DAF hosts 2024 Women in Peace, Diplomacy Panel

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  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

More than 150 attendees gathered for the 2024 Women in Peace and Diplomacy event hosted by the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs at the Pentagon, Jan. 10.

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Financial Management and Comptroller), Performing the Duties of Under Secretary of the Air Force Honorable Kristyn Jones, greeted international guests and other department leaders during a luncheon as part of the event.

In opening remarks, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs Maj. Gen. Julian Cheater expressed gratitude to the esteemed panelists as he highlighted the important contributions of women in diplomacy and foreign policy.

“We are truly honored to have ambassadors to the United States and their representatives from several partner nations on the stage to share their regional perspectives, thoughts on gender considerations in foreign policy, and personal and professional journeys as they reached the highest levels of diplomatic leadership,” Cheater said.

During the forum, three current or former ambassadors to the United States and a British Embassy Washington senior official served as contributing panelists: Kuwaiti Ambassador Shaikha Al-Zain Al-Sabah; Netherlands Ambassador Birgitta Tazelaar; Indian Deputy Ambassador Sripriya Ranganathan; and United Kingdom Minister Counsellor for Foreign, Security and Development Policy Lucy Ferguson.

Al-Sabah elaborated on what it means to be the first woman in Kuwait holding the position of the highest-ranking representative to the United States.

“Everything I've done, every career step I've taken, was very much about building bridges,” Al-Sabah said. “And if that's not diplomacy, then I do not know what is. I give credit to the leaders who identified this trait, who called me to duty again, but also want to make sure we all realize that sometimes we are faced with challenges and new opportunities that we never thought we would occupy. It is all a part of our larger configuration.”

With three decades of political affairs, human rights, and development cooperation experience, Tazelaar shared some of the important decisions she made that led her to becoming an ambassador and the people who served as her inspiration.

“What really was important for me was to have role models,” Tazelaar said. “We all know people like Eleanor Roosevelt and others right here. I had heroes in my ministry, but I also had to realize my first role model was Pippi Longstocking. From the moment I entered the ministry, the whole policy towards gender equality was really taking form, and there were a lot of things the ministry did in order to assist women to go to higher places within the ministry.”

The forum continued with Ranganathan sharing notable moments in her journey that would become pivotal for her career.

“At the Department of Commerce, I got a glimpse of life outside of the core political work that we tend to do as a career diplomat,” Ranganathan said. “That was a great experience in terms of figuring out how the rest of government works and why the work of diplomacy is important, not just for foreign policy but for domestic development as well. A second career-shaping moment came back at the capitol when I was looking after managing our relations with two of our neighboring countries. In the process of figuring out how to manage those relationships and how to make them really flourish and blossom, I blossomed as a diplomat as well.”

The 2024 Women in Peace and Diplomacy Panel helps enhance women’s voices as they discuss diplomatic efforts, perspectives, and critical responses to address the root causes of conflict.