AMBASSADORS WITHOUT DIPLOMATIC PASSPORT
How do you perceive the today’s world?
I perceive the today’s world as very fast, connected, demanding in every possible and diverse way. Social and international relations, politics, media, industry, medicine, or arts and fashion – all of it is moving forward so fast and it is hard to keep track if you are just observing. I am very happy that I can be a part of it in my own way. This refers to not just my current job but to my military service as well.
If I had been born hundred years ago I wouldn’t even have had right to vote in my own country. Today I am an officer of Czech Armed Forces and a member of the NATO Staff.
How do you perceive the Czech Republic in the today’s world?
In general, the Czech Republic is a small country but with great potential to stand out compared to the others. For its tourist sights, high profile leaders/personalities (NATO CMC is currently General Petr Pavel), writers (Kundera, Hrabal – I hear a lot about them from my colleagues), musicians, politicians, inventors, athletes (in Brussels the most admired athlete is Emil Zatopek), or beer and crystal glass, castles, the Prague’s astronomical clock. You name it…
I am proud to be Czech for all the above and more.
What is according to you the most important mission of NATO in the 21st century?
NATO’s main purpose is to safeguard the freedom and security of its members through political and military means. That purpose is as relevant today as it has ever been. The most important mission of NATO in the 21st century is to promote the democratic values and to encourage further cooperation in defence and security issues to prevent any conflict and to adapt to a rapidly changing security environment.
What is your current task at NATO?
I currently work as the International Military Staff Gender Advisor at NATO Headquarters. My main tasks are to advise the Director General and his International Military Staff on the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 – Women, Peace and Security and Gender perspectives; I am also the secretary for the NATO Committee on Gender Perspectives which brings together national delegates from NATO member and partner nations, subject matter experts and academics to discuss the latest progress and issues in this field. In addition, I coordinate with my fellow gender advisors at other NATO commands, facilitate dialogue with my counterparts from UN and EU and other international organisations and NGOs.
What was your biggest career challenge?
I will repeat a little what my colleagues say, but the biggest challenge is to do the right thing, the right way. My job is to mainstream gender perspectives. It may sound easy – human rights are women’s rights and therefore it is fundamental to support women’s rights in every way. Yet, to do the right thing might mean something different for every country. While in some corner of the world it is a question of survival, in the other it is a matter of gender pay gap and equal opportunities. In both cases, it is essential that it is addressed.
Many people immediately associate the gender agenda only with women. Equal opportunities mean we should provide the same chances to both genders and equality with regards to their lives, rights, jobs, medical care, and education. Last year we organized a workshop on conflict-related sexual and gender based violence at NATO. One of the speakers said that the worst thing to do to the gender agenda and to women, is to treat them as a special project.
Gender means both – men and women, boys and girls. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security adopted unanimously by the NATO member nations in 2000 recognises the disproportionate impact that war and conflict have on women and children and highlights the fact that historically women have been left out of peace processes and stabilisation efforts. The resolution and the other seven related resolutions call for a full and equal participation of women at all levels ranging from conflict prevention to post-conflict reconstruction.
To transform these commitments into actions requires a long-term and demanding engagement. I am happy I am able to take an active part in this endeavour.
We both attended a working lunch at the US Embassy, discussing the role of Army in supporting diversity. This issue is also important to NATO. What are the best practices that you see the Czech Republic would benefit from?
Czech Armed Forces, when compared with the other NATO nations’ armed forces, are statistically above the average with their 13% of women in military. On the other hand, compared to other countries, we have very few women in decision-making or command positions. I believe it is not a matter just for the Czech Armed Forces. It shows the cultural and social stereotypes and how we deal with that on a regular basis in the Czech Republic. One side of the coin is that women have to really prove themselves and also sometimes make decisions which are not necessarily a compromise but simply either/or between two options – family or career because the rigid system doesn’t provide any alternative to them. The other side is that women also have their own stereotypes that pull them away from going after their career and so simply give up too early or don’t have the ambition to be the pioneer. In military this is more visible because it is a very male dominated field. However, in order not to come across as too critical, in the Czech Armed Forces there is less and less of the ‘First Ever’ to concur and women are an integral part of the service.
As for the best practice for NATO, I would suggest calling for flexibility, proactivity and also the opportunity to share experiences. Although the progress at NATO is slow (NATO’s average of women in military is currently 10.8% and that represents 3.7% increase since 1999), this is the joint progress of 28 nations. NATO is about member states, but also cooperation and continuous discussion amongst them. We don’t have to always invent the actions, there are many programmes already are in place that can be easily adapted to become achievable and practical in the Czech Republic.
Can you predict your next career step?
I have no idea what my next assignment will be and that is what I like about the military life – the challenge of a new task. I have still two more years to serve at the NATO Headquarters and guessing what my options may be is too premature. Anytime I actually made plans for next step in my career I have received an offer I couldn’t refuse and you know what that means. Not making a reference to Godfather but knowing that such an offer will never come again. I hope that in my next assignment I will be able to use the experience and expertise I have learnt when working for NATO and build on it.
How do you manage to keep work-life balance while at the “service”?
Managing the work and personal life is essential to deliver the best of you, at any job. The family is what gives you the strength and support. Friends and hobbies bring you the diverse viewpoint you may start to lose when you are too overwhelmed by your job. This balance in military service is a matter of life and death sometimes, especially when you are deployed. At every medal parade after the return from deployment, the contingent commander and high ranked representatives of the General Staff always recognize the role of and thank to the spouses of the soldiers in their speeches. The deployment is without a doubt a mission for them as well, though being at home. Being deployed and knowing all is well at home gives the soldiers – female or male – the inner strength to deal with whatever the mission brings to them and helps them stay focused on tasks.
In my case, I was always supported by my family in my military career. It was not easy to leave them sometimes but thanks to the today’s technology you can be in touch almost anywhere at any time.
Besides that, I have always had friends and other activities which distract me from getting too much into the military routine. Although I am military, it doesn’t fully define me. There are many the other layers that make me who I am as well.
What are your final words for Czech and Slovak Leaders readers?
The world population is comprised of both men and women. Family, society and the state is built up by men and women. Let’s keep that always in mind and support the gender equality and diversity.
By Linda Štucbartová