DVIDS – News – Role of Gender and Protection Advisors in Operation Allies Welcome


With thousands of Afghan evacuees currently living in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, and hundreds more on the way, one of the top priorities for soldiers and personnel is to create a safe environment for everyone. To do this, Fort McCoy personnel had to understand the different needs of the evacuees. One of the most effective ways to do this was to bring in gender and protection advisers from the Ministry of Defense.

“This is a law that was passed in 2018 called the Women, Peace and Security Act,” said Sharon Feist, chief gender adviser for the US Indo-Pacific Command, and who is currently working as part of the McCoy Task Force. “Essentially, the US military is mandated to do this type of work, looking at the gender needs of men, women, boys and girls during conflict, because the idea is that men, women, boys and girls, and gender minorities experience crises and conflicts differently. Therefore, they are going to have different security needs.

Although military gender and protection advisers are relatively new to the military, their role is critical to the success of the mission. They deal with a variety of issues, from domestic violence intervention calls to connecting Afghans to different resources.

“Every day there are calls for domestic violence, for mediation, for trying to get the victims to a safe place, for coordination with law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, military police and d ‘other agencies, child abuse, nutrition and marriage, ”Feist said. “Different issues with pregnant women, such as their access to resources, ensuring that they receive antenatal and postnatal care. “

With so many different gender needs, U.S. Northern Command, the command in charge of Operation Allies Welcome, sent gender and protection advisers to every facility that would accommodate Afghan evacuees.
“We realized this was a type of perfect deployment,” Feist said. “What better place to help women and children and the diverse needs of the sexes than at US facilities hosting Afghan evacuees.”

One of the many initiatives advocated by Feist and Major Rebecca Brawner, the DoD’s senior gender and protection adviser at Fort McCoy, is to open an emergency child care center that would provide women and children with a safe place to go. stay.

“It’s like an emergency respite center for children,” Feist explained. “Basically, the victims of domestic violence can come and have a safe place where they can be interviewed, and if they have kids the kids are here and it’s also a safe space, that’s really the intention. ”

The center would also be used for a variety of other child care emergencies. Recently, an evacuated Afghan woman who was pregnant gave birth and did not have a safe place for her young child while in hospital. Feist was able to collect the child from the hospital and keep him at the center until the mother was discharged.

“We need a safe space,” Feist explained. “We checked the data, looking at how many women are going to give birth because they may need child care, and we found it was 80 in 90 days.”

Gender and Protection Advisors are also looking at how winter might affect the Afghan people and what initiatives might help them in the coming winter.

“I’m trying to make an assessment of what winter might look like on this population, because what ends up happening is more restricted movement, and often, we’ve seen it in the pandemic, when people are locked up, you still see heightened tensions within the household and more domestic violence, ”Feist said. “So we are trying to prepare to help mitigate that by finding more welcoming recreational spaces, and not just for women, but also for men.”

Another challenge that gender and protection counselors tackle is chronic child malnutrition. The transition to an American diet has been difficult for some, so launching initiatives to combat it has become a top priority.

“I spoke to an obstetrics and gynecologist clinic that reports a problem with chronic child malnutrition,” Feist said. “So they are already arriving from Afghanistan undernourished, and they have iron deficiency. There has been a transition in the consumption of American foods, everything is halal, but they are still wary… So OBGYN’s recommendation was a bottle of Pediasure every day for children under five which could be distributed in resource centers.

Gender and Protection Advisors are also helping set up long-term care for Afghan evacuees to support them throughout their stay at Fort McCoy and after they leave with their resettlement agency.

“Right now we are moving more towards steady state operations and out of early crisis operations,” Feist said. “We need behavioral psychologists because a lot of the issues we see are obviously physical safety, the safety of people, but then the trauma they feel and just other issues that they need help with. . ”

While long-term care is still in the early stages of planning, gender and protection advisers hope to create more tailored outreach programs that will support Afghan evacuees as they transition from Fort McCoy to their new home. .

“In the future, I really want to do more personalized outreach activities, have small meetings, phone calls and ask, ‘Hey, how are you, what are your needs,’ Feist said.

Gender and Protection Advisors working with Operation Allies Welcome have created multiple initiatives that create a safe environment for Afghan evacuees. Although their role in the military is still new, their initiatives have helped maintain a safe environment for all.

“The role of gender and protection advisers is absolutely critical to the success of the mission and should not be viewed or treated as an afterthought or peripheral issues,” Feist said. “They are the advocate of the people, especially the most vulnerable; they empower and elevate diverse perspectives; they are often the first responders; they are the integrator and connector of resources in the field and everywhere else; they solve human security problems; and most importantly, they earn indelible trust and respect from those entrusted to us to ensure their safety. ”

Date taken: 10.13.2021
Date posted: 10.13.2021 16:09
Story ID: 407188
Site: FORT MCCOY, WI, United States

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