This is a letter from Deputy Editor-in-Chief Isabela Betoret Garcia on the occasion of International Women’s Day reflecting on the role of women in the fields of security and conflict. Over the past two years, Strife has gone through a conscious effort to improve the representation and engagement of women at the blog and journal.
In 2020 52% of our contributors were women. The Women in Writing Mentoring Programme kicked off in October 2020 with the objective of inspiring more women to write. As of March 2021, 47% of our staff is female.
I joined Strife in the second year of my undergraduate. I remember joking that I did not have a choice. My seminar leader, who had been with Strife for years, had often talked to me about writing for the blog but I never felt like I had anything worth saying. Eventually, he approached me with an open position for BA Representative and it did not feel like a question anymore. The offer said: you want this, and you are not letting yourself do it.
Ever since I was a child I remember wanting to lead. Ever since I was a child, I remember being made to feel guilty for it.
The saddest part is that those who made me question my value, those who made me feel that my strengths were my weaknesses, and what made me feel strong was just being stubborn, were other women.
Perhaps it is because we have been told that there is not enough space for all of us at the top, perhaps it is because we were taught to react against what society perceives as ‘unfeminine, or maybe it was just jealousy that one of us was brave enough to be herself in a world that is screaming against it.
It was not a conscious choice, it was not a vow, it was simply a matter of principle: I have made sure that I never tear another woman down but help uplift her. I have surrounded myself with brilliant minds; women I admire, women I want to be like, women who I would walk into battle for because they would do the same for me.
Reaching the top has certainly been a battle.
We are women in a field that has been dominated by men for centuries—but not because we were not present. Women have always been a part of the history of conflict; year by year we tore ourselves out of the footnotes onto the pages, the covers, the titles, the authors.
From nameless figures to victims, to martyrs, to fighters, and finally to the ones holding the pen. The ones who make the calls, the ones who say how the story goes.
I think of a very young me and the fear of being in the spotlight inspired. I was not afraid because I did not want it, I was afraid of wanting it too much and that the longing for it without the validation or the support would destroy me.
Women reached this place by walking through fire only to realise that we could not get burnt. We reached this place by seeing that there is room for all of us and more. By reaching out and calling and saying: you want this, and I am here to show you: you can have it.
I am incredibly proud of the team we have built at Strife. A team that looks for talent and skill, but also stops to look for it in places that were once neglected.
We have a strong team because we, men and women, look out for each other, support each other, and celebrate each other’s talent.
I can only hope the world will one day look like the one we have built for ourselves here.
Happy International Women’s Day to all our staff—it is only possible because of the efforts of each and every one of you.
Isabela Betoret Garcia
Isabela is a first-year part-time Terrorism, Security, and Society MA. She graduated from King’s College London in 2020 with a BA in War Studies and History, and she is also a graduate of King’s Foundations. After writing her dissertation on the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right Rally’ she became fascinated by the topic of radicalisation and the alt-right. She knits in her spare time.
Isabela originally joined Strife during her second year as a BA representative and then moved on to manage social media before being handed control over our newest outreach programmes, including the Women In Writing Mentoring Scheme.
You can follow her on Twitter @isa_betoret