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Female Engagement in Hostile Environments

Anatomy Lecture Theatre & Anatomy Museum
17/01/2018 (18:00-19:30)
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This event will be jointly hosted by Women in International Security (WIIS) UK and Women in War and International Politics (WIWIP).

Counterinsurgency strategies focused on “winning hearts and minds” and population engagement have led to the emergence of all-female military units known as Team Lioness and Female Engagement Teams (FETs). The U.S. Marines Corps set up FETs in 2009 to engage with local Afghan women – a segment of society inaccessible to male troops due to cultural norms and traditions.

Our panel includes a range of military and academic speakers who will discuss the creation and evolution of FETs as well as examine how these programmes have shaped the role of women in the military. Our panellists will also explore models of female engagement in hostile environments and the future of military leadership.


Nicki Bass served for 17 years in the British Army with the Adjutant General’s Corps (Educational and Training Services), retiring in September 2017 at the rank of Major. During her career, she undertook a variety of roles including managing the Army’s operational language capability and responsibility for all military education provision in the northeast of England. She also deployed on several operational tours including Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2008, she was posted to the newly formed Headquarters 11 Light Brigade. As the first permanent brigade-level Influence Officer across the British Army, her role was to ensure that the civilian population in Helmand was at the front and centre of any operational planning. She deployed to Helmand province in September 2009 on Op HERRICK 11; here, working closely with colleagues in the civilian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team, she designed and deployed the first UK Female Engagement Team trial.

Vix Anderton is an independent inclusive leadership and gender specialist with expertise in women, peace and security. A former Royal Air Force Intelligence officer, she has an inside understanding of gender and diversity in the military and conflict-affected states. She was part of the evaluation team for the UK National Action Plan and is now a Gender and Conflict Adviser for the Stabilisation Unit. She has been published in several peer-reviewed journals on the UK’s internal women, peace and security programming and policy, including a critical analysis of Female Engagement Teams in Afghanistan.

Having spent the last two years working in international development, she is now building a portfolio career, working with individuals and organisations to achieve meaningful change to empower women in all walks of life ( She can be followed @vix_anderton.

Cornelia Oosthuizen served for 10 years in the British Army. In 2009 she deployed to Afghanistan as the Educational Adviser to the Battlegroup Commander. During this posting, she was a member of an FET tasked with engaging the Afghan population. After retiring in 2016 at the rank of Major she went on to found Ridgeback Ventures Limited, a company committed to helping veterans transition to civilian life.




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