Kenyan Women Excluded From Mediation Talks

Last week I wrote about the extreme violence that is being committed against Kenyan women, particularly sexual violence. Women and children make up about 85% of the displaced, a very large portion of those who have been victims of the violence and an extremely small portion of the perpetrators.

And yet, the mediation talks being lead by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan have been excluding the voices of women:

The chairperson of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK), Ms Isabella Karanja, said Kenya had ignored the United Nations Security Council resolution that supports women’s participation in mediation.

In 2000, the UN adopted resolution 1325, which stressed the importance of women’s involvement as active agents of peace and security.

“We are over 50 per cent of the population, but we have been marginalised and now we are requesting for an audience,” Karanja said.

Addressing journalists at a city hotel, Karanja said they were holding talks with the national steering committee on how they could be represented in the talks.

Former chairlady of the Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation, Mrs Zipporah Kittony, said women have been undervalued and under utilised in the ongoing mediation talks.

Kittony appealed to women in both ODM and PNU to set aside their differences and jointly call for cessation of violence.

A coalition of women’s organizations in Kenya has sent a memorandum with their concerns and requests to the mediation team. Other women have taken to wearing sacks as a protest, apparently as a symbol for humility what they see as the need for penance on the part of Kenyans.

Though Annan claims to be dedicated to women’s inclusion in the mediation, little action seems to have been taken to make this a reality. It’s arguable that Annan is taking a route that he believes will produce the fastest peaceful resolution and avert what has already nearly become a civil war. But when it comes specifically to the violence against women, peace made without the input and participation of women is a fragile peace at best, and an absolute sham at worst. The violence has reached a point where I have to feel that there is little guarantee that a political resolution would necessarily stop the sexual violence, even if it did stop the widespread killings (though I certainly hope that I am wrong). Rape seems to have momentum in this way, particularly when committed on a scale so large that it becomes expected and normalized. Women’s involvement in these talks to end the violence is absolutely not a negotiable point. It must happen for any genuine chance at peace.

OneWorld has put together a long list of ways that you can help, get involved and stay informed.  Do give it a look.

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