Women PeaceMaker Profile

Jane Anyango

Narrative

From the Hard Earth a Leader Emerges by Peace Writer Maggie Thach Morshed


Kenya, Africa

Jane Anyango of Kenya is a grassroots peacemaker and the founding director of the Polycom Development Project, based in Africa’s largest informal settlement, Kibera. She is also the founder of Kibera Women for Peace and Fairness, which has since expanded to other settlements in Nairobi.

Anyango founded Polycom in response to the sexual violence and exploitation faced by young girls in Kibera, in particular a case in which a 39 ­year­ old man was caught in a sex act with an 11 ­year­ old girl. Polycom provides access to education, sports activities and sanitation for young women, enabling them to understand themselves and make informed decisions about their lives and bodies.

During violence surrounding the Kenya presidential election in late 2007, a young girl who Anyango had been working with was killed by the police. She and a friend decided to organize women in Kibera to protest and express their anger about the violence and killings they were witnessing. “In less than one hour, more than 200 were holding hands and marching,” she said. Within two weeks, more than 800 women from Kibera were gathering every week to protest and to keep the men in their lives from committing violent acts. Anyango became known as Mama Wa Amani, or “Woman of Peace”, and Kibera Women for Peace and Fairness was born.

In anticipation of the 2013 elections — the first since the disputed and violent polls in 2007 — Anyango launched a campaign entitled Nena Tenda Amani, promoting peace through action and advocacy. It divided Kibera into four regions and trained 50 women per region on peacebuilding and conflict mitigation, successfully diffusing many tense situations during the election. In 2014, during a standoff between the government and opposition, Anyango gathered more than 15,000 signatures calling for peace.

Anyango was nominated by the U.S. Embassy in Kenya for the International Women of Courage Award, and has received numerous recognitions for her grassroots peacebuilding work. She and her work with Kibera Women for Peace and Fairness were featured in the 2014 documentary I Will Not Be Silenced.