By Jacob Walter
As ethnic clashes continue to ripple through Marsabit County, State and non-State actors have changed tact to integrate women and youth in peace building efforts.
In what appears to be a unique opportunity to shift the societal status quo in favour of greater inclusivity for the county’s women, partners in community peace and inclusivity initiatives said the move could prove essential for lasting stability in Marsabit.
This was resolved during a three-day engagement in Marsabit town to deliberate on how women could participate and influence local peace and unity, security and disaster risk governance processes through a venture dubbed #MakingWomenCountProject.
Saku Accountability Forum (SAF) Executive Director James Forole said women could play monumental roles in steering the county towards war or peace, thus necessitating their involvement in the peace process.
“This three-year project is aimed at addressing the women’s capacity constraints and needs that had previously locked them out of the peace building processes,” Mr Forole said.
He noted that most types of insecurity affect women and men. Women function primarily as informants and other supporting roles in escalating the conflicts, rather than as active combatants.
Wives and mothers are among the most influential voices in decisions to join, leave or remain implicated in such groups. Women’s voices were found to be representative of their broader communities on a wide range of issues.
Mr Forole held that most women in the region had over the years, stressed a strong desire to become more involved in decision-making, but cited resistance due to the patriarchal nature of the society.
He blamed the predominant elitist peace building processes domiciled in conference halls instead of reaching for women in rural areas, even the illiterate.
The engagement was premised on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) and the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda.
The resolution supported the idea that greater gender equality and meaningful participation in peace building processes lead to longer-lasting peace.
The partners looked forward to cascading and adopting a County Action Plan for integrating UNSCR 1325, along with the National Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism (NSCVE) which has gone mostly unimplemented in the region for more than two years now.
The Project Consortium Partners include CIFA, MWADO, SND as the SAF implements the project through the funding by the UN Women Kenya.
Marsabit Assistant County Commissioner Paul Lang’at said violence continued to spread across the county despite concerted efforts to end them, noting that peace negotiations maintained a status quo instead of engaging diverse stakeholders.
He said findings show women could play key roles in turning the tide of conflict.
Nominated MCA Said Arero said women venture to collect water daily, where they can spot militias and security forces at the water sources and make their presence known to affiliate groups.
They are also capable of denouncing criminals hiding within communities or evading security controls to hide arms and supplies under their clothing.
“People generally see women as weak spirits. But the crisis has revealed time and again that women are dynamic spirits and invaluable to their communities,” said Ms Arero.
She noted that social, traditional and religious norms had hindered women’s participation in conflict management since the pre-colonial period.
The MCA was hopeful the peace efforts could improve gender equality even at the grassroots level, noting that it was essential to understand local community dynamics and work with women and men in improving outcomes for sustainable peace.