Captain Jennifer Wittwer, originally from Sydney, has marked her 33rd anniversary since joining the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service with a presentation at Monash University this week, in the lead up to International Women’s Day on Saturday.
“I joined in 1981 as a Midshipman, when hats, gloves and stockings were the order of the day, and a handbag was the closest thing to a weapon,” explained CAPT Wittwer.
Since enlisting, the dual qualified Maritime Logistics Officer and Management Executive officer has been instrumental to cultural change within the Royal Australian Navy and more widely the progress of women’s issues in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).
“I am particularly proud of a number of young, junior women who have over the past few years excelled professionally and personally through the various Navy women's leadership and mentoring programs which were established in 2008,” CAPT Wittwer said.
CAPT Wittwer was awarded a Conspicuous Service Medal in the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for her dedication and services to promoting the advancement of women in Navy.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be recognised externally across the fields of leadership, innovation and business over the years, but no award equals to the satisfaction I received from my deployment to Afghanistan.”
Last year CAPT Wittwer was deployed to Kabul as a NATO Gender Advisor within the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
“I saw first hand how necessary it is to integrate gender considerations into the planning and conduct of operations to achieve optimal operational effectiveness,” she said.
As the current Director National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security in the Office of Vice Chief of Defence Force (VCDF), CAPT Wittwer is dedicating her International Women’s Day presentation to the women of Afghanistan.
“My presentation was focussed on the development of women in the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as a means to provide justice for women, and to help protect and advance women’s rights.
“I am proud to say that since attending an International Women’s Day event at the Turkish camp in Kabul last year there has been considerable success with ISAF assisting the ANSF to develop mixed gender training and providing professional development opportunities for women.
“I never imagined in my wildest dreams I would find myself in the position I am, working through significant world issues and doing my part to improve women’s equality where I can.
“The Navy has been a fantastic platform to implement positive change for women both within the ADF and around the world.
“International Women's Day is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on, and support, the rights of women, women's equality and women's empowerment, here at home and overseas where women are disproportionately affected by civil war and conflict.
“This is the message I would like to leave with my two daughters, Taylah and Chaeleigh.”
In the lead up to the 2014 CDF Conference in June, CAPT Wittwer is currently working to establish Defence's role in implementing the Australian Government National Action Plan for women, peace and security.
Captain Wittwer was also recognised in a Defence Women of Influence Display that was launched in the foyer of Russell Offices, Canberra, in the lead up to International Women’s Day.