What happens when you get together 70 women from around the world who are fighting crime and disrupting cycles of conflict? A platform of idea exchange, inspiration and hope. This is certainly what NRT's peace coordinator Josphine Ekiru found, after being nominated by the US Embassy in Kenya (through USAID) to attend the Women Leaders Promoting Peace conference in the USA. This is part of the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) - an initiative of the US Department of State's Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. Each year nearly 5,000 exchange participants come to the U.S. to meet with professional counterparts, visit U.S. public and private sector organizations related to the project theme and participate in cultural and social activities. The Women Leaders Promoting Peace meeting took place in several US locations from November 30 – December 16 2016.
They participants discussed current peace and security situations and challenges throughout the world, as well as ways they can promote gender equality and the protection of human rights. Their visit opened in Washington, D.C., where the participants met with government officials and private sector partners. Participants then split into smaller groups for site-visits, Josphine's included Albuquerque, NM, New Orleans, LA, and New York, NY.
Here are her reflections.
"I am humbled to have been chosen to attend the IVLP program this year. I am thankful to the Northern Rangelands Trust, the United States Agency for International Development and the US State Department for giving me the opportunity to attend this eye opening program that shaped and enhanced my professional development as a peace coordinator in northern Kenya. On a personal level, I feel this was a wonderful and life changing experience that I will always cherish.
The program was very interesting, informative and motivational. It was enriching to share experiences and knowledge with different people from across the world. I could see a lot of similarities to northern Kenya in the challenges and solutions discussed by my peers.
The program highlighted ways to involve women and youth in peace building, and this really resonated with me. I had an opportunity to learn key peace building concepts, and how to invite participants to reflect on how they may be applied. As well as highlighting the importance of diverse representation (gender, faith, age-groups) in peace-building and decision making, it broadened my communication skills. I could also relate to the ideas about building entrepreneurship programs and business links to create job opportunities that help reduce crimes and conflict in society.
I found it fascinating to learn about ways the US government are partnering with the private sector in this field. I really enjoyed visiting the academic institutions too. I was inspired by the visit to the healing centre in New Orleans, and saw similarities to the Peace Ambassadors Program I work on in Kenya.
I return to my country more determined than ever to continue building peace and reducing insecurity, and feel I have gained valuable tools to be able to do this better. I am proud to be part of a global community of peace-builders and change champions."