The peace race season is yet again here for the armed warriors of the marginalized communities surrounding the Mount Elgon region in East Africa to disarm and embrace peaceful co-existence. Thanks to the effort of Ms. Tegla Loroupe, the renown world record holder of numerous long distant races who has now turned her boots back to her roots being an advocate for peace.
Who would imagine that from the humble abode of Pokot in North Western Kenya, a region that has witnessed excessive feuding often sparked off by a struggle for limited resources as clans and tribes seek to take control on behalf of their kinsmen, that a daughter would be born and champion would be given?
Tegla Loroupe is that woman of valour who has literally run races to victory including the New York Marathon and now is running the race for peace. What makes her tired are the consequences of the lethal tribal battles have been devastating beyond measure. “Families have been displaced, men have lost their lives, women and girls have been brutally raped, schools have been turned into hide out for gangs and rustlers hindering children from pursuing education and communities have been cut off from development programmes. I am tired of these conflicts.” Says, Tegla.
In 2003, Ms. Lourope decided to use her achievements in sports as a tool for peace. She established the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation (TLPF) which is now preparing for the tenth annual peace race that draws participants from warring communities from Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and aiming to restore peace in the Horn of Africa region.
The soft spoken Loroupe, reckons that “when men fight, women and children suffer the most and that is why I take the responsibility to stand with the torch for peace on the arena of sports. I know well, that no matter the level of enmity, during sporting events people forget their differences and cheer as one team. My role as a woman is to take this opportunity as a good ground to preach reconciliation and install peace.”
Though slightly under five feet in height, the beautiful and slim Loroupe stands tall and speaks boldly on the international arena for world to ensure that peace prevails in the whole world for all the people. As a UN ambassador of sports, Tegla has joined other dignitaries to speak for peace in Darfur and other parts of the world often finding herself as the only woman in the counsel of many men.
This year, the Peace Race scheduled for 14th November in Kapenguria is set to be graced of by Prince Albert II of Monaco amongst other dignitaries who have appreciated the cause for peace that is advocated for by Ms. Tegla Loroupe. The race which features 10Km and 5 Km runs is expected to attract at least three thousand men and women and giving warriors the opportunity to quit conflict and cattle rustling,disarm and embrace education, training in sports and other substitute programs that improve their livelihood.
Peace is important for girl-child education to be realised because during conflicts girls are not only vulnerable to sexual violence but are also denied the chance to be in school by a big margin. The 2009 Peace Race will therefore emphasize the need for clans and tribes in the Mount Elgon region to maintain cordial relationships that will protect the right to education for the girl-child.
“There is no better role model for the girls in West Pokot region other than Tegla Loroupe,” Says Kerio Lorot the Press and Communications officer of TLPF. Tegla often shares with girls the struggles of her childhood growing with God given talents that her own father disowned calling it a mischief. She would run too school through the hilly terrain and today is grateful that her engagement in sports saved her from being married of at an early age and lifted her from continual poverty.
“I was the first African woman to win a championship and break a world record in Athletics. If I, a woman from a remote village in West Pokot did it, then other girls in Pokot and other marginalized areas of Africa and the world as a whole can do it.”
In 2010, The Tegla Loroupe Peace Academy is set to open gates of education to girls from communities affected by ethnic conflicts in. Since 2006, sixteen classrooms have already been constructed and dormitories are being raised in this peace school situated in Siyoi. The facility shall also cater for orphans and other vulnerable children affected by ethnic conflicts and armed cattle rustling.
As nations, organizations and individuals search for the peace of the world, Tegla Loroupe is holding the tape for grassroot communities to shun ethnic violence and run the race for a peaceful co-existence. Today, she is standing out as a noble woman warrior protecting the rights of marginalized women and girls and a champion for peace promoting human security.
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.Voices of Our Future Assignment: Op-eds