My 2019 APN individual research fellowship award was in support of my research project titled “Women, Peace, and Security: Investigating the Implementation of the UNSCR 1325 in Northern Kenya and Its Policy Implications.” The award enabled me to conduct fieldwork in two counties in Kenya almost five years after I completed my doctoral research. It was a welcome opportunity to rediscover the field and engage in innovative research methodologies. Conducting fieldwork in the counties of Kajiado and West Pokot reinvigorated my spirit as a scholar and reignited my passion for evidence-based research. The experience helped in illuminating and refocusing my career by increasing my capacity to conduct independent research as a scholar. The planning, budgeting of various vote heads, training of research assistants, consultative meetings with stakeholders, and discussions with participants, interviewees, respondents, and informants gave me opportunities to meet new people and create new networks. The experience enabled me to test new ways of preparing research instruments targeting respondents and various stakeholders. I engaged in data analysis, report writing, and policy engagement.

Participating in the fellows training workshop held in Accra, Ghana provided me with many benefits. First, the workshop opened my eyes to the strategies for writing successful research proposals and conducting fieldwork. These tips on writing successful grant proposals have turned out to be invaluable in my life as a university lecturer and grant applicant. Second, the exposure provided by the APN grant helped me to sharpen my research and writing skills, which in turn enabled me to disseminate my research findings through conference papers that I presented at various scholarly convenings on peace and security in Africa. In this regard, I presented such findings at conferences in Nairobi, Kenya, Moroto, Uganda, and Moshi Tanzania, among other places. Third, the research experience helped me better teach research methodology and qualitative data analysis to my students, especially by drawing on practical experiences. Such experiences have also helped develop my capacity to supervise master’s and doctoral students. My encounters in the field made me realize its changing dynamics and the benefits of flexibly responding to emerging challenges in different research locations.

My doctoral research did not prepare me well enough for the challenges I confronted during fieldwork in the Kajiado and West Pokot counties of Kenya. The two study locations presented logistical, linguistic, security, gender, and travel challenges that I had never encountered before. Negotiating topographical obstacles as well as navigating gender tensions challenged me to explore and devise new ways of collecting data which included building rapport and trust as well as developing negotiating skills. In this way, I successfully completed my research project, and my research findings impacted gender mainstreaming in the country, particularly in relation to the domestication and implementation of the UNSCR 1325 in Kenya.1The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was adopted by the UN Security Council on October 31, 2000. The resolution acknowledged the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls. It calls for the adoption of a gender perspective to consider the special needs of women and girls during conflict, repatriation and resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration, and post-conflict reconstruction. All countries are expected to have National Action plans for the implementation of this resolution.

Funding from the APN grant enabled me to access research materials that were rare but useful in my career as a scholar. I bought reference materials that remain useful to me and my students to this day.  Also, traveling to workshops in different African countries and visiting some of the historical sites turned out to be life-changing experiences. The grant also impacted my career development. I received honorable recognition from the dean of my university for winning the APN grant. The Dean School of Security Diplomacy and Peace Studies of Kenyatta University appointed me to the School of Research and Innovation Committee based on my recognition as a leading expert in research. I was invited to manage research teams at the university and give them guidance. I was included as a member of a research team assembled for a grant awarded by the UN Peace Trust Fund for developing countries amounting to $500,000, which is a multi-university consortium led by seven scholars. I also became a member of editorial boards and a member of conference organizing committees within and outside my university. In this capacity, I serve as a peer reviewer for the Journal of the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO. I have also been invited to deliver keynote speeches at various events.

My research also provided access to important information on the implementation of UNSCR 1325. This information became critical during the application process of a consultancy on the revision of the Kenya National Action Plan II, which is the platform for the implementation of the UNSCR 1325. I was given an opportunity to participate in the review of the resolution by the Ministry of Gender in consultation with the UN Women and the International Peace Support and Training Center (IPSTC), Nairobi, Kenya. I was able to participate in the IPSTC training of women working in the high-risk parts of the country and the region at large. In addition, I was engaged in the training of officers going for missions outside their countries with respect to gender and child protection rights.

Drawing on my experience and the opportunities provided by APN, I have been able to publish many articles in edited books and refereed journals in the field of peace, conflict, and security.  I was invited to publish my work on the implementation of the UNSCR 1325 among pastoralist communities in Kenya in the book called The Politics of Peacebuilding in Africa, which was published in 2022 by Routledge. I have also co-edited four books published by the Centre for Democracy, Research, and Development (CEDRED) in Nairobi, Kenya after winning the grant. They are Global Trends in Africa’s Development (2019), Development in Modern Africa (2019), Global Dynamics in Africa (2021), and Annals of African Development (2022).

APN has kept me updated with the weekly dissemination of calls for papers for conferences, fellowships, and other scholarly awards. I have used such information to apply to opportunities that have enabled me to attend conferences and connect with numerous scholars from different parts of the world. I have acquired many friends across Africa emanating from the award and as result, I am exposed to new research materials as well as collaborations with scholars from other parts of the world.

Looking forward to the next decade, I propose that more grants be awarded to African scholars to research topical issues that will positively impact Africans and Africa. To ensure an even spread across the continent, I suggest that the program should do as much as possible to reinforce the principle of regional, country, disciplinary, and university balancing in fellowship awards. I commend the efforts of the program to keep its former fellows and grantees engaged in its capacity-building and networking activities and expect that such initiatives should be expanded in the future. I participated in the first post-Covid in-person APN/Next Gen outreach event at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), Kakamega, Kenya, which was directed toward promoting awareness of the program and its fellowship opportunities among staff and students of the university. During my interactions at MMUST, I was impressed by the high level of interest and enthusiasm among scholars on research opportunities provided by the APN and Next Gen program. I also recognized that, despite their great interest in research, many of them lacked access to opportunities for scholarly advancement and were ill-prepared in terms of research proposal writing skills. This gap will need to be addressed through the concerted efforts of universities, organizations like the SSRC, and the growing APN and Next Gen alumni based in various countries.

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References
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    The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security was adopted by the UN Security Council on October 31, 2000. The resolution acknowledged the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and girls. It calls for the adoption of a gender perspective to consider the special needs of women and girls during conflict, repatriation and resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration, and post-conflict reconstruction. All countries are expected to have National Action plans for the implementation of this resolution.