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Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, Women of Faith Role in Calling for Peaceful Elections in Kenya

Inter-Religious Council of Kenya, Women of Faith Role in Calling for Peaceful Elections in Kenya

“I call upon all women and youth to be true instruments of Peace. We have to take care of Kenya by maintaining peace,” – Ms Sabina Ng’ang’a, Kenya Women of Faith Network

Recurring election-related violence, including killings, severe physical injuries, destruction of property, intimidation, harassment, and threats are normal in Kenyan politics as per previous election trends. A comparative analysis of the violence perpetrated during the General Elections held in 2007, 2013, and 2017 suggests that SGBV constitutes one of the major components of election-related violence in Kenya. In relation to the 2007-2008 election period, the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence (CIPEV) documented 900 cases of sexual violence perpetrated; noting that the actual figure was likely to be much higher.

Drawing on the Inter-Religious Council of Kenya’s experience in democracy, governance, and human rights programming in Kenya, with expertise in peace security and stability, capacity development, policy influence, and advocacy, IRCK established a women’s situation room (WSR) led by a Panel of Eminent Women Leaders and Women of Faith during the 2022 General Election.

IRCK through the different Religious Coordinating Bodies mapped out Women of Faith to be part of the physical WSR, which was based in Nairobi County. The women of faith and the eminent women leaders were sensitized on the Kobo collect, the App used in reporting incidents to the situation room. A representation of the Women of Faith from the different counties was selected to be receiving reports at the WSR and was to work in close collaboration with the trained women of faith networks in the counties.  The women of faith drawn from across the country; clergy, youth and journalists were sensitized on being Gender monitors on Violence against Women (VAW)- (reporting and monitoring) and election observers and monitors, especially during the electoral period. The WSR was then launched on the 21st of July 2022 in Nakuru County.

“We have a country to protect. Let Peace come within us. Peace has to start with ourselves. Before we preach peace, we have to practise it,”- Dr Grace Ongile, Chair IRCK Eminent Women Leader during the WSR launch.

The IRCK Women Situation Room was modelled around the Women Situation Room (WSR) initiated by Angie Brooks International Centre (ABIC) and its implementing partners in their quest to contribute to peaceful elections in Liberia in 2011. The Gender Is My Agenda Campaign (GIMAC) of the African Union (AU) as “best practice” adopted this concept, and GIMAC recommended ABIC replicate the WSR in all countries in Africa having elections. Former President Ellen Johnson Sir leaf of Liberia is the Champion of the Women Situation Room (WSR). During the 50th Anniversary of the AU, ABIC was given an award in recognition of the work in the WSR as outstanding in peace and security on the continent. The United Nations Security Council has also endorsed the WSR in facilitating the important role women and civil society play in exerting influence over parties to armed conflict. It has been replicated in seven countries, some more than once; Liberia (2011; 2017), Senegal (2012), Sierra Leone (2012; 2018), Kenya (2013), Nigeria (2015), and Uganda (2016; 2021), and Ghana (2016). The goal was to ensure that women in collaboration with youth play active and substantive roles in ensuring and sustaining peaceful elections, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325).

The purpose of the IRCK Women Situation Room was to ensure that women lobby and engage all actors and stakeholders to commit to actively preventing all forms of electoral violence in the country during elections. The women collaborated closely with the Council of the Wise, Leaders of Political Parties, the Electoral Commission, and Security, and linked with other situation rooms, to prevent and resolve threats and incidents of violence during the electoral processes and mitigate violence against women among other Gender-based violent (GBV) related issues. The women of faith worked closely with the different stakeholders to ensure that elections took place in an enabling environment and all-inclusive process and responded to political and electoral violence and emergencies before, during and after the election.

Before, during and after the elections the women of Faith acted as peace ambassadors calling for peace through different platforms and calling on people to report any GBV within their communities, discussing and resolving incidents reported from the field. They used mainstream media and social media platforms to call for peace through peace messaging, talk shows and social media campaigns. The women partnered with media houses to ensure that messages of peace had a wide reach and did press conferences and issued press statements on the issues arising and updates from the situation room. During the election they were able to mediate arising conflicts; they observed, monitored, and reported on election incidents, especially those affecting women.  

IRCK continues to mobilise women of faith, building their capacity to enable them to be peacebuilders in the community and after the elections to hold their leaders accountable.

“I believe that in the past we were caught unaware because many women did not think they could play a role in mitigating some of the things that happened. We are now taking leadership and also training other women to take leadership and manage situations from wherever they are,” Irene Kizito, Deputy Director IRCK

By Mary N

Previous Inter-Religious Council of Kenya’s Role during the 2022 General Elections

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