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Threats to women’s security are felt at every level of government and in every nation. According to the UN, one in three women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes; in some countries, the number is as high as seven in ten. The effects are far reaching, may last for generations and often undermine the lives of women and the security of the nations in which they live.
For nearly fifteen years, researchers have sought to highlight the effects of women’s security issues through the WomanStats Project helmed by Valerie Hudson, professor and George H. W. Bush Chair at the Bush School of Government and Public Service.
“We are trying to make visible and demonstrable the link between women’s security and national security,” said Hudson. “You can’t legislate on the basis of anecdotes. You can’t make policy on the basis of stories people are telling. What you need is data and some statistical analysis to show that countries that make efforts on behalf of women see those efforts repaid in greater stability and security for their nation. And that’s been our niche—to provide an evidentiary base for policy action.”
WomanStats began in 2001 by Hudson and Dr. Chad Emmett, a geography professor at Brigham Young University. The project has grown in the past several years to include more than a dozen researchers around the world, including in the UK, Turkey, Germany, and Columbia. The database began with only 27 variables using Excel; and now, having exceeded the limits of Excel in 2007, the database—now online—contains more than 180,000 data points covering more than 350 variables and 176 countries.
The project has caught the attention of the international security community. Hudson’s research has been vetted at the United Nations, the US Department of Defense, the CIA, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hudson has also presented her research at USAID, the US State Department, UN Women, and the Department of Foreign Assistance and Trade in Australia.
Hudson’s work has influenced policy. WomanStats data figured significantly in a recent Supreme Court of British Columbia case, which upheld Canada’s ban on polygamy. Hudson says she believes the work of WomanStats has also made an impact on the larger discussion around the issue of women’s empowerment.
“In terms of whether there are people who want our data, who want our analysis— yes, absolutely,” Hudson said. “Have our publications made a difference? I think they have considering the sales of the books, the downloads of articles, and the awards the books have received.”
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