Current and Past Winston Fellows
2018 Esther Paya, Nigeria
Paya has been involved in the field since 2014. To help others build resilience and heal, as she had to do, Paya first began volunteering to help traumatized victims of violence and to facilitate around forgiveness and reconciliation. In 2015, she began working with the Dialogue, Reconciliation and Peace Centre and the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria on a Mennonite Central Committee-funded peace project in the northeast.
When Paya returns to Nigeria after SPI, she will fulfill scholarship requirements by rejoining the center to work in an European Union-funded project that aims to promote respect for diversity among community members by engagement in intercultural and interreligious activities.
2017 Sumina Karki, Nepal
“Nepal has lived in and experienced a 10-year long conflict which killed more than 13,000 people,” said Sumina Karki. Karki, 29, is a program officer with The Asia Foundation and a founding member of the Nepalese feminist group Chaukath.
Karki came to peacebuilding three years ago after working several years as a journalist and as a researcher. Seeking to make a tangible impact and to contribute to improved governance in Nepal, she began working in dialogue and community mediation with The Asia Foundation, a nonprofit organization.
Karki manages community mediation and dialogue programs from her base in the capital city of Kathmandu, often traveling to different conflict hotspots to train and collaborate with dialogue facilitators.
2017 Tessy Gusim-Ndasule, Nigeria
Gusim-Ndasule’s “pursuit of peace” is partly because of a childhood tragedy she hopes her children will not experience. As a young girl, she lived among neighbors of different faiths, tribes and ethnic groups.
“I had many Muslim friends,” she said. “We went to school together and played together. I could perform the ablutions and I knew the call to prayer. My parents didn’t have a problem with it and neither did theirs, and it was that way until 1999, when everything changed. After that, Muslim people weren’t as free to have Christian friends and Christians too as it concerns Muslim friends because of the challenges and politicization of religion that has now polarized us. People you had grown up with became strangers almost like enemies.”
These difficult memories motivated her to leave a long career in banking and begin working in conflict transformation. As a program officer involved with the Baptist Church and the Women’s Missionary Union, she focuses her efforts on facilitating dialogue with women of Muslim and Christian faiths in the city of Kaduna. To help her gain skills in this work, she was awarded one of two 2017 Winston Fellowships to attend the Summer Peacebuilding Institute.
2016 Maha Mehanna, Palestine
At a time when walls are being reinforced and deepened around the Gaza Strip – called by some “the world’s largest open-air prison” – Maha Mehanna is doing her best to build bridges of peace across them.
Mehanna has spent most of her life in the small region wedged between Israel and Egypt along the Mediterranean coast. She has experienced severe electricity shortages, improper sewage treatment, polluted water supplies, a lack of good food and health care, and other limited resources.
Gazans measure age by conflict rather than years, she says, terming a child “three wars old.” Destruction from three major conflicts between Israel and Gaza over the past decade and ongoing smaller skirmishes have left many homes in rubble and people living in tents. The Egyptian border is also tense, with homes being destroyed for a buffer zone.
“We adapt, but it is no life,” said Mehanna, a Palestinian Muslim, during an interview on the EMU campus in June 2016. “If you want to believe, go to Gaza and see.”
2016 Thiri Tin, Myanmar
Though only 24, Thiri Tin has already defied significant odds: she earned a degree in journalism and mass communications in 2011 from the University of Yangon, soon after press freedoms were established in the country. What’s more significant, though, is that Tin has decided to use that degree to help build peace in her country.
Tin grew up in a country undergoing massive transition. All around her, Myanmar (formerly Burma) slowly emerged from years of isolation, violence and government oppression and moved toward greater freedom, democracy and global engagement.
“I would like to see my country become a legitimate country that can protect her citizens no matter who they are, regardless of religion, race or gender,” Tin said in her application for the fellowship. “That is my greatest hope for my country.” She initially went to work for one of Myanmar’s political parties as a communications assistant. Then in early 2013 she traveled to Rakhine State in far western Myanmar to assist with research for a government commission looking into ongoing ethnic and religious violence.
That experience ended up changing her course. The research team from the Rakhine project grew into a non-governmental organization called the Center for Diversity and National Harmony (CDNH). The center benefited from a $2.5 million grant from the United Nations Peace Building Fund and is supported by several other European-based groups. It seeks to promote tolerance and social harmony in Myanmar, which has about 135 recognized ethnic groups. Tin stayed with the organization and found her call in its peacemaking work.
2015 Sujan Rai, Nepal
Sujan Rai’s trip to SPI was delayed because of the two major earthquakes that hit her city, Kathmandu, in April 2015. She is grateful that her family did not suffer loss of life or property—but it was a difficult time to leave her husband, 6-year-old son and country.
After earning a master’s degree in sociology in India, Sujan began working for Nepal Transition to Peace (NTTP), a nonpartisan institute formed in 2005 to build Nepali capacity to engage in the national peace process. NTTP supports peace through careful study of conflicts in Nepal, inclusive and sustained dialogue, and non-partisan processes to forge consensus on political and social issues. NTTP also encourages inclusion and participation of lesser-heard voices by sponsoring small groups of indigenous, youth and women leaders.
Sujan started at NTTP as a program associate, providing logistical administrative support, but was encouraged and mentored by others in the organization to take on a more substantive role in NTTP’s activities.
Sujan hopes to be a dedicated and contributing member of NTTP, and feels her SPI experience has put her on the right path. After taking Training Design and Facilitation, she plans to re-work parts of her workshop for youth leaders on gender issues to emphasize a more learner-centered approach, include an examination of power dynamics, and “make it more fun!”
SPI is a beautiful community, Sujan says, because while the differences between people are apparent, they choose to respect those differences. “This is what peace looks like.”
The post-earthquake reconstruction in Nepal will take a long time, just as the efforts to develop and pass a constitution since Nepal’s civil war ended in 2006 are taking time. She hopes that NTTP can help those in power see the need for political and social stability as reconstruction continues.
2015 Taziwa Machiwana, Zimbabwe
For Taziwa Machiwana, peace is not just the absence of violence, but a nationwide, structural condition in which young people can find jobs, pursue educational goals and enjoy basic human rights. It is a peace that has long been elusive for Zimbabwe, but one Taziwa hopes to facilitate through empowering young people to advocate for their rights in nonviolent ways.
In 2009, Taziwa became involved with Youth Dialogue Zimbabwe, which promotes tolerance among young people in Mutare City and Manicaland Province. The group brought together youth from different political ideologies using sports as a tool to promote tolerance and unity within local communities.
After participating in a leadership school with the Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT), Taziwa became the program officer for YETT’s peacebuilding project. A national organization in Zimbabwe, YETT partners with over 33 youth civil society organizations, building the capacity of youth leaders from these organizations to advocate peacefully for their rights. Taziwa leads advocacy and conflict transformation workshops with the goal of empowering young people (ages 18-35) to speak out for their needs—jobs, education and access to services and resources such as clean drinking water.
Taziwa heard about SPI through its “worldwide reputation” as the place for peacebuilding. He attended three sessions, taking Building Civil Society Movements, Practice: Skills for Peacebuilding, and Training Design and Facilitation. He appreciated the connection between theory and practice in each course, and wants to integrate more peacebuilding analysis tools to improve YETT’s activities.
“SPI has been my first experience in which people coming from cultures or religions that are in friction are encouraged to suspend those beliefs while they are here—long enough to get to know each other and understand that the assumptions you had about someone from a certain country or religion are likely not true.”
2013 Steven Hakizimana, Rwanda
2012 Glory Jaiah, Sierra Leone
2012 Meltem Basara, Germany
2011 Delia Maria Davila, Guatemala
2011 Nisrine Ajab, Lebanon
2010 Dolma, China
2010 Anamika Pradhan, Nepal
2010 Bekkhan Gelgoev, Russia
2009 Enas Abukhalaf, Jordan
2009 Sokchea Saing, Cambodia
2009 Izana Prazic, Serbia
2008 Preeti Thapa, Nepal
2008 Emmanuel Dele Seme, Sudan
2008 Don Yellowman, Dine
2005 Tania Alahendra, Sri Lanka
2003 Colins Imoh, Nigeria
2003 Ignatius Kabale Mukuntu, Zambia
2002 Sonila Gogu, Albania
2002 Dinesh Prasain, Nepal
2002 Paulo Bale, Fiji
2001 Sohrab Sardual, Philippines
2001 Jocelyne Githaiga, Kenya
2001 Jamal Abdalla, Sudan
1999 Beatrice Kounmenou, Ghana
1999 Gilda Ausan Talde, Philippines