NATO Advanced Research Workshop

A Gender Lens Approach to Military to Civilian Transition and Reintegration for Ukraine Joint Forces Operation Women Combatants

Many NATO countries have prioritized women’s integration into their Armed Forces. In Ukraine, Canada, and other NATO member and partner nations, the advancement of women’s participation and integration into military service, followed by a successful transition and reintegration to civilian life, is a top priority. Much research has emerged in recent years that provides guidance for effective military to civilian transition (MCT); however, key areas remain understudied, including theories and frameworks with emphasis on the specialized needs of women transitioning out of military service.

The NATO Advanced Research Workshop was a six-month initiative to apply a gender lens to MCT and reintegration for Ukraine Joint Forces Operation Women Combatants, and other NATO allied and partner nations, with the goal of advancing this area of research, and ultimately, influence policies.

CIMVHR was a recipient of a NATO grant to co-host this virtual workshop, and representatives from Ukraine, Canada, and the U.S. attended. Throughout the sessions, released or releasing women military personnel with lived experience were given a voice to inform the workshop proceedings and outcomes.

The project included four key sessions: launch (May 19), consultation 1 (June 30), consultation 2 (September 15), and the final workshop (November 4).

May 19, 2021 – NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Project Women Combatants Launch

The launch event opened with welcome remarks from David van Weel, NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, Jaqueline O’Neill, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security, and Dr. Kateryna Leychenko, Vice-Chair of Gender Equality Commission of Council of Europe, Government Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy of Ukraine. The keynote address was provided by Dr. Margaret C. McKinnon, Homewood Chair in Mental Health and Trauma, Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Research, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, McMaster University.

Jacqueline O’Neill
Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security voiced her support for the advancement of women’s participation and integration in the armed forces, and the need for more research into this area.
June 30, 2021 – NATO SPS Project on Woman Combatants Consultation 1

The first consultation focused on understanding and framing the challenge for women in military to civilian transition (MCT), with opening remarks from Yuliia Laputina, Ukraine’s Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

Participants and speakers covered an extensive list of topics, including:

  • Overview of Women in Military and Veterans in Ukraine;
  • Lived Experience Perspective Interview;
  • Research of Veterans Needs and Attitude to Services: approach and preliminary findings;
  • Clinical experience in working with female Veterans;
  • A Canadian and International Perspective on Women and Military to Civilian Transition; and,
  • MCT from an American, International and NATO Perspective

Following the presentations, several speakers discussed the research-to-policy priorities to advance gender considerations in MCT for women military personnel. The event concluded with a roundtable discussion, and priorities and next steps for the second consultation.

September 15, 2021 – NATO SPS Project on Women Combatants Consultation 2

The second consultation focused on applying a gender lens to theories and frameworks that support women in civilian transition research, planning, and policy, particularly for Ukraine Joint Forces Operation women combatants, as well as Canadian and American women military personnel and Veterans. The event opened with Lieutenant-Commander (Retd) Lori Buchart providing a lived experience perspective through her presentation Only Thing Constant: Change. Successes and Challenges in Transition from the Canadian Armed Forces.

The event’s expert presentations explored two major themes. The first focused on a feminist perspective on Veteran and MCT research and included the following presentations:

  • On the Ukrainian Institute of Gender Programs; and
  • A Canadian perspective: conceptual and ethical considerations for women Veterans’ research.

The second major theme focused on theories and frameworks to guide research and policy impact in the United States, Canada, and Ukraine, with the following presentations:

  • A Canadian perspective: well-being framework for understanding military sexual trauma and living with mental health conditions like PTSD;
  • Women's Experiences During and After U.S. Military Service; and,
  • The "Journeys of Veterans": A Ukrainian approach to the transition journey map developed in collaboration with Canada and the U.S.
November 4, 2021 – NATO SPS Women Combatants Workshop

The final workshop in the series included remarks summarizing the various perspectives on MCT for women combatants from experts in Canada, the U.S, and Ukraine, as well as presentations on:

  • Military to Civilian Transition (MCT) – The Big Picture;
  • Summarize NATO, United Nations and Ukraine Support for Advancing Women’s Integration as Priority Citing Past Declarations;
  • Overview of Women in Military and as Veterans in Ukraine, Canada, and the United States;
  • The Needs of Women Veterans in Transition to Post-Service Life; and,
  • Integrated Summary of Issues and Challenges.

The event concluded with an open discussion and closing remarks from CIMVHR, NATO, and the Women’s Information Consultative Center (WICC).

Overall, the consultations and workshop provided a forum for speakers to apply a gender lens to their research findings, theories, and frameworks.

The final report summarizes immediate research-to-action opportunities and possible new projects and studies. Most importantly, the report and resulting activities provides opportunities to support women in well-planned transitions and reintegration into civilian life. The full report is now available.