Meeting With Women of Change in Kenya

Posted by Maria Otero
February 10, 2010
Women Leaders With Under Secretary Otero in Kenya

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.



New Mexico, USA
February 22, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Hi Maria,

Hope you don't mind if I dispense with titles or formalities in blog-post format;
One might look at Dipnote as one's living room, and I saw this here post of your's...with no you'd sent invitations to a party and no one had showed.

So, I would like to first ask your friend if she thinks the women of Africa can convince the menfolk to put down their guns long enough to plant trees and build that "green wall" to hold back desertification I've heard some mention about.

Lot of folks displaced in Kenya for years and years. What we have here is a human resource challenge of the highest order.

I'd like to get creative about this conflict resolution buisiness as well, because the "same-old, same old" cycle of victimization keeps 'a trucking on the circular path. Like a dog chasing its tail.

Best throw it a stick...What do you think?

We democracies haven't yet learned the lessons dictators and tyrants have supposedly taught us when we say "Never again!" time and again.

Well, we seem content to put up with them, time and again is all...and I gotta wonder why.

When we let the al-quaida's and the al- Shebab's sleep comfortably at night knowing they've put a halt to human progress as becoming of a "divinely inspired" source of human misery.

Yet we condone such by not ridding the world of their very existance with extreme prejudice and purpose, for that is what it will take.

A friend once asked me when I said the world would become a better place to live if we simply planted trees and terrorists- premised uopn the fact that one grows, the other becomes fertilizer);

"How evil do we have to get to kill every terrorist in the world?"

I had to ponder it a bit...and said this;

"If you drowned a litter of unwanted puppies, that would be evil...for lack of creative alternative.

But when you have a rabid dog running amok, it's going to die of its disease anyway and infects those it bites before it does, so you're actually doing the dog a favor by putting it down to protect the community, as a compassionate act to put it out of its misery."

History shows there's no half measure involved in the defeat of tyrany, lest people continue to suffer under it.

We democracies can and must level the playing field for the future of mankind to have any future of worth.

"We" in all of the above being an abstract accomodation to a coalition of the willing, whether being government or individual.

As such I only speak for the observation as an individual.

Perhaps ideas can move masses and mountains, and somedays one can anticipate miracles.


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