For the 2020 inaugural award, USIP received over 150 nominations of women peacebuilders from 51 countries. The 10 finalists were selected by USIP’s Women Building Peace Council, an 18-member group of experts and leaders in the fields of gender and peacebuilding, for their exemplary commitment and leadership as peacebuilding practitioners and their key roles in ending and preventing violent conflict. Collectively, they represent eight countries and an intergenerational group of peacebuilders.

Meet Rita, the Inaugural Women’s Building Peace Award Recipient

Rita’s tireless efforts have resulted in measurable steps toward peace in South Sudan.

Meet the 10 finalists for the 2020 Women Building Peace Award

Ángela Maria Escobar (Colombia)

Ángela Maria Escobar is a peacebuilder and human rights defender in Colombia whose leadership has been instrumental in bringing the issue of sexual violence to the forefront of a national peace process. As a member of the Gender Commission for the 2016 Colombian peace agreement, Ángela Maria led participatory processes to develop proposals that were presented to the conflict parties in Havana, Cuba. These essential contributions made the Colombian peace agreement the first in the world to recognize and incorporate sexual violence as an autonomous crime that is not subject to amnesty or pardon. Her courage has inspired many others. In the work she has done and continues to pursue, she has made a tremendous difference for women, not only in Colombia but around the world.

Asia Jamil (Pakistan)

Asia Jamil is a Pakistani human rights defender, feminist activist and founding member of the nonprofit Professional Development Organization whose dedication to peacebuilding is remarkable. Working in the Newly Merged Districts of Pakistan is one of the most challenging locations in her country. Asia has been able to develop strong, meaningful relationships with both local government officials and local law enforcement, a very impressive achievement. Asia’s accomplishments show how successful she is at working across diverse audiences and finding creative ways to build peace and catalyze conversations on difficult topics. Despite receiving threats from the Taliban in the region, she fearlessly continues her work on nonviolence.

Beata Mukarubuga (Rwanda)

Beata Mukarubuga is an exemplary leader among peacebuilders whose work is distinguished by an intense commitment to innovative and inclusive approaches to pursuing peace. All the more remarkable for having lived through the horrific violence of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against Tutsi, Beata truly embodies all the qualities of a peacebuilder—from her dedication to forgiveness, helping others reconcile, providing holistic counseling services and giving back to her community. Her ability to forgive and model forgiveness for other survivors has had an extraordinarily powerful impact on reconciliation in a country divided by victims and perpetrators of the genocide.

Irene M. Santiago (The Philippines)

Irene Morada Santiago is a negotiator, implementer, teacher, trainer, organizer and thought leader, adept at effective engagements in both formal and informal peace processes. Her extraordinary record of accomplishment has impacted conflict dynamics locally and nationally in the Philippines as well as internationally. During a career in peace and development spanning over 40 years, she has worked on all levels from grassroots to global. A trailblazer, Irene has the distinction of being one of the only women in the world today who has been both a member of a peace negotiating panel and chair of the body implementing a major peace agreement.

Believing that local action enables people to participate more effectively, she has developed a model for building local capacities for peace. This model, called “Peace 911”, aims to address the insurgency instead of targeting the insurgent by building the “pillars of positive peace”. This local peacebuilding model has now been adopted nationwide to address protracted social conflict. As an influential thought leader, Irene identifies the strategic roles women play in peace processes as being “AT the table, ON the table, and TURNING the tables.”

Julienne Lusenge (Democratic Republic of the Congo)

Julienne Lusenge is a leader, peacebuilder and human rights activist from the Democratic Republic of Congo who has been contributing consistently and uncompromisingly to the Women, Peace and Security agenda in Africa for over 40 years. Julienne’s ability to engage all levels of society in an especially stratified environment is outstanding, as is her deep knowledge of the issues facing the DRC. Julienne’s work has been key to getting women into office throughout the DRC, as well as empowering female artisanal miners which is a critical issue in the conflict in the DRC. Through her work, women and girls in the DRC can more easily perceive a future of peace, stability and improved livelihoods for themselves, thereby reducing their vulnerability to the chronic conflict and extreme poverty surrounding them. The reach of her work, stature of her persona and breadth of the issues upon which she works makes her unique among Congolese activists.

Odette Habonimana (Burundi)

Odette Habonimana is a committed champion for peace in Burundi. Odette has dedicated her life to helping marginalized groups in her community, utilizing innovative approaches in ensuring that no one is left behind. Her remarkable achievements reflect how she has skillfully used the opportunities afforded to her to promote peacebuilding work in Burundi. Odette’s vision for empowering women and youth and her commitment to that vision are strong and clear, and through her work she is making an exceptional contribution to resolving conflicts and fostering peace in Burundi.

Rita Martin Lopidia (South Sudan)

Rita Martin Lopidia is a passionate and dynamic civil society leader recognized for being the driving force behind the inclusion of women in the South Sudan peace process. Despite threats to her life, Rita has shown an exceptional capacity to convene a diverse group of actors from across traditional lines of division. She is a leader among activists and civil society at the community level, as well as among national and international actors. Her tireless and thoughtful efforts for peace have resulted in measurable steps toward peace in her homeland.

Rosa Emilia Salamanca González (Colombia)

Rosa Emilia Salamanca González is one of the women leaders among peacebuilders who has been working steadfastly to build peace in Colombia for nearly 30 years. Rosa Emilia’s quiet leadership is heightened by her keen intuition. With her intersectional approach and understanding of war and identity, she knows what spaces need her support and experience. Her involvement in the Women's National Summit yielded important results and no doubt shaped the final agreement that Colombia so proudly hosts. The 18 women of the Women´s National Summit involvement in the 2016 peace process, between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army (FARC-EP) was crucial to realizing one of the most inclusive peace agreements to date globally. And Rosa Emilia’s was one of them.

Tabassum Adnan (Pakistan)

Tabassum Adnan is a committed, longtime advocate for justice, accountability, and peace in Pakistan. She is notable for her inspiring personal story and the breadth of her peacebuilding experience mobilizing women within her community, men and civil society and state entities to help address issues related to violence against women and girls. Tabassum’s use of the jirga to administer justice at the local level is an innovative idea and resonates within Pashtun culture. She established the first women’s jirga in Pakistan to provide women in the country with justice, accountability, and peace. Moreover, she was the first woman to attend a male jirga, a traditional assembly of leaders that make decisions by consensus. Tabassum has earned the respect of the most influential male powerbrokers in her community, a remarkable testament to her leadership and impact.

Victoria Nyanjura (Uganda)

Victoria Nyanjura is a skilled peacebuilder and a leading voice in Uganda representing the experiences of women survivors of sexual violence during conflict and advocating on their behalf. Victoria's courageous recounting of her eight years as a captive and her path to freedom, healing, and justice is an inspiration for peacebuilders worldwide. She possesses an exceptional ability to communicate persuasively, to impact policy makers and to use her strength and initiative to create a better future for other women. She is an exemplary practitioner, showcasing the dedication and multi-pronged approaches it takes to address the issue of violence against women and children. Victoria demonstrates how someone who has experienced great personal trauma can exhibit extraordinary resilience and affect social change.