U.S. Africa Command commemorated the 100th-anniversary of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, by hosting a special event at Kelley Barracks on August 26, 2020.
Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, director of intelligence, U.S. Africa Command, was the keynote speaker for the event. She spoke about the importance of women in leadership positions in the military and how she was able to overcome barriers when she was a new female officer and leader in the Navy.
"This is a topic that I am passionate about, and I have been passionate about my entire career because I think that it is not enough what we are doing now; it is not enough to reflect back on our progress," Berg said. "We have to continue to create an environment that we can attract and retain women, that women feel welcome and part of the team."
The event included speakers from the U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, as well as a variety of different leaders in the military, the civilian sector, and retired military women. They discussed a variety of topics, including a primary focus on developing better leaders as well as advising them on how to attain mentors in their career fields.
Since 2013 AFRICOM has been implementing Women, Peace, and Security initiatives through peacekeeping capacity-building activities and exercises. Increasing women's role in African militaries and police forces is important to build more effective national security institutions and UN peacekeeping forces.
"One of the things that I have been impressed by here in AFRICOM is the number of programs and different areas targeted at African women, military leaders, and upcoming leaders that showcase them both among their peers and helps build their skills," said Barbara Hughes, senior development advisor, U.S. Africa Command.
The U.S. Women, Peace, and Security Act was signed into law in 2017 to strengthen U.S. government efforts to prevent, mitigate, and resolve conflict by increasing women's participation. Since then, the Department of Defense unveiled its Women, Peace, and Security Strategy in 2020, counting three objectives to help guide the inclusion and empowerment of women across the globe:
•to exemplify a diverse organization that allows for women's meaningful participation across the development, management, and employment of the joint force •that women in partner nations will meaningfully participate and serve at all ranks and in all occupations in defense and security sectors •partner nation defense and security sectors ensure women and girls are safe and secure and that their human rights are protected, especially during conflict and crisis
"We are better equipped to support peace and security across Africa because of the contributions women make at every echelon," said Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command. "Reinforcing the value of empowering the entire population strengthens our country, our allies, and our African partners."
While some panelists attended the event in-person, following proper protocols to protect against COVID-19, to allow for broader virtual participation, the event was also broadcast online.