The role of Women in conflict management: a case study of the Tana River Region of Kenya
Sexual assault and exploitation are frequently employed as tools of war; victimization leads to isolation, alienation, prolonged emotional trauma, and unwanted pregnancies that often result in abandoned children. As culturally-designated caregivers, women must struggle to support their families and keep their households together while the traditional bread-winners are caught up in the fighting and are unable to provide for their families. This is not only exclusive to Pokomo and Kamba communities in Tana River only, but in Rift Valley and upper Rift Valley areas such as Turkana where there are frequent intercommunity wars; between Turkana and Pokot due to cattle rustling. Therefore this study sought to investigate the role played by women in Mutitu Sub-county Divisions in conflict management; to identify the strategies used by women in Mutitu Sub-county divisions in managing conflicts; and to evaluate the effect of inclusion of women in conflict management processes in Mutitu Sub-county divisions. Study relied on the Feminist peace theory developed in 1794 by Mary Wollstonecraft. The study used ex post factor research design. The study was carried out in Tana River County. The major ethnic groups of the Tana River District are the Pokomo, many of whom are farmers along the Tana River, and the Kamba, who are predominantly a cattle-herding nomadic people. The study sampled women respondents from the Kamba and Pokomo communities, and further included past studies and information collected by other scholars on the conflict between the two communities. The recorded data was transcribed before the critical analysis. The study analyzed the data using quantitative and qualitative data analysis methods. Secondary data was analyzed using content analysis. The study found out that women were actually involved in peace initiatives or conflict management situations in the Tana River. The women were involved in the initiatives through structured committee models, disarmament efforts and even through traditional means. However in some cases, this inclusion was rather limited since the women and minority members in the DPC expressed dissatisfaction with their lack of involvement, claiming that male elders still had far more influence. From the study, it is evident that a wide range of conflict management strategies were used by women in Tana River. This implies that the government should try to explore a conflict management strategy that is effective and not easily dominated by the male representatives. In terms of policy, the study findings shed light on the importance of gender sensitivity and inclusion in managing conflicts. Contextually, the study was limited to conflict in Tana River in Kenya, and that these findings may not represent the situation in the whole country. Methodologically, that this study relied on women alone to give feedback, and thus ignored other stakeholders like youths and elders who might be actively involved in the management of conflicts alongside the women, therefore creating a source of bias.