ALLINN, Estonia – Hosted by the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association, the International Women’s Conference was held the week of March 6 to highlight the importance of women and their contributions to peace and security.
Maj. Gen. Linda Singh, the adjutant general of Maryland, discussed her unique experiences as a woman, mother, Soldier and contractor in a March 10 speech.
“While women have played a role in military and security operations for hundreds of years, it has only been codified in the mission of the United Nations in the last two decades,” said Singh. “Thanks to those women and men who have come before us recognizing the important role that women play globally, we are seeing an increase in the number of women in peacekeeping and security operations.”
The conference focused on the United Nations Resolution 1325, adopted in October 2000, which reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction.
It further stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. The conference participants discussed the progress women have made and how much more needs to be done.
“Without the equality movements, I would not have been able to serve in the military or even as a leader in the civilian sector,” said Singh. “When I think about the changes that have occurred…it has been monumental. We need to recognize and give credit for the progress, but we should not lose sight that globally, we still have progress to be made.”
Singh reflected on her deployments to Kosovo and Afghanistan and the different roles women have in their societies. She said she worked as a mentor for a male Afghan general and with other male members of the military and she knew that she could earn their respect through hard work. Though she felt that she was constantly scrutinized as a female Soldier and leader, one of her greatest joys was interacting with local civilians.
“We would visit with schools to engage with the students,” said Singh. “Watching the young girls’ faces as the women Soldiers came into the room was the highlight of the visit. You knew that even a small interaction presented a level of hope and aspiration for them that things can be different.”
She discussed her current role as adjutant general and working with Estonia as a part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, or SPP. She is working with the senior leadership in Estonia to help them accomplish their goals and objectives.
Since 1993, the Maryland National Guard has been partnered with Estonia. The SPP is part of the initial outreach by the United States toward new democracies in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The program emphasizes civil and military cooperation to foster democracy, encourage market economies and promote regional cooperation and stability.
“General Singh is an excellent example and role model everyone should follow,” said Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “She has overcome many obstacles in her life to become the commanding officer of the Maryland National Guard. She is the first woman and African-American to hold that position.
“With less than 100 days on the job,” Lengyel continued, “she marshaled all of her skills and talents to manage the civil unrest in Baltimore. We are fortunate to have leaders like General Singh.”
Singh closed her remarks with the importance to achieve diversity at all levels within an organization. She said it is also just as important to understand personal roles in achieving diversity. Serving is her passion, she said, adding that she recognizes that the fact she is serving something bigger than herself and that she must pave the way for those who will prosper as a result of her efforts. She serves to show others the way.
By Col. Charles S. Kohler, Maryland National Guard