One of my best friends is Kenyan. He just graduated from Eastern Mennonite University with a degree in justice and peacebuilding; I figured he would be a good source for information about African women achievements. I was right. “Google Dekha Ibrahim Abdi,” he said.
It was an easy inspiration. After reading just a few sentences about her and her achievements, it was clear just how remarkable she was. She is another example of a strong African woman that only makes international news coverage after her death.
She passed away this summer because of injuries during a car accident. She had just gotten back to her home country, Kenya. She was returning home from classes at EMU during the Summer Peacebuilding Institute learning how to further use her innate peace skills.
During the 1990s a small scale war broke out over water and livestock in Dekha’s hometown of Wajir. She initiated a peace movement that united Christian and Muslim women to work toward peaceful negotiations. Her process was centered upon rules of mediation; she made sure to listen intently without interrupting to everyone who wanted to use mediation as a resource. According to her obituary in The Guardian,
“she knew that humiliation is one of the main drivers of violence, and that they best antidote to humiliation is respect. When everyone felt their point of view was understood, she would work to restore relations between victim and offender.”
She was part of several non-governmental organizations and non-profits including Wajir Peace and Development, Responding to Conflict, Co-existence International, ACTION for Conflict Transformation, Peace Direct, and the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in Cambodia. She was a founder and/or on the board of many of the organizations.
For her peace efforts, she won a 1999 distinguised medal for service away, named the Kenyan Peace Builder of the Year in 2005, and received the Right Livelihood Award in 2007 (referred to as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”).
One of the most frustrating realizations I’ve had while writing about these amazing women is that they aren’t internationally recognized for their work until after they die. What does it take for these women to be recognized for their achievements while still alive?
Right now, this very instant, some woman in Africa is working to make the world a better place. Media should actively seek out these women and praise them for their courageous works while they are still alive.