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Role of women in conflict resolution underrated, Omamo tells security council

By Patrick Vidija | October 22nd 2021

CS Amb Raychelle Omamo (right) with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (C) walk through the Photoville Exhibition, New York. [Twitter/CS Omamo]

The role of women at the local level and at the heart of conflict zones remains overlooked and underrated, Kenya has told the United Nation’s Security Council.

In a debate on women and peace security at the UN headquarters in New York, Kenya said sustainable peace must be owned and nurtured by communities and families in the first instance.

While leading the debate, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo said it is necessary to uplift and amplify the voices of women to bolster their contributions to conflict prevention and peacemaking.

Omamo said this demands investment in women across the peace-building and peacekeeping continuum.

She said women are quietly working, organising and mobilising for peace at the grassroots, in villages, in IDP and refugee camps, in sprawling informal settlements and myriads of other locations.

The CS maintained that these women are rebuilding broken communities, forging reconciliation, agitating for their rights, even in the face of disruption and displacement, sexual and gender-based violence and the brutality of the conflict itself. 

“Peace cannot be confined to meetings and speeches in conference halls, but must spread from the streets. In this sense, peacebuilding and peacekeeping are manifestations of the dignity, courage, tenacity and ambition of ordinary people,” said Omamo.

CS Raychelle Omamo with UN Secretary-General @antonioguterres walk through the Photoville Exhibition. [Twitter/CS Omamo]

The CS said the Council and other UN agencies continue to encourage and design peace processes that are inclusive of the people, and particularly women at the grassroots level. 

“We must therefore purpose “to see women”, we must make their work, their experiences and accomplishments visible. We must invest in them, we must walk in their pathways, on their streets in order to incorporate their ambitions and needs into national and international policies and strategies and fully comprehend their interventions in the construction and maintenance of peace,” Omamo said.

According to Omamo, in conflict-affected zones, investment in women must correspond to context and the threat environment.

She said governments ought to invest in the physical protection of women and girls from abuse and violence.

“We must invest in the homegrown, conflict management skills and knowledge of local women. We must invest in building capacity for new mediation and negotiation competencies. We must invest in livelihoods and the recovery of women and children,” she said adding, “We must invest in their peace and rights advocacy and utilize their agency as interlocutors in counter violent extremism programmes, in DDR initiatives and in climate action and adaptation interventions in conflict zones.”

Omamo said women must be brought from the periphery to the centre of the Council’s peace and security agenda.

“Our peace must be owned by women. Kenya is committed to this investment in local women,” she said.

In this regard, the CS said Kenya is pushing for enhanced collaboration with key stakeholders and partners to generate gender and age-informed disaggregated data, especially in regard to addressing the causes, drivers and accelerators of conflict as one of its action points.

CS Raychelle Omamo (2nd left) said women must be brought from the periphery to the centre of the Council’s peace and security agenda. [Twitter/CS Omamo]

The CS said national action plans must deliberately take into account the contribution and participation of women at the grassroots level and provide budget lines, support and targeted programmes to amplify their voices, build capacity, and resilience.

“A key role of women peacekeepers must be the protection of women and children in conflict zones. In this regard, women peacekeepers must acquire new skills and competencies. From our experience in Somalia, we have identified women as key drivers of peace at our Humanitarian Peace Support School,” she said.

She said Nairobi pushes for investment in meaningful partnerships between women and peace mission personnel.

“For instance, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) deployed an all-women platoon to the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Further, the agency of local women in early warning and prevention should be better utilized and incorporated into national regional and sub-regional early warning mechanisms, such as FemWise-Africa,” Omamo noted.

She said peace mission support should ensure that post-conflict reconstruction and development processes involve women in relief and recovery, security sector reform, demobilization, disarmament and reintegration (DDR) processes.

She said there is also a need for the provision of context-appropriate psycho-social and legal support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. 

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