It has been 19 years since the first resolution on Women, Peace, and Security (WPS), United Nations Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1325, was adopted by the United Nations Security Council on 31st October 2000, but the numbers of women participating in peace settlements remain marginal.
Recently, Agenda 2030 and in particular Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 recognize the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment in building just peaceful and inclusive societies. As such, progress towards the SDGs will not be achieved if women are denied access to decision making, and women’s agency in peace building. In the 21st century, women are either victims of violent or change agents of peace.
In today’s violent and conflict, women, and girls are not only the victims of hardships, displacement, and warfare, but they are also directly targeted with rape, forced pregnancies and assault as deliberate instruments of war.
Often, women are victims of conflicts did not create. Women’s voice and interests have been neglected by the peace process, which has led in male-centered approaches to peace and security. It is, however, worth to note that women have prevented conflicts and have been active in conflict resolutions.
Kenyan women’s groups played an active role in conflict resolution during the 2007/2008 post-election violence and participated in the implementation of peace agreements. This was the result of the historical presence of strong female personalities in essential peace and human rights organizations in the country. However, the active role of individual women, such as Martha Karua and Sally Kosgey, who were appointed as negotiators of the main conflicting political parties, cannot be ignored. Besides, Kenyan women were extensively included in informal and semi-formal, consultations during the peace negotiations and peace agreements.
Besides the international mediator, the late Koffi Annan, the formal peace panel was comprised of the members of the PNU and the ODM. Each conflict political party had only one woman among their four negotiators. Despite Karua’s political influence, she was able to secure the position as a chief negotiator; she felt discriminated against as a female negotiator.
There is, therefore, a need to involve women in peace building. It is essential to recognize the role of women during violent and armed conflicts as they are coerced in an assumption of new societal roles as head of families, and change players.
In the last decades, women’s functions in peace building beyond conflict borders mark the significance of moving women across the humanitarian face. It is important to have women take part in discussions concerning conflict-related issues. But such efforts from women have remained unrecognized over time.
In Kenya, women involvement in peace building is old as their experience of violence since the struggle to gain independence. Women have taken roles overtime in the memorial in support of armed conflict and other nature of violence, from freedom fighters to supportive wives.
Despite this, their gender identification gives them a chance to perform peace building that men cannot do. Additionally, some women have taken advantage of such experiences and drawn skills and capacity building that are in their disposal in oppressive patriarchal systems and utilized this for productive use in peace building.
There is vast wealth in a community which utilizes all the talents, experiences, and wisdom from both the genders, making it easier to address issues holistically. Communities which exclude women from participating in decision making and leadership or are so busy with household chores, then their talents, experiences, and wisdom of half of the demographic will not contribute to community life.
Women’s thoughts are always filled with how their children and grandchildren will be able to live in their own country in a peaceful and secure environment, how they will advantage from the structure of peace forecasted in the agreement.
They have the wider and longer-term interest of society in mind. Contrarily, traditionally in post-conflict situations, men are interested in ensuring that the peace process will give them the authority and power that they are seeking.
Achievement of long-lasting peace has to include the participation of women and the inclusion of gender perspectives and participation in peace processes. This is inclusive of informal peace initiatives of grassroots women’s groups and networks, organized party and ethnic lines.
Women and children are the worst affected by violence and conflict, which makes this a threat to peace and security.
This is a wake-up call to have more women participate in conflict prevention and resolution initiatives. This is to a time when Kenya is heading and preparing towards general elections in 2022.
There is a need to focus on the role of women as men in conflict prevention, especially towards electioneering period. Full involvement of women in peace negotiations at national and international levels must provide for, including training for women on formal peace processes. Gender perspectives should be an integral part of post-conflict rehabilitation and reconstruction programs.
To achieve sustainable peace, there is a need to focus on peace education as an essential part of building a culture of peace. Sustainable peace is inseparable from gender equality.
I look forward to women playing the most important and substantive role in making the transition from the culture of violence to the culture of peace. Bearing in mind that when women are marginalized, there is little chance for an open and participatory society.