News 2008


Women have set their minds on promoting peace

Daily Nation


10. March 2008

Guns may be fired, machetes may be wielded and manly egos may fly from one corner of the earth to the other but when it is time for the woman’s heart to act, the world will be forced to listen.

The men have signed on the dotted line and committed this country to a grand coalition. The time has come for Kenyan women to act. The women are taking up their rightful place to make sure that a lasting peaceful solution is sustained.

The heart of the woman of Kenya has taken too much to remain silent, not when women who know their worth are standing up to be counted. That is why a woman’s coalition has been burning the midnight oil, reaching out to the daughters of Eve to maintain sobriety in holding the peace of our nation.

“We want to stand out there and hold peaceful vigils. We shall be wearing white to signify the peace that we so crave. We want to show our solidarity with the Annan-led mediation team – to emphasize that the killings and violence in parts of the country have to stop,” says Florence Mpaayei, one of the co-ordinators of the women’s coalition.

Bleeding souls

Hers is the voice speaking for the bleeding souls of women tired of the killings and violence that have rocked the country for the last two months. The women maintain that this peaceful power-sharing deal must be safeguarded at all costs.

These women made sure that their voices were not left out of the Annan-led mediation talks. They have been watching, they have been counting the anguish of women who have been raped and abused in this conflict, mothers and children who have suffered and scampered for safety with killers baying for their blood, women who have watched as their sons and husbands are massacred in cold blood while they await in line for gangs of killers to have their turns with them.

Recently, 150 women converged at the Grand Regency Hotel and made desperate but urgent appeals. Margaret Shava’s voice shook with emotion as she read out their concerns.

“We demand an immediate stop to violence against women. Just last night a woman who had been displaced from Kasarani gave birth in a police cell and her baby died. She is representative of the kind of violence and risk that women face at this time”.

With the devastation of war and conflict come added violations and injustices suffered exclusively by women and children.

“Women will not accept to be held hostage or mortgage their livelihoods, safety and security of their children and families to the whims of the political elite. Women demand accountability by the mediation teams. We would like to see honest feedback regarding the progress that has thus far been made in negotiation and steps made to implement what has already been agreed.

Demand accountability

“Women demand accountability to the agreement. Of great importance is the agreement to stop the violence — this was agreed at the beginning of the dialogue,” they told leaders from across the political divide.

And so women have been standing together in solidarity for peace across the country. At some point, just before the power-sharing deal was brokered, women were on the brink of holding vigils at the doorstep of the venue of the mediation talks.

In 1992, a group of women asked their supporters to accompany them on a hunger strike on Uhuru Park’s freedom corner to agitate for the release of their sons who were political prisoners. It took 11 months, violent protests and an unfortunate curse of stripping mothers for the Moi government to accede to the demands for the release of political prisoners.

Elsewhere in Liberia, the world honours the women’s movement that joined together for vigils that lasted four years to demand a stop to the killings and mass rapes of women in the once war-torn country.

For the four years, women prayed, sang, danced, slept, wept and some even died near an open field as they pleaded for peace and sanity to prevail in their country.

Then there is what is known as the Women in Black (WIB) movement that started over two decades ago somewhere in Israel to push for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. They started way back in the eighties, a group of women dressed in black standing in solidarity, refusing to be enemies and crossing the lines that have forced divisions between Palestinians and Israelis and instead forge a united front of women interested in peace and nothing else.

Ms Josephine Ojiambo, who is part of the women’s coalition, is convinced that if need be, the women of Kenya will resort to extreme measures to safeguard the peace of this nation,

“We shall draw from the biblical battle of Jericho and if need be, we shall circle Parliament with prayer and worship songs seven times for seven days like Joshua and God’s people and on the seventh day we shall do it seven times until those leaders appreciate the peaceful settlement!”

That is the raw determination that can only come from the heart of a woman.