DCAFProgrammes › Gender and Security

Gender and Security

In most countries around the world, the different security and justice needs of men, women, boys and girls are not adequately being met. In addition, women and certain groups of men remain excluded from security decision-making and from participation in security sector institutions and oversight processes. DCAF has been working to support the integration of gender issues in security sector institutions and security sector reform (SSR) processes since 2003.

The integration of gender issues in SSR is recognised as key to strengthening the effective provision of justice and security services, oversight of the security sector and local ownership of SSR processes. For example, increasing the recruitment and promotion of female personnel, preventing human rights violations, and collaborating with women’s organisations contributes to creating an efficient, accountable and participatory security sector, which responds to the specific needs of men, women, girls and boys.

The international community has acknowledged the importance of a gender-responsive security sector, including in the Beijing Platform for Action and UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 (2000), 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009),1960 (2010), 2106 (2013), and 2122 (2013).


  • Support the creation of gender-sensitive security sector institutions.
  • Encourage the effective and gender-sensitive oversight of security sector institutions by government ministries, parliament and civil society.
  • Support external SSR actors, including regional and international organisations and donors, to mainstream gender into their SSR activities. 
  • Promote the full and equal participation of women in security institutions and in security sector governance.
  • Facilitate linkages between the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions on women, peace and security, the prevention of gender-based violence, and SSR; and dialogue between the 'Women, Peace and Security' and SSR communities.
  • Support the integration of actions to end violence against women, empower women as security sector actors and address the particular security needs of men and women in all DCAF activities.

Methodological approach

DCAF’s work is governed by the basic principles of openness, transparency, democracy, effectiveness, accountability, local ownership, inclusiveness. DCAF works with security institutions to help them create structures, policies and procedures to better integrate gender, and with civil society organisations and legislatures to improve their ability to be effective advocates and overseers of security institutions.

DCAF supports local stakeholders on their own terms and at their own pace. Long-term partnerships are prioritized over short-term efforts in recognition that local ownership is crucial for sustainability. These partnerships are often embedded in the partner countries’ National Action Plans on UNSCR 1325.

This approach is implemented through expert advice to gender-sensitive policy development and review; capacity-building activities for institutions and CSOs; assistance in norm and guidance development to national and international institutions; fostering collection and exchange of good practices; and promoting South-South partnerships.

Who do we work with?

  • Security institutions such as the armed forces, police, judiciary, corrections, etc.
  • Women's civil society organizations and female security sector staff associations
  • Local, regional and international organizations like the UN, OSCE and NATO
  • Executive agencies and parliaments

Areas of work

Key Publications

  • Gender & Security Sector Reform Toolkit (2008)
    This Toolkit is an initial response to the need for information and analysis on gender and SSR. It is designed to provide policymakers and practitioners with a practical introduction to why gender issues are important in SSR and what can be done to integrate them.
  • The Gender and Security Sector Reform Training Resource Package (2008)
    These training resources are a companion to the SSR and Gender Toolkit. The Gender and SSR Training Resource Package contains a wide range of exercises, discussion topics and examples from the ground.
  • A Women’s Guide to Security Sector Reform (2013)
    The Women’s Guide to SSR provides both information on the security sector and tools for action. It draws on the rich and varied experiences of women in civil society from across the world and shares examples of practical, and sometimes innovative, ways to influence reform from the grassroots.
  •  Gender Self-Assessment Guide for the Police, Armed Forces and Justice Sector (2011)
    This self-assessment guide is a tool for assessing the gender responsiveness of a security sector institution.
  •  Female Staff Associations in the Security Sector: Agents of Change?  (2011)
    This occasional paper examines the structures, mandates and activities of a sampling of female staff associations and networks in the security sector.
  • Gender and Security Sector Reform  (2009)
    DCAF Backgrounder on Gender and SSR
  • Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict (2007)
    This report demonstrates the horrifying scope and magnitude of sexual violence in armed conflict and is an important resource for security sector and development institutions, advocates, humanitarian actors, and policy makers seeking to address sexual violence during and after armed conflict.
  • Women in an Insecure World (2005)
    DCAF's first major publication on the issue of gender and SSR, it is a substantial resource for those working on violence against women, and as a tool to increase awareness amongst those not yet engaged with the problem.