A total of 14 regiments and bass were represented at the course and the course organiser, Anna Björsson, is also the gender advisor to the chief of operations of the Armed Forces. She told Radio Sweden that the aim of the course is to “strengthen the capacity of the gender focal points in different units and regiments around Sweden”. Gender focal points are people “with extra education and knowledge about how to implement gender perspectives in daily operations”.
The work of the “gender focal points” involves creating equal opportunities for men and women within the armed forces. On a basic level, Björsson said, it can involve making sure that equipment fits everyone properly.
“It can also involve having an understanding of how the actions we undertake influence different groups. On international missions, this becomes very concrete. For instance, our experiences from Afghanistan show that in order to communicate with Afghan women, we often need to have a female liaison officer who can speak to the women,” Björsson explained.
Björsson said that, as an organisation, the Swedish Armed Forces does not have a huge problem with gender discrimination, although there have been cases of discrimination over the years.
So, in a critical military situation - like if there if there would be a growing threat from Russia that might affect Sweden - how would Swedish military personnel benefit from having received gender training?
“It’s not that it’s always at the top of the agenda,” said Björsson. “It’s one thing that the organsiation needs to take into consideration… We defend democracy with the sharpest means and so we have to reflect those democratic values, including gender equality.”
Sweden’s minister for foreign affairs, Margot Wallström, has said that the government aims to conduct a feminist foreign policy. So, should Sweden also have a feminist defence policy?
”If you're asking me whether we should analyse what we do from a gender perspective, then yes I think we should. … There should be an awareness,” said Björsson.