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Kenyan Woman set to receive an International Award for efforts in resolving conflicts

The Coast Association for Persons with Disabilities Executive Director Hamisa Zaja has jetted off to Washington DC, United States of America (USA), to receive an international award for her exemplary peace-building works.

Hamisa Zaja is among four women in the world nominated for the Women Building Peace Award 2023 by the US Institute of Peace (USIP) for her work in empowering youth, women and persons living with disability.

USIP is a national, nonpartisan, independent institute, founded by Congress working with local partners to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict.

According to the institute’s website, it works with governments and civil societies to build local capacities to manage conflict peacefully. It links research, policy, training, analysis and direct action to support champions of peace in the world.

The award is yearly to a woman peacebuilder who has made a major contribution to preventing conflict, combatting violence and building peace in her country.

This year, the award received more than 150 nominations from 42 countries. The finalists are Dr Marie-Marcelle Deschamps (Haiti), Abir Ibrahim (Syria), Petronille Vaweka (DRC) and Hamisa Zaja (Kenya). They were selected by the USIP’s Women Building Peace Council.

Zaja hails from Majengo a cosmopolitan area in Mvita Sub-County. She was diagnosed with polio as a child, she overcame different challenges to become a peace-builder. “It’s a place where conflict cannot be missed,” said Zaja.

She ventured into peace-building and empowerment of women, youths and people living with disabilities in 2005. Zaja was instrumental in resolving a deadly tribal conflict in the neighbouring Tana River County in 2012 that claimed more than 100 lives.

“My work goes direct to empowerment through rolling out of tangible income-generating projects that improve people’s lives,” she said at the Moi International Airport.

Zaja built a resource centre in Majengo that annually churns out more than 1,500 youth, women and persons living with disability with various skills. She focuses on transforming people from being less productive to a valuable person in society. “They come out with different life skills that focus on building their livelihoods,” she said.

In 2022, Lely Mwanaidi, a beneficiary, walked out of the resource centre with a sewing machine she used to start her own business after acquiring dress-making skills at the Majengo Resource Centre.

“A person of value is focused and always makes and maintains peace. Conflict comes when people have lost hope. But I give the people hope for a better future,” said Zaja.

She said the award is a great recognition for Kenyan peace-builders, women and especially persons with disability.

“The award is a testament that Kenya as a country is recognized for peace and should be an example of peace to other nations amid the conflicts in many parts of the world,” Zaja said.

By Sadik Hassan

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