Running for Peace

April 25, 2008

Dr. Karambu Ringera (2003–04 International Fellow) and AAUW Executive Director Linda HallmanThrough AAUW’s International Fellowships program, we provide financial support to outstanding women from countries around the globe so that they can attain their educational goals and improve the lives of women and girls in their home countries. Karambu Ringera, a 2003–04 International Fellow, is doing just that in her home country of Kenya.

Thanks to AAUW support, Ringera received her doctorate in human communication studies from the University of Denver. In 2003, she founded International Peace Initiatives, an NGO dedicated to supporting African grassroots leaders and movements that mitigate the effects of war, poverty, and disease. That work is even more critical following the violence that erupted late last year in response to the results of the presidential election in Kenya.

In 2007, Ringera ran for parliament in Kenya, vying to represent North Imenti, a constituency that has never had a woman representative and, before that election, had never even had a woman run for the office. As a pioneer, Ringera faced enormous challenges, including threats of violence and assault from those angry that a woman would even consider seeking office. Out of a field of 16 candidates, she finished in sixth place, and she vows to continue to fight in future elections.

Many hurdles must be overcome for women in Kenya to achieve equity, and Ringera is doing all she can to make that dream a reality. Whether reaching out to women living in refugee camps or bringing international attention to the current political crisis, she is making a difference. While visiting the U.S. recently, Ringera served as the keynote speaker at a “peace salon” convened by Peace X Peace in Washington, D.C. She also spoke at an event sponsored by the Women’s Leadership Initiative at Yale University to discuss the role of female leadership in the Kenyan government.

While visiting the AAUW national office, Ringera talked about the importance of girl’s education and her role in mentoring young women. She told us, “When I was campaigning, everywhere I went I would tell the young girls, I am doing this for you, I am doing this for you.”

By:   |   April 25, 2008

2 Comments

  1. When Karambu visited our offices last week, I was being interviewed on the topic of “leadership” by a freelance writer for CARE International. CARE is developing a new project to target international girls, ages 11-14. I asked Karambu about her experience at that age. She credits her parents for protecting her from “cultural norms” that would not have allowed her to continue her education, much less pursue higher education. Her mother protected her from FGM (female genital mutilation) and her father, head of the Kenyan education ministery, encouraged Karambu to pursue her education. As a recipient of an AAUW International Fellowship, Karambu pledged to herself that she would visit AAUW in Washington, D.C. What a delight to meet her and to hear her stories of leadership! She is a shining example of AAUW’s Value Promise to all members: By joining AAUW, you belong to a community that breaks through educational and economic barriers so all women have a fair chance.

  2. When I qualified for the AAUW International Fellowship, I was so happy that I wept. I asked myself: “who are these people who do not even know me but believe in me enough to support my education?” I promised myself not only to complete my doctorate but also to make sure I visit the AAUW office in Washington, DC just to tell “those people” how grateful I still am for their support and how that support changed my life.

    Hoping to travel from Kenya to pursue graduate education in USA is the dream of many girls. To actualize that dream is another story altogether. I am so blessed, I was able to bring my dream to reality. It took the support of many, the main support of my study at the University of Denver being AAUW.

    Now that I have a PhD, my goal is to go to the grassroots and contribute to transformation of the social fabric of my country and around the world. I have been working with children orphaned by AIDS and vulnerable children and their families. For the next couple of years I want to dedicate my life to leadership training for girls, human rights advocacy for women, and sustainable peacebuilding – critical areas in current post-conflict Kenya following the December 27, 2007 elections. The political crisis in Kenya not only unleashed underlying ethnic sentiments manifested in the brutal killing of members of rival ethnic groups, it also underlined the need for a more proactive approach to building sustainable peace in our communities. While the short-term effort has been to end the violence, the long-term vision must focus on building communities of tolerance, compassion, respect, and appreciation for diversity. The leadership of women is critical in this endeavor.

    Thank you AAUW for your stand with women from around the world. By empowering one woman, the ripple effects of her liberation reaches down deep, unearths and breaks systemic barriers that hinder the possibilities of taking charge of our lives.

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