About the Author: María Otero serves as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs.
After an intense day in Dadaab, it is a welcome change in atmosphere to dine with five Kenyan women who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of human rights and women's empowerment.
I had an unexpected surprise in the arrival of Phoebe Asiyo, a longtime friend who I first met twenty years ago. Phoebe is one of Kenya's most prominent leaders, both for her twenty-plus years in parliament and her work with organizations like CEDPA and the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Along with Phoebe, I enjoyed visiting with Ann Njogu, founder of the Center for Rights Education and Awareness, Rukia Subow, Chair of Maendeleo Ya Wanawake (a national women's organization) and the Minister of Gender and Children's Affairs, Esther Murugi. The discussion ranged from the economic and political challenges faced by women in Kenya; to the potential for them to engage more fully through the new constitution; and the need for healing in the wake of the 2007 post-election violence. We could have talked all night. Instead, we promised to stay in touch -- and to rededicate ourselves to the promotion of women's rights in Kenya and around the world.
Under Secretary Otero traveled to East Africa January 25-February 1 to engage with governments and civil society on an array of global issues that address human security. The East Africa trip culminated with the Under Secretary leading the U.S. delegation to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.Follow the Under Secretary on Twitter @usmariaotero.