Language selection


Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations

Canada announced the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations during the Vancouver UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference in November 2017. The Initiative’s goal is to help increase the meaningful participation of women in UN peace operations. Originally scheduled to last 5 years (2017-2022), Canada announced, at the Seoul UN Peacekeeping Ministerial meeting in December 2021, that the Elsie Initiative would be extended for a further 5 years, and its mandate expanded. The second phase of the Initiative, from April 2022 to March 2027, will reinforce Canada’s commitment to gender equity and to the reform of UN peace operations.

Led by Global Affairs Canada, the Elsie Initiative focuses specifically on uniformed women serving in police and military roles. This is an area where the international community has struggled the most to reach gender parity goals. The Initiative also seeks to move beyond a discussion of numbers by working to increase the meaningful participation of women. This means ensuring that substantially more women are represented across ranks and functions—in non-traditional roles and positions of authority; in assignments that correspond to their experience and training; and in an environment that offers parity of deployment conditions and a professional culture conducive to their participation.

On this page

The six components of the Initiative

The Elsie Initiative consists of 6 broad components:

  1. bilateral partnerships with select countries that contribute troops and police
  2. the Elsie Initiative Fund for Uniformed Women in Peace Operations, a global, multi-partner UN fund
  3. work with and at the UN to create more receptive environments in the context of UN missions
  4. targeted research on women in peace operations
  5. global advocacy
  6. monitoring and evaluation

Addressing gender inequality in UN peace operations is a complex undertaking. No single country, acting alone, can provide the needed solutions. That is why Canada is working with partners across the UN system—with member states, think tanks and civil society—to identify how best to increase the meaningful participation of women in peace operations. The Elsie Initiative is an opportunity for Canada and its partners to create a more inclusive and effective future for peace operations, where missions are better prepared to deliver on their mandates and support sustainable peace around the world.

Working to increase women’s meaningful participation in UN peace operations

Today, more than 70,000 military and police peacekeepers serve in UN missions—but women account for less than 8% of uniformed personnel. Increasing the meaningful participation of women in UN peace operations is the right thing to do, as well as the smart thing to do.

Canada launched the Elsie Initiative to collaborate with and support the UN and the international community. The Initiative pursues transformational, sustainable and comprehensive change to advance the meaningful participation of uniformed women police and military peacekeepers, and to create peacekeeping missions that better reflect the populations they serve.

Despite many calls for change over the years, progress has been slow. Women’s representation in peace operations remains low: today, only 7.8% of those working as military and police peacekeepers are women—a 4.2% increase since October 2015 when Security Council Resolution 2242 (2015) was passed. Many barriers and biases remain in place that reduce women’s ability to participate meaningfully in UN peace operations. The UN and the international community have struggled most to improve the representation of women in military and police roles. For this reason, the Elsie Initiative is mandated and designed to help create change in these specific roles.

Canada’s work is closely aligned with the UN’s efforts. In January 2019, the UN Department of Peace Operations released the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy 2018-2028. The Strategy sets annual minimum targets for the participation of women in uniformed roles and identifies priority actions to create more receptive environments for all peacekeepers. The Elsie Initiative further complements the UN Secretary-General’s System Wide Strategy on Gender Parity, Action for Peacekeeping+ and Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).

In August 2020, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2538 (2020) on women in peacekeeping operations. This landmark resolution is the first to exclusively focus on issues related to women peacekeepers. It also specifically mentions previously contentious topics like sexual harassment and child care. Bolstered by Resolution 2538, the Elsie Initiative is well-placed to continue championing efforts to create more inclusive and representative peace operations, and to champion the full implementation of the UN Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy.

“Peace is why Canada launched the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations in 2017. People and partnerships are key to ensuring progress to create meaningful change for women in peace operations.”

- The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs

How the Elsie Initiative defines ‘meaningful participation’

Meaningful participation is demonstrated by the presence and leadership of women in UN peace operations, across all ranks and functions. Women can participate meaningfully:

Milestones of the Elsie Initiative pilot

Canada’s Elsie Initiative achieved the following milestones during the pilot phase (2017-2022):

The expansion and extension of the Elsie Initiative until 2027 will help ensure that gains made during the pilot phase will be sustained and will contribute to ongoing efforts in member states and at the UN to increase the meaningful participation of women in UN peace operations.

Troop and police contributing country partnerships

Canada is implementing bilateral technical assistance and training partnerships with the governments of Ghana, Senegal and Zambia, specifically the Ghana Armed Forces, Ministry of the Armed Forces of Senegal, and the Zambia Police Service. These partners have had significant success in the area of gender equality in UN peace operations. They are well positioned to partner with Canada to share best practices and develop and test innovative approaches to increase women’s meaningful participation in uniformed military and police roles.

All technical assistance and training that Canada and its partners provide through the Elsie Initiative is supported by strong research, diplomatic and political engagement, and monitoring and evaluation. The Initiative’s partnerships to address and remove barriers were informed by the application of the Measuring Opportunities for Women in Peace Operations (MOWIP) barrier assessment in each country:

Sara’s story

Learn more about the barriers facing women in UN peace operations (YouTube video)

United Nations Elsie Initiative Fund for Uniformed Women in Peace Operations

In March 2019, UN Women, alongside the UN Executive Office of the Secretary-General, the UN Department of Peace Operations and the UN Development Programme’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office, announced the launch of the Elsie Initiative Fund for Uniformed Women in Peace Operations. Canada has contributed a total of $17.5 million to the Fund. Other donor countries include Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, and the United Kingdom.

Canada and UN Women serve as co-chairs of the Fund’s Steering Committee.

The Elsie Initiative Fund is designed to use collective resources to increase the meaningful participation of uniformed women in UN peace operations, with a focus on police and military roles. It allows countries that contribute troops and police, as well as UN organizations, to access flexible funding to support the deployment of trained and qualified uniformed women. The Fund focuses on substantially increasing the representation of women overall and in positions of authority, in meaningful roles. Three funding streams are available:

See Elsie Initiative Fund - Funded Projects for a list of current Fund beneficiaries.

Contact Group countries

The Elsie Initiative is supported by a Contact Group of countries committed to women’s meaningful participation in UN peace operations. The small and diverse group represents peacekeeping donors and troop and police contributors, from nearly every region of the world. The Contact Group provided important practical support to the Elsie Initiative throughout the design and early implementation process, and now serves in an advisory and coordination role.


Research and publications

The Elsie Initiative worked with research institutions to improve global knowledge of the barriers—both contextual and systemic—facing women’s participation in peacekeeping. These institutions also helped to disseminate findings within the international community. Through the Initiative, Canada has helped make the issues surrounding women’s participation in peacekeeping less reliant on anecdotal and stereotypical claims about women peacekeepers and more focused on a fact-based approach that relies on tangible evidence to support effective changes in policy and practice.

The following is a partial list of research products produced with the support of the Elsie Initiative:

About Elsie MacGill

Elizabeth “Elsie” Muriel Gregory MacGill was born on March 27, 1905, in Vancouver, British Columbia. She attended the University of Toronto, becoming the first woman to graduate in electrical engineering (1927) and also the first woman to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering (1929). In 1938, Elsie became chief aeronautical engineer of Canadian Car and Foundry (CC&F), where she headed the Canadian production of Hawker Hurricane fighter planes during the Second World War. After her work at CC&F, Elsie ran a successful consulting business, and from 1967 to 1970 she served as a commissioner on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada. In 1971, Elsie MacGill was awarded the Order of Canada. She died in 1980, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“I have received many engineering awards, but I hope I will also be remembered as an advocate for the rights of women and children.”

- Elizabeth “Elsie” Muriel Gregory MacGill


Related links

Report a problem on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, please contact us.

Date Modified: