Doreen Ruto Jemutai, MA ’06, an integral supporter and partner of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, died Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.
Doreen’s peacebuilding work, anchored in her native Kenya, spanned multiple countries in Africa, as well as the United States. She began her career as a teacher. After a tragic loss in the 1998 United States Embassy bombing in Nairobi, Doreen participated in a survivor’s group, then in EMU’s Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) training in 2001. Awarded a Fulbright scholarship, she studied conflict transformation, restorative justice and trauma and resilience at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP).
Ruto has served as a mentor to many women in East Africa and beyond through her work with the Women’s Peacebuilding Leadership Program (WPLP), STAR, and other trauma and peacebuilding-related initiatives. In 2011, she founded Daima Initiatives for Peace and Development (DiPaD) in Kenya, which engaged in a variety of peacebuilding initiatives, many of which involved and supported CJP programs.
“Doreen chose to come here to CJP to deepen her knowledge and credentials, and also to engage a personal trauma healing journey,” said Daryl Byler, CJP executive director. “She then contributed to and through our community her tremendous capacities as an educator and leader for peace, and officially represented the center at events in East Africa. For that ongoing legacy, we are deeply grateful.”
A celebration of life service is Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016, at Christ is the Answer Ministries Church in Nairobi, Kenya. A funeral service will be Thursday, Jan. 28, and burial in Nandi Hills on Saturday, Jan. 30.
‘A great loss’
With other staff members of DiPaD, Ruto was recently present at a December graduation ceremony in Nairobi for 13 WPLP participants from East Africa who had earned graduate certificates in peacebuilding leadership. The organization was the regional partner of WPLP, contributing to the formation, transportation and international logistics of the cohorts. Ruto co-taught the conflict analysis course to the Kenyan cohort, mentored women through their hands-on projects, and connected them to resources and partners.
“Doreen’s passing is a great loss,” said Leda Werner, acting director of the WPLP program. “Her warm laughter, commitment to trauma healing and peacebuilding, and personal strength touched many of us. WPLP is grateful to her and to DiPaD for their deep commitment to supporting women peacebuilders. Her impact will carry on in WPLP and elsewhere.”
Ruto’s absence will be noticeable during the Summer Peacebuilding Institute on the EMU campus, where she was to co-facilitate courses on conflict analysis and work with the WPLP cohort in the “Peacebuilding Approaches to Violent Extremism” course. She was also to facilitate a STAR training in Kenya in June 2017.
Passing on STAR learnings
Katie Mansfield, director of the STAR program, met Ruto in 2011. The two women shared a common grief, both having lost loved ones in terrorist attacks. They worked together to offer STAR in Kenya in a series of partnerships, first with Rural Women’s Peace Link, and with Mennonite Central Committee.
“Doreen was not one to gloss over the problems, either systemic or interpersonal, yet she offered wholehearted presence, compassionate listening, and caring sense of humor,” said Mansfield. “She was keen to help people discover their strengths, build their resilience, and recognize the power in themselves and their communities to make change, to pursue healing, and build a safe, just, truthful, and caring society.”
“Justice That Heals” was developed after the 2013 elections to involve people from diverse sectors, ages, and ethnic backgrounds working in a variety of settings, including the legal system, law enforcement, education and pastoral care. After the Westgate mall attacks, DiPaD offered training retreats to people who had been directly impacted by the attacks, as well as first responders and caregivers.
In 2014, Ruto became a co-facilitator for a series of USAID-sponsored trainings in South Sudan, for which she contextualized STAR training materials and eventually led a training of trainers in the Great Lakes region. She also conducted various training programs with EMU in Somaliland, Burundi and the United States.
A wide influence
Among Ruto’s strengths were her multi-faceted academic and professional capacities as “a facilitator and project coordinator, as well as a researcher, educator and mentor,” Mansfield said.
Ruto supported a UNICEF-funded program that spearheaded a nationwide peace and non-violence campaign with youth before the 2013 general elections in Kenya. Previously, she worked as a monitoring and evaluation officer with the USAID program Kenya Transition Initiatives, aimed at stabilizing communities and institutions in Kenya following the post-election violence in 2008.
She also worked with PACT World as a consultant on the PEACE II program and contributed to the research and publication on Imagine Karamoja! – An Appreciative Inquiry into Resources for Peace, in addition to presenting research on behalf of the STAR program at the African Union in Addis Ababa in 2013.
Ruto earned a bachelor’s of education degree from Kenyatta University in 1991 and worked as a secondary school teacher until 1998. She earned a master’s degree in human resource development from the University of Manchester (UK) in 2003, and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study conflict transformation at CJP, graduating in 2006.
Ruto is survived by two sons, Richard “Richy” Biko Kipkoech and Ronald Kiptoo, of Nairobi, Kenya. Both attended Harrisonburg schools while their mother studied at CJP. Richy is a 2011 EMU graduate.