Her first book, Youth Peacebuilding: Music, Gender and Change, was recently published by State University of New York Press and will be published in paperback in January 2014. Lesley J. Pruitt, McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Melbourne, School of Social and Political Sciences, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia. E-mail: pruitt.lesley@unimelb.edu.au; Twitter: @DrLesleyPruitt