The North Rift Region has experienced conflict over a number of years, largely revolving around traditional and cultural factors. The discovery of natural resources such as oil and gas have exacerbated the nature of conflict in Turkana and Pokot. The largely conservative nature of the communities in the North Rift Region often translates into the exclusion of women and girls in many community structures and processes, including peace building and keeping, and conflict resolution and management.
Although women are excluded from these structures and processes, they play key roles rooted in tradition and culture in times of peace and conflict: women perform cultural rites to prepare young men for battle, they mobilize and coordinate logistics and services required by male fighters, and promote violent/aggressive behavior as a sign of masculinity. On the other hand, women in the region have been known to stand up for peace, and use their traditional and cultural influence to call for the peaceful resolution of violent conflict between their communities.
It is in this context that UN Women set out to build the capacity of 50 women and men on the implementation of the women, peace and security agenda in keeping with the Kenya National Action Plan on UNSCR 1325, and to impart context specific skills on gender responsive resource-based conflict management.
Hon. Grace Rengei, a former teacher with an educational background in dryland farming, has been actively involved in spreading the message that members of the historically pastoralist community can and should explore alternative livelihood options, as a socio-economic solution to conflict revolving around resources. Hon. Grace Rengei also highlighted the need to build the capacity of both female and male MCA’s to develop and implement gender responsive legislation and programmes at the county level specifically on matters related to peace and security.
The training brought together women from Turkana, East Pokot and Baringo and included women who are actively engaged whether officially or unofficially in matters of peace and security, including Hon. Grace Rengei, an MCA from West Pokot, and the area Chief of Kainuk, Sarah Lochodo.
The focus of the training was specifically on building the capacity of women and men to understand the gendered dynamics of resource-based conflict, and to build the capacity of women and men to undertake a gender analysis of conflict situations, and to resolve the same in a manner that meets the gender specific needs of women, men, boys and girls in the affected community.
The training concluded with the development of gender responsive county-based action plans to manage resource-based conflict and inter communal conflict in the North Rift Region. Key action points moving forward include the need to build the capacity of peace structures in Baringo (which does not have strong community based conflict resolution mechanisms), the need to support alternative and climate relevant livelihood options as advocated for by Hon. Grace Rengei given that drought and poverty are key drivers of violent conflict, and the need to constructively engage in dialogue those who benefit from violent conflict at the community level.
UN Women remains committed to building the capacity of women at the community level to lead and engage in peace keeping and building, and conflict prevention and management as per the Kenya National Action Plan on USCR 1325, because as Chief Sarah Lochodo succinctly put it “The Face of a Woman is the Face of Peace”.