Ten Years of UNSCR 1325, UN Women, and Beyond
Karambu Ringera, Ph.D.
“Taking lessons from women’s peacemaking initiatives that have transformed Liberia, Rwanda and Uganda, women from other parts of Africa are taking on more and more leadership.”
The establishment of UN Women puts women and their issues at the heart of the international stage where women’s issues, views, and voices will be legitimized, taken seriously, and heard. I hope this new agency will open a critical space for women’s voices to be heard and taken seriously not only at the UN but in every nation and office.
Ten years ago, United Nations Security Council (UNSCR) 1325 was passed. Today, it is shocking to realize that very many people in Kenya are unaware of its existence. But even more critical, there has been no effort from the government and other peacebuilding actors to integrate it into our laws and to guide the inclusion of women in peace processes in our country.
You see, in nations where patriarchy reigns, women are still struggling to free themselves from the shackles of cultures and traditions that consider women third-class citizens. In Kenya, women remain largely excluded from peace and security processes despite their efforts to preserve social order and educate for peace at the grassroots and lobby and advocate for the equitable distribution of resources at the national level, and despite international policies that explicitly call for women’s involvement in decision making at national and international levels. This marginalization hinders efforts to build sustainable peace and stable communities in Kenya. Women’s rights are not overtly addressed, while their recommendations are excluded from final agreements.
Kenya experienced post-election violence in 2008. Kofi Annan was invited to lead the mediation process. The Kofi Annan team of mediators had only two women, both affiliated to political party systems. There was no civil society representation at all. The process is therefore regarded by many as exclusive, because it addressed policy level needs and overlooked the root causes of the conflict. Many voices were absent from the negotiation table.
Earlier this year, 35 Kenyan civil society and political women met to reflect on lessons learnt on women’s participation during the Kofi Annan-led mediation process of February 2008. The roundtable and the research that preceded it concluded that there is need for increased training on United Nations Security Council (UNSCR) 1325 for Kenyan women. Some of the main lessons learnt from this research and roundtable form the basis of initiating the Training of Trainers on UNSCR 1325 by the Women Waging Peace (WWP) Trainers in Kenya.
WWP-Kenya is a consortium of five Kenyan women peace activists belonging to organizations based in or working in Kenya. They are: International Peace Initiatives, El Taller, Amani Communities Africa, Pax Christi Horn of Africa, and Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. We are taking strategic action by leading a campaign to advance UNSCR 1325.
Taking lessons from women’s peacemaking initiatives that have transformed Liberia, Rwanda and Uganda, women from other parts of Africa are taking on more and more leadership in agitating for an end to violence against women and children in times of war and peace as well as demanding the respect for women’s human rights in general, in their countries. Moreover, women are undertaking a proactive approach to security and peacebuilding because they have found that the consequences of violence are very costly.
Dr. Karambu Ringera is the founder of International Peace Initiatives, a global network of individuals and organizations seeking innovative and sustainable methods of overcoming the devastation of disease, conflict, and poverty in the world today through education, enterprise and empowerment.