The United Nations has stepped up efforts to secure peace and advance gender equality in the Horn of Africa.
“The chance for peace in this region is real,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed told the Security Council following her visit to Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.
“While they are moving at different speeds, each country in this region is heading in the right direction,” Ms Mohamed declared.
She cautioned, however, that for this progress to continue, countries in northeastern Africa must enhance their unity and co-operation.
In this regard, she pointed to “signs of the revitalisation of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.”
The eight-nation Igad grouping includes Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan, as well as the five countries Ms Mohamed visited in late October.
Igad must focus in particular on the hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons in the region, many of whom are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, the deputy secretary-general said.
Ms Mohamed, a Nigerian national, made her remarks at a Security Council session on the topic of women, peace and security in Africa.
Countries in the Horn are advancing gender equity and thereby capitalising on “the links between inclusion, stability and peace,” she said.
Ethiopia, she noted, has a female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, and women account for half of the government's ministers.
The deputy secretary-general described Eritrea as “one of the few countries in the world where women fought in significant numbers on the frontlines of the independence movement.” Women's leadership in today's Eritrea is seen as “an unquestioned reality,” Ms Mohamed noted.
In Sudan, she recalled meeting some of the women who spearheaded the revolution underway in the country and who are now demanding full inclusion in facets of society.
Ms Mohamed also cited impediments to female empowerment in the Horn, offering examples that affect UN women peacekeepers in the region.
“The kits we provide do not fit the needs of women,” she observed.
“While this may be the first time these words have been said in the Security Council, sanitary pads are a basic necessity for women and yet do not form part of their deployment kits.”
She noted too that individual UN peacekeepers are expected to procure their own head covering in Somalia, a country where that attire is considered mandatory.
Female UN soldiers also “often contend with harassment, or are asked to serve tea and coffee rather than patrol communities,” Ms Mohamed said.
In comments following the remarks by the UN's top female official, Kenya's representative told the Security Council of her country's “mantra”: Kuhusisha Wanawake ni Kudumisha Amani (To involve women is to sustain peace).