Men and Women’s Participation in Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms in Kapsokwony Bungoma County, Kenya
Muthama, Benson Mutuku
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Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms have become a popular means of settling disputes outside court systems both locally and internationally. In Kenya, they are anchored in state laws and policies. This study assessed men and women‟s participation in the process of resolving community conflicts through ADR mechanisms in Kapsokwony, Bungoma County. The study objectives were; examine various types of conflicts and the existing ADR mechanisms employed by men and women to resolve community conflicts, explain the levels of participation of both men and women in resolving community conflicts using ADR mechanisms, discuss gender related factors that compromise men‟s and women‟s participation in resolving community conflicts through ADR mechanisms and to identify effective gender responsive strategies to foster equality and inclusiveness in resolution of conflicts using ADR mechanisms. Guided by the Peace Research theory, Social Exclusion theory and theory of Participation, the study adopted a descriptive survey research design. The sample size for the research was 384 respondents. The respondents were selected using both probability and non-probability sampling techniques, notably through random and purposive sampling methods. Emphasis was put on the fact that the respondents were part of Nyumba Kumi system in Kapsokwony. Data was collected using three instruments, namely, questionnaire, interviews and FGD guide. Data analysis was done using descriptive statistics, crosstabulations, frequencies, and correlational analysis. Qualitative data was analysed thematically. The study found that various types of conflicts are experienced by the residents of Kapsokwony. Findings also revealed that ADR mechanisms are used to resolve community conflicts despite people‟s limited knowledge about them. Furthermore, despite the adoption of the 2010 Kenyan Constitution, the establishment of the National Gender Equality Commission and other relevant gender equality institutions are yet to be set up. Moreover, Kapsokwony women are yet to be fully integrated in conflict resolution; indeed, the levels of women‟s participation are still lower than men. The study recognized the combination of causal factors as consisting of retrogressive cultural customs and practices, lack of control over dispute resolution mechanisms and low education levels. Other factors included religious beliefs and gender perceptions that conflict resolution was the responsibility of men. The remedies comprised adopting and implementing varied but effective gender responsive strategies. In this regard, the study provided five recommendations, namely; the need for legislative reforms with the view of sealing existing gaps on policies and legislation; the implementation of the 2/3 gender policies, coupled with the enforcement of laws and policies pertaining to gender equality by the relevant authorities both at the National and County levels. Besides, the study highlighted the need to also implement a comprehensive framework on civic and empowerment education programmes on crosscutting issues. These could aid in achieving individual and community social change. This in turn would help to put an end to harmful long-standing practices against women in Kapsokwony and capacitating them on aspects related to conflict resolution. Finally, the study recommended that women be included as active members of peace committee domiciled at the sub-county level. In this regard, the study strongly suggests that the membership of such committees should not only embrace women‟s participation but gender parity as well.