Equal Participation of Women in the Peace Process is a National Issue!

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By Hannah Ondiek,

Kenya is making small though notable steps in including women in the peace process through the development of the National Action Plan to domesticate the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. As we look forward to the 12th Anniversary of the UNSCR 1325 on 31st October 2012, it is important to note that Women, Peace and Security is not only a women’s issue but a national issue.

They say that “half a loaf is better than no bread”, do Kenyan and African women as a whole share those sentiments when it comes to inclusion in the prevention, resolution of conflicts and peace building process? This was examined during the Heinrich Böll Foundation, HBF Gender Forum on 25th October 2012 in Nairobi, Kenya themed “Inclusive peace building for Kenya against the backdrop of UN Security Council Resolution 1325”. The Gender Forum is a public platform for dialogue on perspectives on gender discourse pulling together scholars, researchers, civil society organizations, government and public sector, change champions, policy makers and implementers and members of the public to converse and deliberate on gender perspectives of topical national issues and the gender equality agenda in various sectors. Since September 2001, the Heinrich Böll Foundation has hosted a Gender Forum in Nairobi, usually held on the last Thursday of every month.

The session was moderated by Mr. Cyprian Nyamwamu, CEO of the National Convention Executive Council NCEC, constituting a diverse panel including Commissioner Naomi Wangai from the National Gender and Equality Commission NGEC, Commissioner Fatuma Shukri from the National Cohesion and Integration Commission NCIC, Ms Joy Mbaabu the Director of Amani Communities Africa, Mr. Robin Masinde a Gender Specialist, Ms. Mary Mutuku a Women and Conflict Specialist and Mr. Phillip K. Murey the Wareng’ District Peace Coordinator.

A participant in the audience from Strategic Research and Mr. Nyamwamu shared some alarming statistics during the session;

  • Only 14% of the Kenyan population have confidence in the police;
  • 70% of Kenyans affected by the post election violence will not forgive and move on;
  • 55% of Kenyans appreciate the National Cohesion and Integration Commission;
  • Women make up 53% of the population but are only 47% of the registered voters and on the Election fewer than the 47% actually vote.

Analyzing this statistics from a gender lens means that very few women will report cases of violence and even be interested in the peace process as they may see no benefit to them and it may also mean that there may be a recurrence of the violence and as we know women are most affected during conflicts as reiterated in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1820, that noted that women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence.

The National Gender and Equality Commission, NGEC has a mandate to promote gender equality in accordance with Article 27 of the Kenyan Constitution and its target group includes women, youth, children, disabled and marginalized groups. Commissioner Wangai stated that the government, NGO’s and CSO’s should focus on coordinating the work on including women in the peace process in order to achieve greater success. She also noted that women in conflict suffer the most but are not represented in the peace process.

Mr Masinde, a gender consultant, mentioned the importance of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) as a way to educate the public. He also mentioned the importance of ‘Personal heightened risk intelligence’ which involves a personal awareness on violence and how do deal with the occurrence of violence in the best way to ensure personal safety.

Women need extensive capacity building in order to be able to actively participate in the process as equal actors. Women also need to be appointed as heads/chair persons of the commissions and not only be limited to the gender commission which people assume is the only one that involves women. This thought is archaic because the term ‘gender’ involves both women and men. The government has a mandate to ensure that there is adequate funding for the project to be implemented, as the project needs financial resources to succeed.

One of the major issues noted was the lack of action taken by the authorities after the ‘early warning, early response’ campaign. The audience were of the opinion that the Peace Committees should be dissolved since there is lack of public confidence on how they were set up, their mandate, and the fear that they can be manipulated by the top state officials. Though the audience agreed that the NCIC is inheriting a bad historical background and have a lot of work to do in cleaning up the mess and that even though we are giving them time, we are watching them closely and hope that we will see the results.

“Women need to be at the centre of the peace process and not only at the periphery.” 

Let’s continue this conversation. Connect with FEMNET @femnetprog or on facebook.

Hannah Ondiek is the Communication Intern at FEMNET. You can connect with her on twitter @hannahadoyo and hannahondeik@gmail.com  

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