The question of the role of women in peace and security has dominated global discourses over time. But one thing has been clear all along, that to sustain global peace and security, women must make their voices heard, and heard clearly on this important subject.
And now gender mainstreaming is a central tenet in any discussions on security. In fact, for lasting global peace and security, the involvement of women is now imperative.
Additionally, security experts argue that the security needs, interests and priorities of women and men vary significantly and are very contextual.
It is precisely this realization that Kenya, women in the security sector are seeking to have a say on security issues in the country.
It is this ambition that birthed the Women In Safety Excellence (WISE) in 2019, a professional association for women in security, to bridge the gap in women representation in safety and security in the country and to influence policy in this area.
WISE provides avenues for members to engage in diverse issues of interest, ranging from women safety issues, leadership, policy formulation, research and development in security.
I spoke to Ms. Monica Kimeu, a Security Training and Communications Consultant and the Secretary General of WISE.
What gap is WISE seeking to fill?
The Women In Safety Excellence (WISE) was formed in 2019 with a clear mission to create a deliberate space for women in security to thrive professionally in various ways including advancing their careers beyond administrative roles into leadership, by challenging the stereotypes that limit their career growth in the security space and encouraging them to get into the unconventional roles in security.
It also provides a platform for peer-to-peer engagement that is supportive and adversarial regarding the role of women in security, by encouraging women’s right to safety and conducive working environment in Kenya through exchange of information and knowledge.
Most importantly, we seek to position women strategically within the security sector and engagement with various stakeholders to influence policy regarding matters women in security.
Where are your members drawn from?
As an association our membership cuts through the national security organs as well as private security sector. We have both individual and corporate members.
What impact has WISE created since its formation?
Since its inception, WISE has been able to achieve a lot and the impact therefore very instrumental.
We have built a corporate brand as the only recognized association for women in security both in the public and private security sectors in Kenya.
WISE has established its presence in the security sector as a home for women in security by creating visibility spaces for women at an International level. WISE has in two consecutive years (2020/2021) produced the Outstanding Female Security Professional Award winners for the Outstanding Security Performance Awards (OSPAs) which is an entity that runs security awards globally.
WISE members have been thought leadership panelists of international forums and as an association, we have also featured quite a number of international speakers and trainers on matters security on our webinars. Our members have benefited from quite a number of international trainings as well.
We support women led private security companies to promote entrepreneurship and job creation and are keen on their progress and growth. Lady Askari and SENACA East Africa are good examples. These two companies have gotten international recognition i.e. Lady Askari last year got the Diversity Excellence Award by Diageo and SENACA EA was selected as the Outstanding Contract Security Company as well the Outstanding Contract Security Installer/Integrator in 2020 by the OSPAs.
We highlight success stories of women in security and make them visible to be celebrated and appreciated. This makes the women more confident and encourages them to go the extra mile. The appointment of Annette Kimitei who is a governing council member as the Chair of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) Security Sector Board was one of our key highlights last year.
We position and give a voice to the women in security in the spaces we are involved. During the International Women’s Day themed ‘Choose to Challenge’ last year, we let our members choose to challenge fellow women with different types of messaging. (See our Facebook page for details (@womensecurityke)
We drive the diversity and inclusion agenda in the security sector in that women have distinct characteristics that very well compliment skills and temperaments of our male counterparts and that we are more ‘efficient’ working together.
WISE strategically aligns with other industry captains from other security associations to inform policy as regards matters women in security. Sexual Harassment Issues as well as conducive working environment for pregnant women and lactating mothers is something we are still working on.
We have engaged collaboratively with like-minded organizations both locally and internationally for the benefit of our members key among them being RPS Partnership Limited UK. Last year 15 women benefited from a leadership training fully sponsored by RPS Partnership Limited UK.
What’s the role of WISE in contributing to the broader security agenda in the country?
Our approach to insecurity is very personal. It’s about dealing with innate insecurity issues among women that inhibit them from achieving their full potential or insecurities that make them vulnerable to criminality and sexual harassment. We address insecurities of the mind such as lack of confidence and negative self-defeating thoughts, insecurities caused by cultural barriers such as ‘women cannot do certain responsibilities’, insecurities caused by lack of capacity in terms of skills and competencies, insecurities caused by lack of information and finally, insecurities caused by the very nature of being a woman.
At WISE we demystify these notions; we deal with insecurities that have been perpetrated by society or other factors as to the roles of women in security.
Part of our key objectives is to promote the safety, human rights, and dignity of women and girls through security and safety awareness programs in communities and marginalized areas to address societal vices (Domestic Violence, Sexual defilement/harassment, radicalization, violent extremism among others).
WISE plays a critical advocacy role when it comes to matters sexual and gender based violence terrorism, radicalization and violent extremism. We are working with the civil society on some of these issues to raise awareness in addressing insecurity as a result of these vices. In the wake of impending elections this coming August in 2022, we are planning to be peace ambassadors and increase awareness on elections related sexual gender based violence not to mention the security and safety of all women aspirants running in the coming general elections.
How is WISE promoting professionalism in the security ecosystem in Kenya?
I have highlighted that we manage insecurities caused by lack of capacity in terms of skills and competencies. These are insecurities caused due to lack of professional competencies. We advocate for academic progression in our local accredited institutions (colleges and universities) that offer security programmes and professional development through various certifications offered in the global arena so that our women are able to leverage on the opportunities available.
We conduct career awareness trainings where we discuss careers in security, what it takes to become a professional and what pathways are authentic and acceptable in the market today.
Mentorship is another area we are keen on as we are currently running a mentorship programme that is holistic in addressing professional development. Last year we graduated our first mentorship cohort at our end year Gala dinner that was held on 4th December 2021 at the trademark Hotel. The event was graced by the Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi together this the Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service and Gender Beatrice Elachi.
This year we will be running a robust career development programme throughout the year. We are doing this as a requirement in our objectives which is to mentor the next generation women in security.
What collaborations, if any, does WISE have with the security agencies in the country?
We are just about two years old since our registration. Much of our work has been to establish our footing and let our agenda known to our audiences.
Locally we have created meaningful relationships with other private security industry associations including the Protective and Safety Association of Kenya (PROSAK), the Private Security Industry Association (PSIA), the Professional Criminologists Association of Kenya (PCAK), and the Kenya Professional Society of Criminologists (KEPSOC) just to mention but a few.
In so far as national security agencies are concerned, we have quite a number of members and have engaged in a few programmes with some of the agencies such as the Kenya Prisons Service and the National Counter Terrorism Centre.
What incentives does one benefit with by being a member of WISE?
We have two categories of membership i.e. individual membership (for individual members) and corporate membership (for organizations).
As an individual member, we introduce you to a community of women in safety and security through peer-to-peer engagement forums, volunteer opportunities, and member discussion forums. We keep you informed on industry news and updates, job and training opportunities, safety and security tips.
We provide opportunities for networking with like-minded women, organizations and stakeholders. We provide a platform that gives women in safety and security a voice to highlight issues touching on their well-being, personally and professionally. We give women in safety and security visibility by positioning them to engage with strategic stakeholders. We provide mentorship opportunities on leadership and development.
For corporate members, we provide up to three (3) membership representation slots and one advisory seat to help shape policy and interests. We provide preferred speaking and marketing opportunities at WISE events, branding and logo recognition within electronic, publications, print and events signage, discounts on all WISE conferences, seminars, security forums and complimentary registration for all webinars.
The WISE membership is renewable annually.
What do you see as the future of WISE?
WISE is a fully fledged professional association duly registered by the Registrar of Societies in Kenya with a working constitution and a structured organizational structure.
The association is keen now on engaging more partners and stakeholders to be more impactful in the achievement of our objectives. The future of WISE is beyond the borders of Kenya. We envision engaging international members to the fold as COVID-19 has paved way for this possibility.
PS: Should you wish to engage WISE further arising from this article,you can do s through firstname.lastname@example.org.
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