15 to 16 December 2020, Captain Ellen Humenny, Op UNIFIER Gender Advisor (GENAD), visited the National Guard of Ukraine (NGU) Training Center in Zolochiv, to conduct a workshop with female staff and students of the NGU regarding gender integration in a day-to-day perspective in an operational context. Submitted photo.
On 25 November 2021, Capt Ellen Humenny and Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine Larisa Galadza attending the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence exhibit, in Mykhailivska in Kyiv. Submitted photo.
2 RCHA Captain takes on role of Gender Advisor on Operation UNIFIER
Posted on Thursday March 11, 2021
Captain Ellen Humenny, from 2nd Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, is currently deployed in Ukraine on Operation UNIFIER, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) mission to support the Security Forces of Ukraine. She occupies the role of Gender Advisor, who provides an advisory capacity to the Task Force Commander and her staff to ensure gender perspectives and gender-based analysis (GBA+) are applied.
Multiple Roles, Same Goal
This deployment is a unique experience in many ways. First of all, I am not only the GENAD for Op UNIFIER, I am also at the NATO Liaison Office (NLO) in Ukraine as their Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Advisor. One of the main roles of the WPS agenda, is to support women’s representation and participation in all levels of peace processes and security efforts. Those two hats make my role very interesting as I need to balance similar intents but in different ways. Op UNIFIER has a military nexus, while NATO’s WPS focus is slightly broader. More often than not their goals overlap, and it is a great opportunity for me to find those linkages and get the most out of them, to support both intents to their fullest.
The GENAD Role is
Crucial for every Operation
Often times, gender perspectives and GBA+ analysis can be easily missed. This is why it is crucial to have somebody engaged full time to conceptualize and ensure that all orders and policy being suggested and implemented are as comprehensive and holistic as possible. The GENAD provides a link to many relevant agencies within civil society who have access to resources and policies that otherwise might’ve been missed without having a point of contact.
If you take Op UNIFIER for example, the diversity of our Task Force here in Ukraine has allowed us to have a far greater reach and impact than what we could have achieved with a single homogenous group. Our diversity, gender perspectives and GBA + analysis have greatly assisted us in delivering training and capacity building programs here in Ukraine while also allowing us to effectively support Ukrainian aspirations to achieve NATO interoperability which includes integrating gender perspectives on operations
Challenges and Successes
The biggest challenge has definitely been working with the restrictions that Covid-19 has imposed on all of us. The GENAD position is highly dependent on interpersonal skills and building networks and connections with people. The Force Health Protection Measures that we have to follow to protect the members of our task force as well as the local population, push us to be innovative and create new tools to communicate, such as video-conference meetings, in order to do my role.
My biggest success to date is the training and workshops I conducted at the National Guard of Ukraine (NGU) Non-Commissioned Officer Academy in Zolochiv. It was an incredible chance to be able to speak with NGU personnel that work at the tactical level, who are directly affected by the legislations, policies, and doctrines that are being currently amended and created at higher levels. Sometimes, there is a disconnect from the strategic level and the tactical, a problem that I don’t believe is unique to Ukraine, but to hear the willingness of NGU members regardless of gender and ranks, to have the conversation about gender equality makes what I do at a higher level much more tangible and applicable.
Any Advice for
Someone who will take on the GENAD Position
on an Operation
Keep your ears and eyes open as you will learn a lot from others. Many individuals in Ukraine have been promoting equality for a long time and you can definitely learn from their past experiences as well as their vision of the future. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others as there is so many people that want to be involved in Op UNIFIER and the WPS agenda. Finally take in as much as you can from the operational context in which you are deployed, as any lessons learned can be applied to your future. When you immerse yourself in another culture it makes you see different angles and solutions that you can use back at home, as well as realizing how much your own base culture creates preconceptions in your head an unconscious biases.
From my point of view, to advance the cause of gender equality and diverse employment, as well as to improve our goals of peace and security in Ukraine, these will be objectives that can only be attained through time and effort. We are playing the long game and with concentrated efforts from all the actors involved in the process and the host nation — I am sure, with time, we can get closer to our objective. There has to be a willingness from all parties to instigate change, it cannot be solely approached from the outside in. The role I have here is definitely a growing experience, as well as an opportunity for me to bring all the knowledge and experience back to Canada and apply it.