The Tribe Called Woman

Florence Machio

Since the crisis in Kenya began, I haven't yet heard of a woman who picked up a machete and killed her neighbor. As in many conflict-ridden places in the world, women stand out as victims as well as the ones who are looking for peaceful means to resolve the situation.

I am proud to be a woman. You've heard this before: "There are always lessons to be learnt in even the most horrendous of pains" — that's what film actress Jane Fonda said. Another woman who is not actress but one who has been displaced in Kenya due to the current crisis said this when asked what the cause of the ongoing crisis was: "It's the men." Then she went about her business.

It is at this point that I wear my feminist hat and wear it proudly. Since the crisis in Kenya began, I haven't yet heard of a woman who picked up a machete and killed her neighbor. In fact, most of the stories of hope I am hearing are of women trying to help each other irrespective of where they stand as far as this crisis is concerned.

As in many conflict-ridden places in the world, women stand out as victims as well as the ones in the tribe looking for peaceful means to resolve the situation. Look at the ongoing crisis in Kenya and Chad, who are the victims? Mostly women.

In Chad, for example, as the crisis has continued women have fled to neighboring Cameroon. As we all know pregnancy does not care whether there is conflict or not…when the baby decides to come it doesn't care whether you are a refugee or internally displaced person or not. Concerns are being raised by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, for the health and safety of expectant mothers and their children. Thousands of refugees have streamed across the border between Chad and neighboring Cameroon to seek shelter from the fighting.

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In Kenya the situation is no different for the internal displaced persons (IDPs). What amazes me is that the things that women need in crisis are so different from what a man will want. While a man in an IDP camp wants to know how he will get from point A to B a woman worries about access to clean water, obstetric care and how to get food for her children.

I am in an initiative of senior women journalists in Kenya who chose to come together and use their, pen, camera, or microphone as tool of peace and started a campaign to heal the nation. The initiative, supported by several UN bodies and embassies in Kenya, has made us women think of ourselves as the tribe that will save Kenya from its current crisis.

We have chosen to look at ourselves as the tribe called women. We know like ants we work in small ways but are able to make a great difference. It is our responsibility to ensure the special needs of women and girls are fully considered in all humanitarian response.

As women we must indeed all hang together or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately. In the Rwandan genocide, women breastfed children without caring which ethnic community they came from.

Women have been quick to realize that if the crisis continues, the children will continue to suffer and it is better that they unite, while the men haggle over what went wrong. While the women's tribe has been marginalized for so long, they have never taken up arms and fought the tribe called men. They have always resolved to use peaceful but strong means to put their points across. In 1959, when Kenya was still colonized, women said there was not going to be sexual until the political prisoners were released. It worked.

Recently women all over the world joined the "Panties for Peace" campaign to make their point to the Burmese government. So while the men continue to fight we choose to use all means within our disposal to get peace in Kenya and elsewhere on the continent. For those in this tribe: Woman, I urge you to soldier on as we work towards liberating our tribe.

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