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Josephine Ekiru addresses morans at Daaba, Isiolo County, after staying in the wilderness for three days in pursuit of stolen cattle. [Bruno Mutunga, Standard]

A Kenyan woman has won a US award on peacekeeping following her efforts to reduce conflict in pastoralist communities in northern Kenya.

Josephine Ekiru was selected as this year’s winner of the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) Women Building Peace Award for her substantial and practical contribution to building peace. 

“I never knew that one day I will be recognised. All my peace efforts were for future generations. I always desired to have my community and our neighbours co-exist in peace instead of causing pain to each other,” said Ms Ekiru, 34.

The award winner was declared by US Navy Admiral Michelle Howard during a virtual ceremony on October 20.


Josephine Ekiru (centre) at Kalama Conservancy. [Courtesy]

The award recognises the vital role of individual women who are working every day in pursuit of peace in fragile or conflict-affected countries or regions.

Ekiru expressed her gratitude, noting that her efforts to convene meetings with women, youth and elders have paid off. 

“This award is a call to women, youth and men to embrace peace and do what is right. The award gives us all, and especially women, an inspiration to not only champion for peace but to be decision-makers in our homes and communities while raising children,” she said.

According to Northern Rangeland Trust (NRT), a conservation organisation that works with peacekeeping ambassadors in Northern Kenya through community conservancies, Ekiru’s efforts to nurture peace in northern Kenya are milestones in mitigating and resolving conflicts in the fragile ecosystem while developing resilience in communities through her community conservation model.

“Effective and strategic community peacebuilding is built on a foundation of inclusive community consultations. Our relationship with community conservancies creates a neutral platform to bring people together for dialogue, offering alternative dispute resolution to violence,” said NRT’s Executive Officer Tom Lalampaa.

Josephine Ekiru was declared a winner by US Navy Admiral Michelle Howard during a virtual ceremony on October 20. [James Wanzala, Standard]

Lalampaa said NRT’s Member Community Conservancies witnessed the positive impact that the peace ambassadors achieved by convening 109 meetings with an attendance of over 10,000 participants in 2020. 

“Today there are 80 peace ambassadors across the landscape with 25 of whom are women being led by Ekiru," he said. 

“Ms Ekiru is a heroine. Her work to build peace in northern Kenya is a model for all of us,” said Nancy Lindborg, the honorary chair of the Women Building Peace Council. By Jacinta Mutura, The Standard

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