Take five: “Gender equality and women’s empowerment must be prioritized in matters of national, regional and international security”


Tyson Nicholas, UN Women Strategic Military Advisor. Photo: UN Women/Australian Defence Force

Commander Tyson Nicholas, an Active-duty Officer from the Australian Defence Force, is currently seconded to UN Women as its Strategic Military Advisor. With extensive experience in conflict and fragile settings, he has previously served in various roles across UN Peacekeeping, the Australian Defence Force and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). We spoke to Tyson at the start of the Women’s Military Peace Operations Course (WMPOC) in Seoul, Republic of Korea, which trainees from 12 countries across the Asia-Pacific region joined to foster their professional development and to prepare for deployment on UN Peacekeeping missions. Tyson is the programme manager for the course.

What drives you to do this work on promoting women’s participation and leadership in peace operations?

My motivation for working on gender equality and women’s empowerment comes from having witnessed the differential and disproportionate impacts of conflict and fragility on civilian populations, in particular women and girls, and the desire to effect positive change. This includes witnessing targeted killings, sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence disproportionately impacting women and girls during my service with the UN Mission in South Sudan, and numerous deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the Asia-Pacific region.

What message would you like to convey to those not sharing your concern for gender equality and women’s empowerment?

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are not only fundamental principles of the right to non-discrimination, they’re also essential inputs for the achievement of peace and security, development and human rights. The research is definitive: gender inequality is a driver of broader social inequality and situations of armed conflict and fragility. Therefore, gender equality and women’s empowerment must be prioritized in matters of national, regional and international security.

Out of the WMPOC, what results do you hope to see?

WMPOC aims to prepare women to serve in UN Peacekeeping as experts on mission or staff officers. It also provides a pathway for women to take on leadership roles within UN Peacekeeping and contributes to the UN Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy for the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in UN Peacekeeping. The contributions of women military officers to operational capabilities in UN Peacekeeping missions are vital. The full, equal and meaningful participation of women is a fundamental right and essential factor for non-discrimination and enhancing the operational effectiveness of UN Peacekeeping.

What do you think should be done for women military officers who may be facing discrimination and challenges in their careers?

Structural and normative changes are required to shift the conversation and effect concrete change for the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in UN Peacekeeping, within their own Member States’ armed forces, and in the security sector more broadly. This includes identifying and remediating structural, procedural and cultural barriers to the service of women in what are areas traditionally dominated by men. Cultural change is essential and effecting change in these areas requires men to take action and demonstrate their allyship to advance gender equality, through programmes such as HeForShe.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work for UN Women?

The most rewarding aspect of my work is the ability to act and demonstrate allyship to advance gender equality and to address some of the most pressing needs for women and girls in conflict affected and fragile environments. This includes working on the full, equal and meaningful participation of military women in UN Peacekeeping and engaging with other men, particularly military men, on matters of gender equality.

Above all, the ability to effect the positive change I wish to see in the world is what I am most proud of.

The WMPOC is a UN Women initiative supported by the Integrated Training Service (ITS) of the Department of Peace Operations (DPO) and various Member States through both financial donations and/or their national training centres that lead peacekeeper pre-deployment training. This year, the course is hosted by the Ministry of National Defense in the Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea Peacekeeping Operations Center (ROKPKOC), with support from the UN Women Centre of Excellence for Gender Equality.