GNWP’s Localization Workshops in Kenya
By Grace Felten, GNWP
At the Localization workshop in Isiolo, Kenya this past June, a participant commented on how the local peace movement needed a platform centered on resolving conflict. Mavic Cabrera Balleza, International Coordinator for GNWP, explained that this is exactly what the Kenya National Action Plan (KNAP) on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 is all about. The Localization workshops were held so that civil society and government officials could come together to create Local Action Plans (LAPs), based on the national plan, ensuring that the policy would be implemented, and that it would have a meaningful impact locally. GNWP co-sponsored two of these workshops, along with their Kenyan NGO partners Amani Communities Africa, Rural Women Peacelink, PeaceNet-Kenya, Footprints for Change and with support from the Austrian Development Agency. The first was held in Isiolo, in rural central Kenya, and the second was in Bungoma, in Western Kenya close to the border of Uganda. The workshops were carried out in different areas of the country with different needs so the communities could decide how the new Kenya National Action Plan (KNAP) could work best in their local context.
At the heart of the Localization workshops were the dedicated participants and their in-depth conflict analysis. Although the two workshops were held in rural towns, they both involved participants from three different counties each. This allowed the scope of the Localization plans to be quite large. For those traveling from desert-like Marsabit to Isiolo, this meant a hot bus-ride of eight or nine hours. This level of commitment showed the concern regarding the ongoing regional conflicts, and the impact they have over the community, especially for women and girls.
A Muslim sheikh active in peacebuilding made the long journey because he was searching for more advocacy tools to use so that “women’s rights could be realized, not just by women but by their community at large.” He is part of an interfaith organization working with other religious leaders, including a Christian preacher also present at the workshop. They decided to rise above their religious differences to work together to help build peace throughout their region, as well as promote the human rights of women. When asked how he uses his culture to advocate for the rights of women and girls, he replied that it is not really possible as his culture largely discriminates against women. His tool of choice for both conflict resolution and teaching respect for women’s rights is the Koran. He described that there are many instances throughout the Koran that state the importance of respecting women and condemn any violence against them. He felt that, “a woman should not be discriminated against in any way.” This was a progressive sentiment coming from a religious leader who resides in an area of Kenya that is known as one of the harshest for women and girls. Rates of violence against women are high, as is the rate of female genital cutting (FGC).
The sheikh was thrilled to be learning the details of the KNAP because he felt like it aligned well with the Koran. Now, he explained, he would have an additional tool with which to educate his people. He described how he was primarily a preacher, but he also sees himself as a champion for peace, locally and nationally. He shared with us that he had seen a lot, and felt the need to question how women are treated in his community. It is difficult because of the attitudes towards women: men are discouraged from assisting women in the home, and women are not allowed to inherit property. Societally, he said, there is a feeling of disappointment when a woman gives birth to a baby girl and not a boy. He explained that traditionally when a woman would give birth to a girl infant as the firstborn child, they would bury the infant alive. He helps to educate community members that the Koran speaks against this. Currently, because of this old practice, many families in his culture still hide girl babies when they are born. He feels he is trying to do his part to affect change and has even tried to read the Bible in Kiswahili to see if this would help his efforts. He was eager to share his excitement over what he was learning at the Localization workshop, and how he was planning on teaching it to others.
One of the most important sessions at each workshop was the interactive discussion on conflict analysis. The findings from the conflict analysis led to the development of Localization taskforces and the Local Action Plans (LAPs). Each county formed its own breakout session answering questions amongst themselves such as what the main conflicts were in their region, who were the actors involved, how the conflicts affected women and girls specifically, what was being done about the conflicts, and what could be done using the new KNAP. From these discussions, each group prepared a presentation on their conclusions, which fed into the creation of the detailed LAPs, complete with a Taskforce and leadership roles for members.
They presented their results to the larger group so they might learn from one another’s process and continue with further in-depth analysis. Many similarities existed among the three groups at each workshop. Some of these included land and boundary disputes that were difficult to resolve and resulted in conflicts over resources. Other common conflicts were inter and intra tribal disputes and gender-based violence. These conflicts have impacted the communities in many ways: through community and family violence, poverty, lack of education, sexual slavery, early marriage, underdevelopment, and the spread of diseases. Many of those living within the regions were either pastoralists or farmers, and sometimes their differing needs from the land would cause conflicts. Retrogressive cultural practices caused barriers for women and girls, making it difficult for them to be active decision-makers within their communities, inhibiting the peacebuilding effort.
Lori Perkovich and Grace Felten from GNWP led sessions on gender concepts, which generated much discussion and debate. The participants mapped out daily tasks and labeled who was responsible for these tasks: men or women or both. They argued over topics such as the definition of ‘providing security for the family,’ and if women were responsible for this in addition to men. It was particularly interesting as there were members from many different communities present with different ideas on appropriate gender roles. For example, one participant expressed that if a woman built a house, a man would never move into it; it was a man’s job to the build the house and women’s involvement was unacceptable. However, in another community it was primarily the woman’s responsibility to build the house. Therefore, there was much discussion around the idea of gender roles being a social and cultural construct.
A Bungoma county government official responsible for gender mainstreaming expressed that she was aware of most issues affecting women in her area. However, this was the first time her eyes were opened to how security issues affect women and how this in turn affects development. Before attending the workshop, she had not thought of how security issues and her work run parallel, yet after participating she realized there is actually no way to separate them. She explained how she now understands her role as a government worker and as an individual in working to involve women in peacekeeping and in decision-making within their communities.
All the participants provided different perspectives that created a rich environment for sharing, learning, and growing. One civil society member who labeled himself a business man involved in local peacebuilding, expressed that it is important to change as you learn. He shared how he has learned about gender issues and discrimination against women by attending many workshops. Using the knowledge he gained, he tries to act as an example to his community. His main focus has been to promote sending girls to school. After learning about the possible health effects from FGC, he has also made the personal decision not to have the procedure performed on his two youngest girls. He explains to people in his community why he made the decision; he feels he is able to have influence over others because they know him well. Each participant added depth to the Localization workshops. They left feeling energized, hopeful, and armed with a Local Action Plan.
GNWP would like to thank the Austrian Development Agency for its support towards the Localization program in Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan.