Kenya: Tecla Wanjala

In war everybody is a victim. For one to reconcile communities, one needs to rise from being a wounded victim to a wounded healer. I am a wounded healer.

— Tecla Wanjala

Tecla Wanjala, a Kenyan 43-year-old mother of four, has dedicated her work to peace building. The trained social worker holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution. She started working with refugees in 1991 and later with internally displaced persons in her home district in Western Kenya. She initiated reconciliation meetings between opposing ethnic groups. Today, she works on peace building and post-conflict reconstruction from community to national level. “I don’t want my children to suffer the way I saw others suffering,” she explains her motivation.

The Eastern Mennonite University accepted Tecla Wanjala directly for a master’s course in conflict resolution, because of her outstanding experience in this field. Ten years earlier, while working as a social worker in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons, Tecla was frustrated by the conditions the people lived in, by their traumatic stories and their desperation. This frustration turned a committed social worker into a peace builder. Tecla comes from a poor community in Western Kenya, which she describes as marginalized. She completed a diploma in social work in 1991 and started to work in a camp for 30,000 Somali refugees. Assigned to teach Kiswahili to children, Tecla became aware of their desperation, especially of single women and mothers who had no maintenance support. In 1992, she joined the Catholic Diocese of her home district, Bungoma, as a relief and rehabilitation coordinator for 40,000 internally displaced persons driven away by the ethnic clashes in Kenya in 1991/92. She got many of them involved in small farming projects to gain a humble income. It was here that Tecla Wanjala found ways to talk to opposing ethnic groups and bring them together to start a reconciliation process. “They are all victims,” Tecla Wanjala says. “At one point, they said, ‘We realize what we have done to each other. We need to apologize, too.’ This is the beginning of reconciliation.” From 1996 to 2003, she was the coordinator of PeaceNet. She trained hundreds of peace practitioners, from community to national level, in basic skills in conflict transformation, including lobbying and advocacy. Currently she works on post-conflict reconstruction with the Jica organization and is establishing a trauma-healing program.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) Peace and Development Network of the NGO Council (PeaceNet) Coalition for Peace in Africa (Copa)