In recognition of the 15th anniversary of UNSCR 1325 and in response to the call in UNSCR 1325 urging consultation with local grassroots women’s groups UN Women in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden organized the fifth commemoration of the Open Day on Women, Peace and Security in Kenya dubbed ‘’Women’s day for Peace” in Wajir County that took place on 4th February 2016.
Wajir County is in the northern region of Kenya bordering Somalia and has constantly been faced with threats and conflict related to terrorism, radicalization and Gender Based Violence that has seen the majority of the casualties being women. Yet, women in the early 1990s who spearheaded the Wajir peace process, which has been showcased globally today as a best practice when it comes to community -led peace initiatives.
Women peace activists in Wajir celebrate their achievements in peace processes:
The event provided a platform for women to articulate and amplify their voices as well as highlight their roles and the importance of their participation and representation in conflict resolution, peace negotiation and peace building. It also served as an opportunity for women and peace activists in Wajir to celebrate their achievements and contributions to Wajir’s peace process and the County’s development.
The event was graced by the Governor of Wajir County H.E. Ahmed Abdullahi Mohamed, the Swedish Ambassador to Kenya Ambassador Johan Borgstam, the UN Women Kenya Country Director Ms. Zebib Kavuma, Hon. Fatuma Ibrahim Ali- County MP, County Director of youth and gender, representative of the County Commissioner Mr. Ole Talal, Traditional peace leaders and elders, women peace advocates from Wajir Women for Peace Organization as well as Maendeleo ya Wanawake and students representative from Furaha Day Mixed Secondary School Peace club.
Focus points of discussion and engagement during the event were protection of women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence during and after conflict; inclusivity in conflict prevention, peace negotiations, peace-building, recovery and reconstruction; participation and representation in decision making processes; and the role of peace leaders and elders in promoting peace and fighting GBV.
Inclusion of women in peace processes is important for lasting peace:
Ambassador Brogstam reiterating Sweden’s commitment to championing human rights and women rights globally highlighted that women inclusivity in peace processes is vital in achieving not only successful but lasting negotiations. “When it comes to solving conflicts, women are left out of the negotiation table. This is why peace negotiations do not last”
From L – R: UN Women Kenya Coutry Director Zebib Kavuma, the Swedish Ambassador to Kenya Ambassador Johan Borgstam and the Governor of Wajir County H.E. Ahmed Abdullahi Mohamed (Photo by Kennedy Okoth)
The ambassador further pointed out the importance of establishing peace at the family level in order to establish peace at the community and society at large stating that most of the domestic violence is propagated by people closer to the victims like a brother or a husband. He further challenged men to take a strong stand against GBV perpetrators. This involves taking action to perpetrators even if they are close family members.
Wajir County has a desk that handles GBV cases:
Governor Ahmed Abdullahi, in his remarks called for the institutionalization of the Wajir peace model to deal with the security concerns in the County and noted that GBV issues continue partly because of the culture and the patriarchal nature of the society. In order to address all gender issues with regards to domestic violence and female genital mutilation, the County has established a gender desk and will launch a 24 hour toll free number in March 2016.
Women should be more involved in formal peace processes:
UN Women Kenya Country Director in calling for the recognition of women as integral in conflict prevention and peace processes stated that “Women are active agents of transformative and sustainable change and peace regardless of society constantly victimizing them-noting that their representation in formal peace processes and negotiations continues to remain unacceptably low, not only in the region but also the country as a whole 15 years after the UNSCR 1325.
L-R: The Alfatah Council of Elders and women peace advocates (Photo By Kennedy Okoth)
The Alfatah Council of Elders also acknowledged that there is still room for improvement in as far as GBV is concerned, irrespective of having registered some improvement. They further reiterated their commitment to fighting GBV and promoting women’s empowerment.