LT COL Helen Cooper and Erica Dill-Russell in Ghana
16 December 2015
A New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) strategic analyst has recently returned from Ghana where she used her research into the influences of gender on military operations to teach at the prestigious Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre.
In a combined NZDF and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade initiative, the NZDF sent two instructors to Ghana to teach a module as part of a Gender, Peace, and Security Master of Arts programme at the Centre.
Strategic analyst Erica Dill-Russell and Lieutenant Colonel Helen Cooper also lectured on peace operations and conflict prevention at the Ghanaian University and spent a day teaching female officers from the Ghana Armed Forces.
Dunedin-born Erica, who now lives in Featherston, says she became fascinated by the topic of how gender can impact on military operations while deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Bamiyan Provincial Reconstruction Team.
Erica went to St Hilda’s Collegiate School in Dunedin and completed her Bachelor of Commerce Studies in International Business at Otago University in 2009. The following year she joined the New Zealand Army, and it was during her deployment to Afghanistan that she became interested in how gender was perceived on operations and whether gender could be used as a military tool.
“Gender had a real effect on the people we were speaking to, and on situations. Sometimes it made things easier, sometimes it made things more difficult. It was really interesting to me how I was perceived as a soldier but also as a woman,” says Erica.
As Erica analysed the subject, she found research on the effects military operations had on women soldiers, but little research on women’s effects on operations.
“While no situation is the same, gender can have an impact on access. Women are more likely to be able to access females in cultures where female and male members of the population may not be able to interact unless they’re family members. That can be a really useful tool in de-escalating situations, in providing humanitarian aid and in peacekeeping operations.”
New Zealand is second only to Sweden in the percentage of women deployed to operations and overseas, and has no restrictions on women in operations.
Last year Erica, who is also a reservist, completed her Master’s of International Security at Massey University with merit. Her dissertation was on the effectiveness of female military personnel on operations.
For more information contact Defence Public Affairs 021 487 980