From where I stand: “At the community level, you can see how family issues create conflict.”
Mwanakombo Jarumani is a housewife-turned-keeper of peace in Kwale County, Kenya. Child marriage, teenage pregnancy and abusive relationships fuel a personal conviction that her community does not endure the same issues of gender-based violence (GBV) and since 2020 has been the chair of her local peace committee.
I had so many of my own challenges, I didn’t want my daughters or anyone in my community to go through what I went through. I wanted to do something about GBV in my community. People don’t know where to report, and officials don’t know how to handle cases. I wanted to be strong and make my voice heard.
At the community level, you can see how family issues create conflict. There’s a lot of divorce and high amounts of gender-based violence (GBV). Neglected children are pulled towards criminal gangs and extremist groups which escalates violence. These issues cannot be excluded when talking about peace and security, and women need to be heard in this space, they’re worst affected.
I am now training women to understand their rights and the laws of this country. I also explain the referral pathway if they are affected by GBV issues. I visit schools and give guiding / counselling to girls on early marriage and early pregnancy and health. Last year I visited around 30 primary schools and five secondary schools to teach them on their responsibilities on early pregnancies and to respect guidance of teachers and parents.
Few women know where to go if something happens to them or what the process is. They have no idea. The courts exist but decisions are often made through traditional dispute resolution mechanisms but I have managed to take 3 cases to court. One of those cases has resulted in a jail sentence for the perpetrator – he raped a four year old girl.
I got to this position because I’m strong and I don’t fear anyone. People can see what I’m doing in the community and over time I’ve developed a number of skills on how to handle conflict issues. People do not know their rights, they have a right to live free from violence. The constitution is ten years old but we’re still informing people about what it says.
Our culture and our constitution are at odds. As a woman, I’m discouraged from standing for elected positions. Our culture doesn’t give a chance for ladies to speak.
Mwanakombo is the chair of her sub-county’s local peace committee, one of the few women that hold the position in Kwale. She is one of 561 women that have been supported by UN Women Kenya’s partner, the Human Rights Agenda (HURIA), to develop skills in conflict resolution and countering violent extremism. Supported by the Government of Finland, the project has also partnered with Kenya’s national and local government to develop county policies that localise UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.