Conflict, corruption and gender: Twenty years on from UN Security Council Resolution 1325

28th October 2020

Two decades after the UN formally acknowledged the disproportionate and devastating impact of armed conflict on women and girls with the landmark Security Council Resolution 1325, we speak with Hon. Florence Kajuju, chair of the Commission on Administrative Justice and Secretary General of the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association, to discuss its effect and the need to integrate a gender perspective in security sector reform.

 

Our research shows that corruption has a detrimental effect on the efficiency of security institutions and can threaten peace and breed instability. A growing body of evidence also points to how patterns of both facilitating and tolerating corruption are gendered and are often based upon patriarchal structures and imbalances of power within societies. Fragile and insecure contexts exacerbate underlying gender dynamics that make the varied experiences of women, men, girls, and boys more visible.

The 20th anniversary of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security is a crucial reminder of the need to reaffirm the importance of including women and gender perspectives in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and governance. To mark the occasion, we interview Hon. Florence Kajuju, the Chairperson of the Commission on Administrative Justice (Office of the Ombudsman) and Secretary General of the African Ombudsman and Mediators Association (AOMA). Hon. Kajuju is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya with over 25 years’ experience. She has previously served as a County Member of Parliament and Vice-Chairperson of the Law Society of Kenya.

 

Transparency International – Defence & Security: Hon. Florence Kajuju, could you please tell us what UNSC Resolution 1325 has meant for you personally and in your career?

Hon. Florence Kajuju: The passing of UNSC Resolution 1325 was a huge gain for women and it is up to us to make sure that we continue moving the agenda forward, so that we do not fail the women of this country and beyond. In my journey as an advocate at the High Court of Kenya and as a member of parliament, I have witnessed how women have struggled to be at the decision-making table, have been told to be in the kitchen rather than to vote, even though we as women make up over 50 per cent of the population. This resolution was certainly instrumental in the passing of the Kenyan Constitution in 2010, as we sought to ensure women were given equal opportunities and participate in the politics, social aspects and economics of the country. At national and county levels, we need to make sure that the Women, Peace and Security Agenda is implemented to the letter and that, in all aspects of civilian oversight, those institutions are indeed able to carry out their mandate.

Kenya also put in place a national action plan in 2016 to operationalise UNSC resolution 1325 and the Women, Peace and Security agenda. As a result of this, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) developed a gender policy. This policy has effectively increased women management in the MoD and I am pleased to report that this notably led to the appointment of the first Major General in the country, Fatuma Ahmed in 2018. Before this, as a woman if you had a child or were breastfeeding, you could be turned down from becoming a military official in recruitment processes, which are not valid reasons to not be part of the military!

I can also report on the increasing participation of women within  peace committees which represent at the community level the National Steering Committee on Peace Building and Conflict Management, as a result of the UNSC resolution 1325, and which led to an increase from 14 per cent of women participation in 2013 to 29 percent in 2018. This of course isn’t enough, but it is already a success. We now also have a national budget that is gender-responsive and aims to ensure that everyone feels part of the society. This is a good thing that this country has done.

 

Security Sector Reform seeks to enhance the effectiveness and accountability of a country’s security sector. From your perspective, how can an understanding of underlying gender dynamics at play in conflict and insecure settings help increase the ability of the security sector to meet the range of security needs within society?

To enhance the effectiveness and accountability of our security sector, it is crucial to make sure that

everyone is given equal opportunities, in a spirit of inclusiveness. The various ways in which gender affects the security of various groups should always be considered when building reform programmes. Stereotypes within government and institutions need to be dealt with. Men and women need to be on the playing field together and both be part of the game so we are able to achieve maximum benefits. As a result, a gender perspective needs to be taken in consideration throughout the entire reform process, from the design to the planning phase and to the monitoring and evaluation phase. We certainly need to be better at this in Kenya, especially as we have numerous very good laws, but implementation is lacking. This is why institutions such as the Ombudsman office are essential in overseeing the implementation of laws and regulations.

 

Evidence shows that there is no effectiveness without accountability. In your view, how can integrating a gender perspective in reform programmes help rebuild security forces, in a manner consistent with democratic norms and sound principles of good governance, transparency and the rule of law?

We have a history of having a patriarchal culture in our society, of women being second-class citizens, which we have been seeking to challenge, as civilian overseers of defence and security forces in particular. We have therefore put in place a gender policy, which looks both at the internal system within the Ombudsman office but also externally at the type of complaints that are being brought to us; we’ve looked at the number of complaints that speak specifically to the intersection of gender dynamics, peace and security.  One example of this has been the case of post-election violence which took place in Kenya in 2007-2008; those who were most affected by the political violence were women and children. Our role as the Ombudsman office was to make sure that beyond the complaints being dealt with, we supported the security forces in structurally taking gender consideration on board and implementing due process.

The creation of a dedicated civilian military ombudsman office in Kenya would also be a great move in this direction. It is also important for the Defence & Foreign Committee and the Administration & National Security Committee in parliament to sit down together and originate legislation or amend existing legislation to ensure a gender lens is adopted, in line with the Women, Peace and Security agenda. Once this is done across legislation, this will ease our mandate to ensure security forces abide by the law.