Dekha Ibrahim

Introduction

In the town of Wajir, in north eastern Kenya in 1993, a young Somali woman hid her first child under the bed to protect the infant from bullets that flew through the town each day in a fierce local inter-clan war. When she discovered that she had been hidden under a bed by her own mother during the unsuccessful war for Somali secession from Kenya in the 1960s, she was galvanised into action. ‘I decided that my daughter was not going to hide my grandchildren under beds to protect them from bullets 20 years from now’, she recalls. Her work mobilising other women, and later men, to work to end the violence in Wajir District, led to a citizen’s movement for peace, which was instrumental in almost completely stopping the inter­clan violence.

The roles played by Somali women in reducing violence and trans­forming conflict in north eastern Kenya is the subject of this chapter. I examine traditional conflict resolution roles that Somali women have played and the part that Somali women are playing in conflicts engulfing their societies today. It is hoped that documenting the peace-building roles of Somali women may stimulate other more in­depth research and analysis of this subject. This chapter flows from my own commitment to peace and to women, and to the contribu­tions, often unrecognised, that women make to building peaceful communities and societies.