Thirteen participants will graduate from the Women's Peacebuilding Leadership Program in December 2015. Shown here are Esther Bett, Ruth Nalyanya, Roselyne Onunga, Shamsa Omar, Carol Makanda, Fatuma Abass, Eunice Githae, and Everlyn Musee , all from Kenya. Not pictured are Amina Abdulkadir, of Somalia; Nimo Farah and Hinda Hasen, of Somaliland; Olga Hamadi, of West Papua; and Philma Zaku, of Solomon Islands. (Photo by Michael Sheeler)

Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program announces more than $900,000 in new grant funding

Two recent grant awards will support continued growth of the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program (WPLP) at Eastern Mennonite University.

A nearly $900,000 grant was received from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Kenya and East Africa will allow 16 participants to enroll in two future WPLP cohorts. The first, which will begin in May 2016, will include eight women from Kenya and Somalia. A second cohort of eight women from the Horn of Africa region will enter WPLP in May 2017.

WPLP has also received around $20,000 in grant money from The JustPax Fund to fund travel and planning for future cohorts of women peacebuilders from Iraq and Jordan.

USAID administers the U.S. foreign assistance program, providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide, while The JustPax Fund provides financial and logistical support to individuals and organizations working for effective change in gender justice, environmental justice and economic justice.

Participants impact their communities

Launched in 2012, WPLP is a graduate certificate program of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP) that develops participants’ leadership and peacebuilding skills. Over a 19-month period, participants study at EMU’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute, take courses in their home regions as well as distance-learning courses, and are paired with mentors who support their leadership growth and help them expand their spheres of influence.

The program also requires each woman to analyze a specific conflict facing her community, design an intervention plan and then spend months implementing the plan. Although WPLP is relatively new, acting director Leda Werner said that participants have already had significant impacts in their communities.

Examples include one participant who used trauma-healing circles to facilitate a reconciliation process between residents of a Kenyan refugee camp from different sides of the same conflict. Another has introduced gender-based violence education to school curricula in Liberia, and a third woman from Papua New Guinea lobbied for reform of the country’s juvenile justice system. That effort eventually led to the unanimous passage of a bill in parliament to address juvenile crime with restorative justice practices and traditional approaches rather than incarceration.

“Those are some of the results that really inspire us to continue the program and continue to build this group of women,” Werner said.

Learning communities unite women

In order to develop support networks and working relationships, WPLP participants complete the program in groups, or cohorts, drawn from specific regions in the world. To date, 30 women from eight countries in Africa and the South Pacific have completed the program. In December, when the current WPLP cohort completes the program, that number will rise to 43 women from nine countries.

“WPLP’s cohort model offers women in conflict zones the opportunity to form a tight-knit learning community, which then becomes a network of support for long-term peacebuilding work,” said CJP Executive Director Daryl Byler. “Additionally, having a graduate certificate in peacebuilding leadership helps open new leadership roles for the women and amplifies their voices in peacebuilding processes.

Including the two recent awards, WPLP has received just under $3 million in grant support from five different donor agencies.

Using the JustPax grant, Werner and Byler will travel to Iraq and Jordan later this year to lay the groundwork for future WPLP cohorts from those countries. Werner said WPLP is also exploring opportunities to work with women peacebuilders from Colombia, South Sudan and minority communities in the United States.

Applications for the cohort starting in May 2016 are now being accepted; for more information, visit WPLP’s website.