A Kenyan peace ambassador is the winner of the prestigious US Institute of Peace (USIP) Women Building Peace Award.
Josephine Ekiru, a Peace Coordinator for the Northern Rangelands Trust in Kenya, a group that brings together more than 320,000 indigenous people in Northern and Eastern Kenya to stop conflict, conserve land, protect wildlife and halt poaching was announced the winner out of the nine finalists selected from 125 nominations from more than 30 countries.
The annual award honors women who are building peace in countries impacted by conflict and yesterday’s virtual event presented by U.S. Navy Admiral (Ret.) Michelle Howard who honored different women participating in peace building.
"Ms Ekiru is a heroine; her work to build peace in northern Kenya is a model for all of us," Honorary chair of the Women Building Peace (WBP) Council, Nancy Lindborg said.
Ms Ekiru was the first woman to be elected as chair of a Northern Rangeland Trust(NRT) conservancy board of directors which has helped in defusing conflict between warring communities.
The 34-year-old who has also been campaigning for an end to ivory trade, putting her life on the line says that in 2016, she was held at gunpoint by a group of poachers.
“My community and others were killing wildlife and cutting trees mostly because they wanted to sell products, so that they can buy food. This pained me and it became a wake-up call. I figured out that this would not be a solution.
“Poverty, illiteracy and lack of basic needs was not being addressed and so I had a vision, since I was a small child to become a leader and open the eyes of the people,” she told the Nation.
Ms Ekiru says she did not join high school after completing her Class 8 because of poverty in her family, but she says that she grabbed the opportunity presented by the internet to train herself on many courses including conflict management, project management, environment conservation and other courses.
She celebrated her award, saying that she never imagined that she would one day be recognized for the efforts she was making, and that her motivation has always been to restore the glory of nature and find a long lasting solution to conflicts between communities.
“If you analyze the cause of every conflict that has arisen between communities, you will realize that they are caused by human’s failure to take care of what God gave us for free. Climate change and diminishing resources are brought about by our failure to care for natural resources.
“We need to go back to the drawing board and find a lasting solution, which is to conserve the environment, so that we do not need to scramble for resources. We need peace, so that we come together and attain this goal, and that is where peace building and ending conflicts come in. It is a cycle,” she says.
The Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) is a legion of 43 community conservancies in northern and coastal Kenya, that serve to build and develop community conservancies, which in turn build peace and conserve the natural environment.
"It has been a wonderful experience hearing these women's stories. Their commitment to peace, exceptional leadership and their impact in their communities are nothing short of inspiring," said Marcia Myers Carlucci, co-chair of the Women Building Peace (WBP) Council "