February 2, 2006

Prof Discusses Gender in War

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Women in warfare are portrayed as either “gazing hopelessly” or “with a rifle on the shoulder, and a baby on the hip,” said Prof. Wenona Giles, social sciences, York University, last night in a lecture titled “Gender and Conflict Zones: Negotiating Globalization, Security, and Human Displacement.”

She felt these simplistic images are used to manipulate viewers, and fail to capture the complexity of the actual lives of women in conflict zones.

Giles is is the co-editor of two books titled Feminists Under Fire: Exchanges Across War Zones and Sites of Violence: Gender and Conflict Zones.

Currently, civilians make up an estimated 60 to 80 percent of all casualities in conflict zones. Giles described the increase in civilian casualties as a result of the encroachment of the “masculine military space” on the “feminine home space.”

According to Giles, women in these situations are at a disadvantage because they are “less monied and less mobile,” than their male counterparts. As a result, they are more likely to end up in refugee camps. The United Nations High Comission on Refugees describes these camps as places where people have nothing to do but, “progressively waste their lives.” Intended as a temporary solution, some have been around for 10 to 20 years.

Giles describes the situation as “refugee warehousing,” a practice that must be ended. During her talk, she emphasized the need for resources designed to help with long-term problems, instead of just humanitarian aid.

Giles plans to next study the UNHCR World Food Program and will be visiting refugee camps of Somalians in Kenya and Afghanis in Iran.

Prof. Josephine Allen, policy analysis and management, a codirector of the Gender and Global Change program, said these lectures are held so students “understand the issues and address them.”

Bethany Ojalehto ’08, stressed the need for more students to get involved. She said many students “are ignorant of their global impact