Violence escalates in Kenya, and women demand peacemaking role

kenyanwomen.JPGWe’ve been remiss in not posting on the situation in Kenya. Violence related to national elections has already killed more than 800 people. And the violence is spreading. As is the case in many conflict situations, sexual assault is prevalent:

It is now recognised that women and children are bearing the brunt of the raging conflict, and now the red light is on. Sexual abuse has been thrown into the equation, and these two vulnerable groups are suffering double jeopardy.
First, they have to deal with the trauma of being violently uprooted from comfortable and familiar environments to live under deplorable conditions where their existence is dependent on relief efforts.
Then, it is emerging that sexual violence targeting women and girls is rampant in the camps. It follows that the recovery of women and children already traumatised could be fundamentally compromised.

It’s no surprise, then, that Kenyan women are demanding a seat at the table during peacemaking negotiations:

“We are over 50 per cent of the population, but we have been marginalised and now we are requesting for an audience,” [chairperson of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK), Ms Isabella] 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.

Several women are wearing sacks in protest of the violence. Says one women, Philo Ikonya (pictured above),

I need to express myself through what I am wearing, and to pass on that message, the sack cloth is very powerful.
I shall continue dressing like this and urging other people to dress like this for as long as we do not have peace in Kenya; as long as we do not have justice and reform.

If you want to help out, donations can be sent to the Kenya Red Cross. And via UN Dispatch, I see there’s a benefit concert in Boston on Saturday.

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2 Comments

  1. jfaustus
    Posted January 30, 2008 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Sigh. I lived in Kenya for three years. Such a beautiful and (at the time) calm place. There was rampant insecurity, but of the criminal voilence kind (carjackings, muggings, hime invasions). No large-scale political voilence. It’s depressing to see it go up in flames like this.
    I hope the women are given a seat, but I’ve seen similar situations over and over again where omen are invited to participate because the international community insists on it. Once at the table, however, they’re subtly mocked and generally disregarded.

  2. ShifterCat
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    I read the article about the sacking, and while they talked about how wearing sacks was important and symbolic, they didn’t seem to say what it is symbolic of. Did I miss something?

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