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The military as an 'agent of change' for gender-relations in post-conflict societies? 

Evidence from Liberia and Mali (Gendered Militaries)

Gendered Militaries is a research project at the Department of Political Science at Lund University in Sweden. It is funded by the Swedish Research Council/SIDA and runs from 2019 through 2021. Associate Professor Lisa Strömbom and senior researcher Nina Wilén conduct the project research in tandem, with Strömbom serving as Principal Investigator.

The project centers around the broad objective of probing if and how the military’s work with gender integration and -mainstreaming has broader implications on gender structures in post- conflict societies. In-depth case-studies of gender mainstreaming and -integration are conducted in Liberia and Mali.

In order to see the impact of this work on gender relations in other parts of society, analysis of gender structures are conducted on micro-, meso- and macro levels in both societies.

The project adds a new and under-researched perspective of the military as not only an institution characterized by continuity, conservatism and hierarchy, but also as a potential ‘agent of change’ for gender relations in post-conflict societies. As such it generates new theoretical and empirical insights into how demands for change and integration are handled in closed and ‘total’ institutions  like the military, but also on how the military may act as a school for the post-conflict nation, possibly contributing to a sustainable, gender-just peace. 

The project aims to answer the following research questions:

  • How do individuals employed in the military sphere interpret and assess gender work and practices within the military sector? How are processes of gender mainstreaming and gender integration perceived by these actors? 
  • What role does gender occupy in official documents/discourses/practices concerning military reform after conflict in the two cases? What are the concrete strategies when it comes to gender integration and gender mainstreaming in the military? 
  • How have possible changes in gender relations in the military affected processes of gender integration and gender mainstreaming in other societal institutions in Mali and Liberia? In what way (if at all) is the military institution capable of functioning as a domestic ‘agent of change’ with regards to gender relations in the post-conflict societies at large? 

Researchers in the project

Lisa Strömbom, Associate professor
E-mail: lisa [dot] strombom [at] svet [dot] lu [dot] se

Nina Wilén, Senior researcher
E-mail: nina [dot] wilen [at] svet [dot] lu [dot] se