Gender refers to the “socially determined ideas and practices of what is to be female or male” Shepherd

Gender refers to the “socially determined ideas and practices of what is to be female or male” Shepherd, (2008). According to Laura Sjoberg, the same term can also be defined as a “system of symbolic meaning that creates social hierarchies based on perceived associations with masculine and feminine characteristics.” It is of no equivalence of membership in biological sex classes. This concept has evolved through advocacy, negotiation and consensus building awareness. On the other hand, Security “implies a stable, relatively predictable environment in which an individual or group may pursue its ends without disruption or harm and without fear of disturbance or injury” Robert J. Fischer, Edward P. Halibozek and David C. Walters, (2013).
In some societies like the west tend to place a higher value on masculity associated term. That is to say that they place men on the top of gendered social hierarchy. This is a social construction and a structural attribute of political and social life. It shapes our life in, and, how we view the world. All people in the world do not experience gender in the same ways even though genders are lived by people throughout the world. Every person lives it in a different culture, identity language and body. As a structural feature of social and political life, gender consists of a set of discourses that represent, change, construct and enforce social meaning. There is a variation of the roles according to cultural, socio-economic and political contexts and some other factors, such as, religion, age, class, race and ethnic group affects them. These roles are learned and reinforced through social expectation, education, religion, culture, political and economic systems, and legislation.
The first resolution to address comprehensive issues concerning women, peace and security was the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, adopted in 2000. Being a significant and unprecedented document, it did not only recognize the negative impact of armed conflict on women but also emphasized the significance of incorporating a gender perspective in conflict prevention, reconciliation efforts and peace keeping. It also acknowledged the underestimated and untapped women potential as effected negotiators and decision makers. Later, UNSCR urged member states to intensify this effort for equal participation and representation of women in all endeavors of the peace and security promotion and maintenance. This was an important measure in identifying the nexus between sustainable peace and women’s participation in decision making. This initiative led to the Security Sector Reform (SSR) by United Nations member states.
Security Sector Reform is relatively a new entry into the arguments on gender and security. According to Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD- DAC) Handbook, SSR is a process “which includes all the actors, their roles, responsibilities and actions working together to manage and operate the system in a manner that is more consistent with democratic norms and sound principles of governance, and thus contributes to a well-functioning security framework” (2002). Its purpose is the creation of secure environment that is conducive to development, good governance, poverty reduction, and particularly the growth of democratic security institutions based on rule of law. Its theoretical ground is in the promotion of values of democratization, legitimacy, human security paradigm, local ownership, people- centeredness, inclusion and diversity and fore-grounding the security of both the state and the citizenry. It attempts to create an effective, accountable, efficient security sector through a set of reforms at the institutional, societal, and political levels. “There is a strong recognition that SSR should meet the different security needs of men, women, boys and girls .The integration of gender issues is also key to the effectiveness and accountability of the security sector and to local ownership and legitimacy of SSR process” (Jacob, Stanley, Bendix , 2008).
Having looked at all the above points, now the essay gives an account of some of the benefits or importance for the consideration of gender equality in all the security sector institutions in Malawi. These are:
1. Increases operational effectiveness. Female security officers are needed to conduct searches on women and gather precise intelligence. Local women and men see female security officers as more approachable than male ones. The other point is that the capacity to respond to gender-specific needs such as gender-based violence, human trafficking and domestic violence is enhanced.
2. Specific human resource skills and strength are added. For example, some women have good communication and facilitation skills. In the same context, some women security officers are being incorporated in peace keeping operations.
3. The other importance is that by including female security officers, states show adherence to International Instruments such as the Beijing declaration, United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR), 1325, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Women, by virtue of being human beings, have the right to do whatever men do and thus including being recruited into security organizations.
4. Gender maximizes abilities of women in their fulfillment of their role in protecting societies. Women like men have the mandate to protect the communities they live in. They are not there to be protected by men as it had been the tradition notion before this concept was adopted.
Incorporation of women into security sector meets a lot of challenges and below are some of them:
1. Cultural attitudes. There had been a tradition belief that women are there to be protected by men hence a discouragement that they should not be recruited in the security sector.
2. Family responsibilities. Women, unlike men, are more concerned with household chores like cooking, taking care of the houses and children. This makes them not to respond rapidly whenever there is an emergency issue.
3. There is unfriendly equipment and uniform design for females. For instance, in some cases women put on uniforms designed for males and carry heavy weapons suitable for males.
4. Lack of role models. In most instances, there is lack of female security officers who can play as role models to inspire girls joining the sector hence a decrease in number.