Pétronille Vaweka, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2023

Pétronille Vaweka is a senior mediator and coordinator for Engaged Women for Peace in Africa (FEPA), a network of women working in conflict-affected areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Vaweka co-founded the NGO Fondation pour la Paix Durable in 2000 to push for ceasefire, seek solutions to the war, and advocate for peaceful coexistence in her native province of Ituri. Her team was invited by communities and armed groups to negotiate peace agreements to end hostilities.

Vaweka was elected president of the Ituri Special Interim Assembly in 2003 with the mission to stop the inter-ethnic war, reconcile Ituri and the central government, and raise public awareness for peaceful cohabitation. As the district commissioner for four years, she implemented efforts to restore peace and security in Ituri. Pétronille’s mediation was an important element in the overall efforts to end the 5-year inter-ethnic conflict between the Lendu and the Hema that tragically led to the deaths of over 50,000 people. These efforts produced a nearly 10-year lull in the violence in Ituri. In her positions as President of the Special Interim Assembly and Ituri District Commissioner and, she was able to secure the restoration of state authority, education, justice and the opening up of roads.

In 2006, at the request of the United Nations, Vaweka successfully negotiated the release of seven U.N. peacekeepers detained by an armed group. Throughout her career, she also freed child soldiers and girls forcefully recruited into armed groups in the territories of Djugu and Mahagi, She has worked for the safe return of displaced people and opened lines of communication between torn communities. Through her sensitization efforts, Vaweka also actively contributed to the safe organization of elections.

Vaweka was a leading expert and trainer in conflict management at the DRC’s National Stabilization and Reconstruction Program for more than a decade before launching FEPA in 2022. FEPA is leading the formation of a network of women engaged for peace in eastern DRC.

María Eugenia Mosquera Riascos, Colombia, 2022

María Eugenia Mosquera Riascos is the legal representative of Comunidades Construyendo Paz en Colombia (CONPAZCOL), a grassroots network of 140 victims’ organizations in 14 departments across Colombia where violent conflict continues. As a peacebuilder and human rights defender, Mosquera Riascos has worked for over 30 years with Afro-Colombian, indigenous and small-scale farming communities that have been the victims of social and armed conflict in Colombia. Under her leadership, CONPAZCOL has implemented concrete initiatives toward justice and accountability for victims and their families. 

Mosquera Riascos builds peace initiatives within the framework of nonviolent action, human rights and international humanitarian law. Through her efforts and leadership, communities have successfully advocated for truth and justice, reparations, and conditions for the non-repetition of harms by bridging their demands with national and international agreements. 

Among her notable initiatives are her contributions to the ethnic chapter in the final Colombian Peace Accords by bringing concrete proposals from the territories; her participation in the monitoring of the unilateral and bilateral cease-fires; her contribution to the drafting of protocols of demobilization and monitoring of former combatants; and her organization of public acts of recognition concerning responsibility that continues today. Mosquera Riascos also led the implementation of the first and only urban humanitarian space in Colombia in Buenaventura, creating the "Juntanza." Through these initiatives, she accompanies and advises families and local groups on issues of security and legal representation — safeguarding an environment of cooperation that is free from illegal armed actors.

Her peacebuilding work includes her participation as the female victim's voice in the Colombian peace negotiations in Havana, the creation of humanitarian spaces in urban and rural Colombia, the elaboration of reports for the Truth Commission and Special Jurisdiction for Peace, and the organization of public acts of recognition of responsibilities for events dealing with the past. Mosquera Riascos also has ensured searches for disappeared persons, rescued children forcibly recruited by paramilitary forces, secured collective land titles for Afro-Colombian communities in Valle de Cauca, and organized events bringing together victims and aggressors toward reconciliation.

Despite being the target of attacks, Mosquera Riascos remains at the frontlines in defense of the rights of the most vulnerable communities. Her efforts have strengthened the leadership of Afro-Colombian and indigenous women and youth as they contribute to social, political and cultural processes impacting their lives. She is a fearless defender of women’s and ethnic rights — travelling regionally, nationally and internationally to advocate for those excluded from decision-making. She has earned the respect of others due to her strong commitment to peace and courage.

Josephine Ekiru, Kenya, 2021

Josephine Ekiru, peace coordinator with the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), has pioneered an innovative approach to peacebuilding using environmental conservation as an entry point. She grew up as a member of the pastoralist Turkana community in Northern Kenya. Violent clashes and decades-long vendettas between tribal communities were the norm, exacerbated by poverty, climate change, and weak governance. Josephine witnessed people killing each other and the wildlife she loved.

These experiences shaped her goal to help those driving violence become allies in peace.

A life-threatening ambush at gunpoint by suspected poachers propelled her commitment and career as a peacebuilder. Josephine’s years of effort cultivating trust and fostering connections came to fruition in 2011 when her tribe came together with the Borana tribe to form the Nakuprat-Gotu Conservancy, a community-based conservation initiative. Due to her pivotal role in the conservancy’s creation, she was elected its first chairperson.

In 2014, she joined the NRT, an umbrella organization for community conservancies, to establish their peace program that now serves NRT’s 39 member conservancies and represents more than 320,000 indigenous peoples living in nearly 4.5 million hectares in Northern and Eastern Kenya. She uses multiple avenues and personal resources to reach youth and women, mentoring them to take leadership positions.

Rita Martin Lopidia, South Sudan, 2020

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.


Tabassum Adnan, Pakistan, 2020, 2021

Tabassum Adnan is a widely known women’s rights activist from the Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, once a stronghold of both the Taliban and its affiliates, who is fiercely committed to seeking justice for women. She has been instrumental in transforming community mechanisms of conflict mediation to promote justice for women and people of all backgrounds.

In 2013, Tabassum established Khwendo Jirga, the first women’s jirga (council) in Pakistan to provide women with timely justice and the opportunity to contribute to the peace and stability of their communities. Khwendo Jirga has resolved over 2,000 cases of violence and Tabassum’s model as the first woman in Pakistan to serve on a dispute resolution council has encouraged other women to join such councils. The dispute resolution councils create an easily understood and efficient mechanism for resolving conflicts that would otherwise subject women to long waits and a complicated system, a situation which often exposes them to more violence.

She also works on a broad portfolio of issues that impact justice for women, including human trafficking, quality education, gender-based violence, inheritance, sexual violence survivor health, and much more. Her work bridges the gap between traditional and state institutions.

Tabassum has collaborated with local authorities to open a women’s police station in Swat and will chair a separate dispute resolution council there. She has received international recognition for her work, including as a recipient of the U.S. Department of State’s International Women of Courage Award in 2015.

Roma Al-Damasi, Yemen, 2022

Roma Al-Damasi is a peace activist and the founder and president of the Khadija Foundation for Development (KFD) and the all-inclusive center for persons with disabilities in southwestern Yemen. She is also one of the few women on the conflict resolution committees in her region. Al-Damasi has transformed the lives of women, minorities and people with disabilities through her advocacy, humanitarian and peacebuilding work.

Al-Damasi has created a pool of dedicated peace advocates in southwestern Yemen. She has trained advocates at 45 civil society organizations, including 80 women, on peace strategies and conflict resolution and led the creation of 15 women-led associations in villages that advocate for women’s and minorities’ rights. As a result, over 500 community volunteers have been trained to address negative social attitudes and disputes related to girls’ education, early marriage, domestic violence and discrimination against minorities. Al-Damasi’s efforts have encouraged conservative parents to enroll their daughters in school. Al-Damasi contributed to the Women’s Rights Matrix and Peace Building Program, which trained 63 women activists in the Al-Dhalea governorate and helped them form a women’s network to replicate the peace training.

Al-Damasi has earned respect from both men and women through her consideration for local culture, adoption of transparency and impartiality, and effective linking of peacebuilding to service provision and collective action. She successfully mediated a long-running dispute between two villages over access to water, convincing them to reconcile and agree to share the water resources. Afterward, she helped the local communities construct a water reservoir with funding from KFD. To sustain the peace and ensure water sustainability, Al-Damasi mobilized local businesses and philanthropists to fund a community water maintenance committee. International NGOs who implement projects in her region often seek her assistance to resolve community conflict over project locations and beneficiary selection.

Despite the dire situation in Yemen, Al-Damasi has managed to keep KFD in operation to provide health care, education and training services to over 600 persons with disabilities every month, as well as humanitarian support to internally displaced persons. As a founding member of the Yemen Civil Alliance for Peace, she has brought together organizations from the north and south of the country to promote peaceful co-existence. Al-Damasi also serves as chair of the Yemen Civil Society Network, as a member of the Arab Union for peace activities, and as chair of the Yemen Women’s Union. 

Eunice Otuko Apio, Uganda, 2022

Eunice Otuko Apio is the founder of Facilitation for Peace and Development (FAPAD), a grassroots peacebuilding NGO founded in 2004 in northern Uganda, where the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) launched its 35-year legacy of brutal terrorist attacks. Apio began her peacebuilding work during the peak of the LRA war in 2001, regularly travelling across a region riddled with land mines and LRA ambushes. Her initial efforts focused on mobilizing parents whose children had been abducted by the LRA, coordinating efforts to advocate for an end to the conflict, prevent abduction and the use of child soldiers, and secure the unconditional release of all children abducted by the LRA. As a schoolgirl, Apio had narrowly escaped LRA abduction.

Apio recognizes that local violence, particularly sexual violence against women, is an early warning sign of conflict and affects the broader context of peacebuilding. She has worked tirelessly to diminish the power of rape as a weapon of war by challenging the stigmatization of women survivors of sexual violence in conflict and their children. Apio has included survivors of sexual violence linked to cattle raiding conflicts in Uganda in major studies on resilience at the University of Birmingham, where she was a post-doctoral fellow, and she has accompanied these survivors as they become advocates in their own communities. Through Apio’s leadership, FAPAD has provided direct legal aid and psychosocial support to 16,835 disadvantaged persons and pursued over 15,000 cases regarding land rights for women and the marginalized, domestic violence, child abuse, and other human rights abuses across the Lango subregion of Uganda.

Apio’s advocacy on behalf of children born of war and their mothers in Uganda and elsewhere has inspired international and national action. Her testimony to the U.N. Security Council in 2015 on the plight of children born to young girls raped and forced into “marriage” with LRA soldiers paved the way for inclusion of the Children Born Of War (CBOW) research consortium in two Women, Peace and Security resolutions. Since then, Apio has found new ways to advocate for CBOW in other conflicts, including meeting with the Pope in Rome.

Apio has worked on a documentary film featuring the voices of survivors and wrote the 2018 novel “Zura Maids,” in which she reimagines the experiences of human trafficking survivors in an African context. The novel won the inaugural Ugandan Janzi Award for outstanding book in November 2021. 

Dr. Marie-Marcelle H. Deschamps, Haiti, 2023

Dr. Marie-Marcelle Deschamps is the deputy executive director, the head of the women's health program, and the manager of the clinical research unit of GHESKIO Centers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. GHESKIO works with the Haitian and U.S. governments, Weill Cornell Medical College, UNICEF, Merieux Foundation, and other institutions to provide health care and humanitarian support to Haiti's most vulnerable populations. Deschamps has received national and international recognition for her contributions over many years to HIV/AIDS care and poverty alleviation.

The devastating 2010 earthquake and Haiti’s sociopolitical unrest over the past five years — including the brutal assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in 2021, armed gang violence, sexual violence, kidnappings and other crimes — have destroyed the social fabric throughout much of Haiti. In the city of Port-au-Prince, where gangs terrorize and rule over large portions of the population, women and children are particularly vulnerable to gang rape, kidnapping and random killings. In this environment, Deschamps works with individuals and families to address conditions that impact not only the health and well-being of the population but also drive cycles of violence.

Deschamps understands that changing community attitudes and norms requires an inclusive, multi-faceted, holistic and comprehensive approach involving education, collaborative communication and innovative strategies within the community. She introduced a global health model to GHESKIO, offering essential services to female heads of family and rape survivors, as well as access to health services, treatment for malnourished children, sanitation, job opportunities, and economic development for women to start small businesses. With 60 percent of the country facing food insecurity, Deschamps developed simple yet lifesaving and life-changing interventions by providing MONCASH transfers and food kits for 20,000 beneficiaries.

Deschamps is a strong advocate for education, viewing education as an important foundation that is often the root cause of either positive change or delinquency. Annually, more than 20,000 families have been beneficiaries of the primary and vocational schools she helped to create in 2010. Today, 380 children attend GHESKIO's campus primary school annually and more than 2,000 scholarships have been provided to other children to pursue their education. These services give students a sense of structure and direction with a place to discuss, learn and play that have helped to shift mindsets and attitudes. Her interventions take guns away from adolescents and arm them instead with marketable skills and hope for future generations.

Deschamp's commitment and ties to her community have helped to rebuild the social fabric. She has encouraged community leaders’ participation in outreach for social support programs and worked with the community advisory board to promote community empowerment and peace. Her efforts have led to training of community health agents and leadership opportunities for thousands of health workers living in violent neighborhoods.

Angela Maria Escobar, Colombia, 2020

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.

Teresita Gaviria, Colombia, 2021

Teresita Gaviria is a civil society leader recognized for being the voice of victims of forced disappearance in Colombia. Teresita’s experience of the devastation wrought by Colombia’s 50-year war was brought painfully home in 1998 with the forced disappearance of her teenage son, whose body is still missing.

In 1999, Teresita founded the Madres de la Candelaria Caminos de Esperanza (Madres de la Candelaria), an organization that searches for forcibly disappeared persons and supports their relatives, particularly the victims’ mothers. Madres de la Candelaria has collected information on over 1,000 forced disappearances and undertaken numerous activities drawing public attention to human rights abuses and the role of reconciliation in peacebuilding.

The families of the disappeared face many hardships and dangers when they try to raise awareness of these cases. Teresita works collaboratively with other victims’ families, civil society networks, community institutions, and universities to support different mechanisms of transitional justice and peacebuilding. She has successfully advocated for inclusion of forced disappearances in the Colombian penal code.

Her decisive commitment to victims’ rights led to her testifying at the 2016 peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. She has also led reconciliation efforts with armed groups.

Teresita is the recipient of several awards and recognitions, including the Colombian National Peace Award and the Silver Shield of Antioquia.

Odette Habonimana, Burundi, 2020

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.

Abir Haj Ibrahim, Syria, 2023

Abir Haj Ibrahim is a co-founder of Mobaderoon, a civil society network in Syria that advises and trains community development organizations and promotes volunteering for positive social change. She is also the co-founder of Globally Connected, a network that supports and builds understanding between the Syrian diaspora, host communities and Syrians in Syria.

Earlier, Haj Ibrahim worked in the oil sector in Syria. Haj Ibrahim’s experience during the Syrian conflict led her to dedicate her life to supporting and sustaining peaceful coexistence.

Mobaderoon’s 4,000-member peacebuilding network transcends geographic and cultural boundaries. As part of an initiative launched in 2012, Haj Ibrahim designed a “Journey of Values” program to equip local actors and community mediators with the values, knowledge and skills to engage in dialogue, facilitate conflict resolution and foster peace in their communities. Mobaderoon enabled the participants’ collaboration across diverse cities to address local and national challenges.

Mobaderoon’s gender-sensitive workshops have enabled local peacebuilders to develop contextual, effective methods for implementing change and shifting narratives around cultural norms and attitudes. Recognizing the roles of women and youth in peacebuilding, Haj Ibrahim has trained 240 peace ambassadors. By promoting dialogue among women and youth, Haj Ibrahim has channeled their perspectives into her participation as a civil society representative at Syrian peace talks in Geneva.

According to a British Council survey assessing Mobaderoon's impact, 86 percent of respondents stated that their participation in Mobaderoon’s training had “a direct positive impact on their role as a citizen” and 83.5 percent described an increase in “their acceptance of other communities.”

Haj Ibrahim’s approach to peacebuilding includes working on mediation across multiple tracks, both at the local and international levels. She has supported over 40 community-based organizations across Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Europe to enhance their local peacebuilding initiatives, working in strategic partnership with international donors for funding and resources.  She has also initiated three local peace committees and mediators’ network.

Additionally, Haj Ibrahim has built the capacity of 18 community-based organizations (CBOs) with over 200 workshops providing mentorship, financial support and technical assistance. Mobaderoon’s self-sustaining model of supporting CBOs and networks has fostered local resilience, such as when community leaders collected and distributed funds and emergency care after the February 2023 earthquake in northern and western Syria.

In 2021, following months of face-to-face consultations with civil society actors inside and outside Syria, Mobaderoon developed a “Citizen’s Charter.” This inclusive charter reflects the hopes and aspirations of Syrian youth, women, men, internally displaced persons, returnees and the diaspora. As the peace process stalls, the charter outlines a collective vision for Syria’s future and provides a unique opportunity to foster dialogue on issues such as displacement and community reconstruction.

Haj Ibrahim has encountered and overcome several persistent challenges, including threats to her own personal safety. Her commitment to engaging in dialogue with marginalized and diverse civil society groups has earned her a well-deserved reputation as a highly respected peace practitioner.

Waldistrudis Hurtado Minotta, Colombia, 2021

Waldistrudis Hurtado is an Afro-Colombian activist and leader who, for more than 25 years, has been committed to advancing the rights of women and their intersectional and intercultural diversity in a country long plagued by violent conflict. She is the co-founder and director of Colectivo de Mujeres Trenzadas Somos Más (“Braided We Are More”), a national and international women’s collective.

An active member of the National Movement of Afro-Colombian Women and related regional coalitions, she is also a member of the U.N. Women Civil Society Advisory Group for Latin America and the Caribbean, the U.N. Development Program Regional Civil Society Advisory Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean, and the U.N. Population Fund’s Spotlight Program initiative for the elimination of gender violence and femicide. She is also a lecturer on Afro-mobilization and public policy at the Afro-Latin American Studies Institute of Harvard University.

Her leadership abilities and critical work on behalf of women make her an inspiration in her region as a peacebuilder and defender and champion of gender equality for all women. Waldistrudis walks with different actors in the construction of sustainable peace paths, from her ancestral practices and knowledge of self-care and protection to her constant mobilization of Afro-descendant, indigenous, and rural women to exercise their rights.

Asia Jamil, Pakistan, 2020

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.

Gloria Laker, Uganda, 2022

Gloria Laker is the founder and director of the Peace Journalism Foundation (PJF) of Uganda-East Africa. She is also a peace media trainer and journalist. Her commitment to journalism as a means to reduce tensions and promote peace are based on her direct experiences with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict in northern Uganda — first as a displaced girl and later as a reporter covering the conflict. 

Laker founded PJF Uganda-East Africa in 2011 to teach journalists from conflict zones how to reduce contentious rhetoric and focus on the efforts of peacebuilding. Laker has trained over 800 print and broadcast journalists in Uganda, Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, South Sudan, Turkey and Zimbabwe. Because of her influence, newsrooms throughout Uganda are developing in-house guidelines on peace and community development reporting, including problem-solving approaches to conflict and giving a voice to all sides of a dispute.

Laker’s peacebuilding work includes two demographic groups critical to sustainable peace in Uganda and elsewhere: youth and refugees. Uganda has the second youngest population in the world, with high rates of youth unemployment and a large majority of youth directly engaged in or affected by violence. Laker has trained youth journalists in the principles of peace journalism and published their stories about successful peacebuilding projects. 

Uganda also hosts a large refugee population. Refugee communities often lack a voice to advocate for their needs and counter misinformation. To address this need, Laker founded the Uganda Refugee and Migration Media Network and its affiliated first project Refugee Online News — both of which are produced for and by refugees. It offers a counternarrative to the negative, victimizing reporting often seen in other writing about refugees. The network recently reported on the impacts of COVID-19 and the Ugandan lockdown on refugee communities. 

Laker is now actively seeking to replicate the success of PJF Uganda-East Africa in Rwanda, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. For her peace-focused coverage of the LRA conflict, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni awarded Laker and a few of her colleagues a Golden Jubilee Medal in 2019 and she has been nominated for a BBC Outlook Inspiration Award.

Muna Luqman, Yemen, 2022

Muna Luqman is the founder and chairperson of Food4Humanity and co-founder of the Women’s Solidarity Network in Yemen. Luqman bridges the siloes of the humanitarian, peace and development nexus to address multiple crises of conflict and climate change and meet community needs. As a result of her community mobilization, formal and informal networks of peace exist now within Yemen communities that did not exist previously. Luqman has encountered many threats, including detention, in her efforts to protect and relocate human rights defenders and peacebuilders.

Luqman uses a humanitarian lens in her peacebuilding work that is perceived as less threatening to authorities. Her efforts have convinced authorities to grant permission to work, created awareness at the ministry levels, and developed better relationships with offices in Sana’a, Taiz and other governorates. Under Luqman’s leadership, Food4Humanity’s initiatives have reached 70,000 families across six governorates in Yemen. Her work conducting local mediation over water projects and other natural resources has impacted 120,000 beneficiaries and helped to enroll girls in school. 

Luqman has negotiated on behalf of children trapped in an orphanage caught in the crossfire between rebels and the military. She conducted shuttle diplomacy between the armed actors and achieved first the provision of food and water for the children and later their secure evacuation to a safe area. Her mediation efforts resulted in the opening of a humanitarian corridor to facilitate access to humanitarian aid. 

Luqman has trained youth to become peace ambassadors — promoting the values of human rights, social justice, diversity, gender equality and global citizenship — and has supported youth in creating their own small business ventures, inoculating them from susceptibility to recruitment into extremist organizations. 

She is a longtime advocate for the inclusion of women in the Yemeni peace process. In 2020, Luqman led a series of capacity-development sessions attended by Yemeni women leaders across different geographical areas and representing a diversity of positions in the armed conflict in Yemen. These sessions led to increased collaboration and consultation among women’s organizations and a new opportunity to influence the peace and security process in Yemen. 

Luqman has participated on high-level panels with the International Organization for Migration, U.N. ECOSOC, the Stockholm International Water Institute, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and has briefed the U.N. Security Council. She also participated in the multistakeholder production of the Feminist Roadmap for Yemen, for which she collected important data on cease-fires, security arrangements and the Taiz humanitarian corridors. Currently, Luqman works on security sector reform and governance with Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance in Yemen.

Julienne Lusenge, DRC, 2020

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.

Hindrin Muhammad, Syria, 2022

Hindrin Muhammad is a peacebuilder in Northeast Syria who empowers women and youth that have been traumatized by war. Muhammad is a trainer, mentor, advisor, coordinator and leader. She has experienced traumatic personal loss due to the war and has had opportunities to leave, yet she remains deeply committed to her peacebuilding work. Operating in on-going conflict means constantly managing security risks, and she works to ensure others’ physical and emotional safety. 

Hindrin’s determination stems from her conviction in the transformative power of inclusive peacebuilding which begins at the grassroots. She works to heal trauma by bringing people together in constructive action, reviving their hope in the possibility of a country free of violence where everyone is assured their full rights, expresses their identity, and can reach their human potential.

Since 2011, Muhammad has implemented numerous initiatives in a high-risk environment where relationships of trust between key stakeholders have collapsed. She brings together women with male community leaders to address critical issues such as preventing violent extremism and strengthening social cohesion. As a result of her success, Muhammad is highly respected as a peacebuilder.

For over a decade, Muhammad has worked to establish eight women peace circles that bring diverse Syrian women together to heal from trauma and find their voice in a conservative society affected by violence. Trained in advocacy, dialogue facilitation and mentoring skills, each of the circles has worked with hundreds of women. In recent focused dialogue sessions with the peace circles, women discussed the sensitive topic of family connections to extremist organizations. The success of this effort has resulted in requests from other communities who also seek the creation of safe spaces for dialogue.

In a polarized and dangerous public sphere, Muhammad has managed to maintain professional neutrality as a peacebuilder. Her leadership trademark is bringing people together and bridging communication between diverse individuals and groups. This is evident in the civil society networks that Muhammad has helped to create and sustain, such as the peace circles network.‏ The circles are now better able to promote the active participation of women across all sectors of Syrian society and elevate women to leadership positions within their communities.

In 2021, Muhammad was elected and received the highest number of votes among approximately 100 civil society organizations to advocate for a stronger orientation toward building peace and for greater inclusion of rights for women and all marginalized communities.‏

Tatiana Mukanire, DRC, 2021

Tatiana Mukanire is a leading global advocate for survivors of wartime atrocities. She grew up in Kavumu, a rural town in Eastern DRC, where brutal sexual violence and torture are used by armed groups as weapons of war against civilians. After experiencing the harrowing trauma of sexual violence firsthand and losing loved ones to violence, Tatiana began her personal healing process and dedicated her life to supporting other survivors.

Tatiana is a founding member and national coordinator for the National Movement of Survivors of Sexual Violence in the DRC. In this role, she raises awareness about sexual violence, advocates for survivors, and demands justice and reparations for them. She has built a network of over 4,000 sexual violence survivors in five of the ten provinces in the DRC.

Her work links the dignity of a job and income generation to achieving self-sufficiency and empowerment. Tatiana’s leadership has propelled her to the frontlines of advocacy, at grassroots demonstrations, in meetings with politicians, and as an internationally respected voice for survivors speaking before the U.N. Human Rights Council and NATO’s Brussels headquarters.

While she advocates at the national and international levels, Tatiana is often seen working in the fields of her hometown with survivors or providing them with chickens and eggs for income-generating activities. Her dedication to holistic healing, including through the healing power of music, is apparent in every facet of her life.

Beata Mukarubuga, Rwanda, 2020

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.

Victoria Nyanjura, Uganda, 2020

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.

Esther Omam, Cameroon, 2021

Esther Omam is a well-known leader in Cameroon promoting peace in the face of ongoing humanitarian crises. Born into the Douala slums of western Cameroon and forced to drop out of school and entered into marriage at a young age, Esther has accomplished much in her peacebuilding career. Esther is the founder and executive director of Reach Out Cameroon (ROC), a woman- and youth-focused NGO established in 1996 and working across the Southwest and Northwest regions of Cameroon.

In 2018, Esther formed the Southwest-Northwest Women’s Task Force (SNWOT), a coalition of over 150 women leaders who came together for peace talks in response to resurging conflict between the two Anglophone regions of Cameroon. She has facilitated intercommunity and intercultural dialogues among women, youth, and local leaders for decades and is creating new opportunities for young women through her vice presidency of the South West Women for Peace and Development Network and through the Voices of Community Women.

Esther has testified before the United Nations Security Council on the humanitarian crisis in Cameroon and is an active member of numerous women’s civil society organizations at different levels, including the National Platform for Civil Societies in Cameroon, Women Mediators Across the Commonwealth, the U.N. Women’s Civil Society Advisory Group, and the International Civil Society Action Network.

She is the recipient of numerous national and international peace awards and was recognized by the Canadian High Commission for her work on the promotion and protection of human rights, peacebuilding, and mediation in Cameroon.

She played a key front-line role in organizing the first ever National Women’s Peace Convention in Cameroon, an event that brought together over 1200 women from across the country in July 2021, demanding an end to violence and calling for peace.

Rosa Emilia Salamanca Gonzalez, Colombia, 2020

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.

Irene Santiago, The Philippines, 2020

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.”

Nyachangkuoth Tai, South Sudan, 2021

Like many South Sudanese women, Nyachangkuoth Tai was born outside of South Sudan due to the violent conflict in her homeland. The violence in South Sudan has drastically impacted communities and disproportionately impacted women and girls, a situation that has motivated Nyachangkuoth to become an integral part of the solution and dedicate her work to the cause of peace.

As a committed leader, peace activist and practitioner, she has relentlessly fought to protect women and girls from sexual- and gender-based violence and advocates for effective policy implementation that includes women’s voices at the local and national levels.

Nyachangkuoth is the co-founder and executive director of the Mother Care Organization and head of gender programs at the Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA). She has helped to build the capacity of all AMA staff to integrate gender concerns from a programmatic perspective through training, guidance, and one-on-one support to ensure that AMA’s work treats gender as a cross-cutting issue in all its response activities.

Alongside various training and policy work, she leads a working group of 120 women survivors, has successfully advocated for the inclusion of women in traditional courts, and led the Yirol Peace Conference where she created space for women to voice their demands. In September 2020, Nyachangkuoth briefed the U.N. Security Council on behalf of South Sudanese civil society.

She is an Oxfam Born to Lead campaign steering committee member, a Young African Leader Initiative alumna, and a former volunteer member of the U.S. Institute of Peace Youth Advisory Council (2019).

Jayne W. Waithitu, Kenya, 2021

Jayne Waithitu’s participatory approach to peacebuilding in her home country of Kenya was informed by her earlier experience in Rwanda. In particular, she was inspired by the Rwandan post-genocide peacebuilding program, Ndi umunyarwanda (“I am Rwandan”), aimed at creating a national identity founded on trust and dignity that fostered harmony and healing.

Jayne recognized that sustaining peace in Kenya was also fraught with challenges — and local peacebuilders, especially women, have an important role to play. After Kenya’s 2008 post-election violence, Jayne poured her passion into peacebuilding in Kenya using several approaches like discussions on buses, operationalizing the standard operating procedures for prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence and going further to train police officers from selected police stations through a multisector approach.

In 2018, Jayne founded the Peace Warriors Organization (PWO), a peacebuilding nongovernmental organization of over 150 community-based women throughout all 47 of Kenya’s counties. Under her leadership and guidance as executive director, PWO has expanded to train women to assess how tensions build and how to mitigate them before they escalate further. Currently an international mediation coach for Interaction Management Associates, Jayne recruits and trains local and international mediators.

She is a member-mentor of Global Give Back Circle, an organization that aims to empower young men and women from Africa in high-conflict areas through a long-distance mentoring program. A member of Rotary Peace Foundation in Kenya, Jayne was selected as a 2021 Rotary Peace fellow. Jayne has also actively contributed to the U.N. system-wide community engagements dialogues with local peacebuilders online since 2018.

Rani Yan Yan, Bangladesh, 2021

Rani Yan Yan is an indigenous peoples’ human rights defender and women’s rights activist from the conflict-prone Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region of Bangladesh. She is also the advisor to the Chakma Circle Chief and the ceremonial queen (Rani) of the Chakma people and the Chakma Circle. Indigenous people have long suffered violence and exploitation in this region, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands. Despite a peace accord signed in 1997, the military maintains a strong presence in the region and indigenous communities have limited access to their land and basic needs. Rape of indigenous women by people outside of indigenous communities is common in the CHT, where perpetrators are treated with impunity.

In this context, Rani Yan Yan has sought to secure the protection and rights of indigenous women and to support their leadership in society. Despite threats and attacks against her life, Rani Yan Yan collaborates with local, national, and international civil society organizations and other key actors to promote peace and justice in CHT.

Of particular concern to her is the meaningful participation of indigenous peoples in the planning, reform, and implementation of legislation, national policies, and development actions that impact them, including those related to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and climate change actions.

Her belief in democratic processes is reflected in her inclusive and equity-driven approach to strengthen sustainable peace and equality.

Hamisa Zaja, Kenya, 2023

Hamisa Zaja is the founder and chairperson of the Coast Association for Persons with Disabilities, a nongovernmental organization in Mombasa, Kenya, that works to empower persons with disabilities. Zaja is also a program officer with Maji Na Ufanisi (Water and Development), a charity that implements water and sanitation projects aimed at reaching the neediest and most vulnerable groups in urban and rural areas in Kenya. As a person living with a disability, Zaja is committed to building a peaceful society and providing opportunity and security for all. 

As a member and the locational peace chairperson of the Mombasa Peace Committee, Zaja facilitates peace meetings and dialogue within the region. Her mediation efforts have transformed conflicts, leading to peaceful coexistence and reduced violence in local communities. Through dialogue and negotiations, Zaja successfully resolved a land dispute in Kadongo, ensuring fair compensation for those forcibly evicted. She mediated between the Orma and Pokomo tribes in Tana River during a period of heightened tensions in 2012, promoting reconciliation and peace. 

A significant focus of Zaja’s peacebuilding work is aimed at providing alternatives to youth who are targeted for recruitment by violent extremist groups. Zaja has supported hundreds of youths in starting their own businesses, empowering them economically and reducing their vulnerability to violence. She established a resource center in Majengo that includes a computer training center, a tailoring school and a barber training center — providing vocational skills to marginalized youth. Majengo has been described as “ground zero” for recruiting youth into the Somali-based military group Al Shabaab. Zaja facilitated dialogue between youth groups and government authorities, addressing disappearances and police brutality.  

Zaja blends her peacebuilding work with development projects and advocacy on behalf of youth, women and persons with disabilities. Her involvement in infrastructure development initiatives — including resource centers, clean water projects and sanitation facilities — has helped improve living conditions for communities. Her garbage collection project not only addresses environmental challenges but also provides employment opportunities for youths. Zaja transformed Mombasa's public toilets into income-generating projects for youths, women and persons with disabilities, providing employment opportunities and diverting them from drug abuse, extremist activities and manipulation by political actors. She also initiated projects for toilets and clean water in Bangladesh Mikindani, an informal settlement, improving living conditions and reducing conflicts over limited resources.  

Zaja’s disability has only strengthened her efforts as a human rights defender. She advocates for improved security measures to protect communities from violence. She actively combats teenage pregnancies, female genital mutilation, child marriage and violence against women through multiple community initiatives. By raising awareness, challenging harmful practices, promoting gender equality and protecting women's rights, Zaja has influenced cultural norms and attitudes.