In May 2013, five young women, all from Somalia or along the Kenya/Somali border, arrived in Virginia to attend the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), thanks to sponsorship by USAID/East Africa.
The women’s collective expertise spans law, information technology, business administration, political advocacy, rehabilitating youth, and gender and development. In common are their Somali ethnicity, Muslim faith, and burning desire to prepare other women for playing major roles as peacemakers.
After the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, now in session, the women will return home to put their skills in practice under the mentorship of more experienced leaders in the peace field. At the end of the program, they will earn an EMU graduate certificate in conflict transformation.
Nimo Somo was born in Wajir, along the Somali/Kenya border, after the devastating 1984 Wagalla Massacre. She was recently acknowledged by Kenya’s Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Committee for her work in conflicts over land and water. The Vice-chair of this committee, Tecla Wanjala, earned her Master’s degree from EMU in 2003.
“There’s a scarcity of resources in Wajir,” says Somo, a lawyer who finds peace work more energizing than preparing legal briefs in an office. Land is needed by the 80 percent of the population that relies on moving livestock from one grazing area to another. With climate change, droughts and famines have come more frequently. When the scarcity becomes politicized, says Somo, the region explodes with killing.
Hinda Hassan of Somaliland emphasizes that USAID is making it possible for “Somali women to stand up and demand change. In the Somali culture, it is always men who have the say. Now it is our time.”
To learn more about EMU’s peacebuilding programs and the Kenyan and Somali women now attending the university, see http://emu.edu/now/news/2013/06/usaid-supported-somali-women-gain-peacebuilding-skills.
Last updated: January 16, 2014