I have worked for many years in the field of international security, a field populated largely by male experts and often dominated by male-led military and security establishments. I head a policy research unit at Kings College London on conflict, security and development, direct a peace and security Fellowship programme for African women and teach a Masters course on African Security. I was the first African woman to receive a PhD in War Studies from King’s College London. I have chosen to work in this field in the hope of contributing to filling critical knowledge gaps particularly on peace and security in Africa. One consequence of this choice is the opportunity to contribute to the women, peace and security agenda.
I call myself a feminist because I promote and defend the rights of women to realise their fullest potential, free from the oppression of patriarchy in all its forms. I also contribute to efforts to create spaces for the development of that potential. The work is by no means easy. We face the re-engineering and reinforcement of patriarchy by religious fundamentalisms, not least Christian fundamentalism. We need to know more, do more research and build a base or rigorous intellectual understanding of Africa’s experience. As feminists we also need to sustain healthy self-critique and focus on the pursuit of excellence in all our endeavours. We should not shy away from a systematic engagement with formal processes.
I have aimed to make my own contributions through creating a fellowship programme that offers opportunities for young African women to competently and confidently articulate feminist ideas for change in order to champion change in the male dominated spaces that shape their lives. The programme exposes African women to current thinking and national, regional and international institutions involved in tackling conflict, peace and security in Africa. The fellowship will soon be incorporated into the activities of a new initiative that I helped found called the African Leadership Centre, based at Kenyatta University in Nairobi. I have worked in the United Nations system and in the academy and see the need for more engagement by African feminists in both. We need to promote participation of self-identified feminists in strategic political, social and economic institutions. Simultaneously, we need to strengthen our collective knowledge building and the effective dissemination of that knowledge. And finally, we need to help cultivate a critical mass of young African feminists for leadership.
As a scholar, mentor and activist I am constantly inspired by seeing the incredible talent that exists in the next generation of African feminist leaders and witnessing unfolding opportunities for them to unleash that talent and potential!