In Women’s Absence, No Security for Kenya
Posted by Marie Wilson
Today, the National Council of Women of Kenya decried their exclusion from the current mediation talks being lead by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The Council’s chair, Isabella Karanja, condemned Kenya’s disregard for UN Security Council Resolution 1325 that supports women's participation in mediation. I’ve been paying close attention to Kenya’s dramatic social and political breakdown, and I can assure you that the exclusion of women from the mediation process is not only unjust – it is a grave sentence for the Kenyan people and their nation’s future.
The country’s rapid descent into violence and relative chaos was sparked by a crack in the veneer of its successful democracy, and attributed to tribal anger and the back-and-forth of ethnic reprisals. But the violence that Kenyans are suffering, and that we witness in disturbing daily imagery, is rooted in the nation’s lack of access to jobs and healthcare, inequalities in land and resources – all glaring disparities which are funneled into ethnic tensions. Kenya’s current malaise will only be cured through the acknowledgement of human security as fundamental to state security. And the issues which make up human security are the issues that women have continually championed worldwide: basic human needs like economic and environmental justice, safe streets, healthcare and education.
Kenya is not unique. With few exceptions, women have found themselves systematically closed out of the security debate – with severe consequences for national and global security. Which is why The White House Project, along with a myriad of other groups across the globe, have come together to permanently shift the way we think about, and enact policy, on security.
In November of 2007, The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands in partnership with The White House Project, the Council of Women World Leaders and the Women Leaders Intercultural Forum, convened the historic International Women Leaders Global Security Summit in New York, bringing together over 75 of the worlds most powerful women leaders in a Call to Action on international security. Under the leadership of co-hosts Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, and Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada, they worked together to tackle the world’s most critical security issues. And in the Summit’s aftermath, hundreds of women and men alike have signed on to this critical cause, committing their resources to uphold the bold imperative of crafting policy that holds human security to be intimately intertwined with state security. I encourage you to join this vital effort and sign the Call to Action as well.
We are witnessing moves in the right direction, and I am heartened by the women and men around the world currently working on issues of human security. When I was researching the new afterward to my book, Closing the Leadership Gap, I was buoyed by how far women have come in the field of security since the book’s original publication four years ago. But there is so much further that we need to go in order to normalize women’s leadership in this area, and truly listen to the women working on the ground when we craft national policy. From Kenya’s post-election violence to the devastation in Iraq, we need women’s voices to be an integral part of the conversation. As the scale of violence and human insecurity continues its rapid escalation, the critical paradigm shift on security cannot wait a moment longer.