Meet 6 champions of peace
Honorees will be recognized at Rotary Day at the United Nations in November
Six Rotary members and Rotary Peace Center alumni will be honored this November as People of Action: Champions of Peace. Their commitment to creating peace and resolving conflict will be recognized during Rotary Day at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
The honorees, which were announced on International Peace Day, are all involved in projects that address underlying causes of conflict, including poverty, inequality, ethnic tension, lack of access to education, or unequal distribution of resources.
The six Champions of Peace are:
Jean Best, a member of the Rotary Club of Kirkcudbright, Scotland —Best leads a peace project that is designed to teach teenagers conflict resolution skills they can use to create peace-related service projects in their schools and communities. Best worked with peace fellows at the University of Bradford to create the curriculum. She has also worked with local Rotary members and peace fellows to set up peace hubs in Australia, England, Mexico, Scotland, and the U.S.
Best became a Paul Harris Fellow for contribution to developing peace strategies.
Ann Frisch, a member of the Rotary Club of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, USA — Frisch believes unarmed civilians can protect people in violent conflicts. She collaborated with Rotary members in Thailand to establish the Southern Thailand Peace Process training program in 2015 in Bankok, Hat Yai, and Pattani in southern Thailand. The group brought together electrical and irrigation authorities, Red Cross staff, a Buddhist monk, and a Catholic nun to this border region to train civilians to build so-called safe zones. These are areas in which families, teachers, and local officials do not have to confront military forces every day.
Frisch, a UN delegate to Geneva, co-wrote the first manual on unarmed civilian protection, which was endorsed by the UN. Her training in a civilian-based peace process is administered by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, the department that trains all UN personnel.
Safina Rahman, a member of the Rotary Club of Dhaka Mahanagar, Bangladesh — Rahman is an important advocate for women’s rights in the workplace in Bangladesh. As a garment factory owner, she was the first to offer health insurance and maternity leave for her female employees. She worked with the Rotarian Action Group for Peace to organize the first international peace conference in Bangladesh. A policymaker for the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, she champions workplace safety and workers’ rights and promotes girls’ education and women’s rights.
Rahman is chair of two schools that provide basic education, vocational training, conflict prevention, and health and hygiene classes.
Alejandro Reyes Lozano, a member of the Rotary Club of Bogotá Capital, Colombia — Using a Rotary global grant, Reyes Lozano is training 27 women from six Latin American countries to develop skills in peace building, conflict resolution, and mediation to deal with conflicts in their communities. The project also will build an international network of women peacebuilders.
Reyes Lozano, an attorney, was appointed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to assist with negotiations and set terms and conditions to end the 50-year conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Kiran Singh Sirah, a graduate of the Rotary Peace Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — Sirah is president of the International Storytelling Center in Tennessee, USA, which uses storytelling as a path to building peace. The organization seeks to inspire and empower people everywhere to tell their stories, listen to the stories of others, and use storytelling to create positive change.
Kiran, the son of Ugandan refugees, created “Telling Stories That Matter,” a free guide for educators, peace builders, students, volunteers, and business leaders. The resource is now used in 18 countries.
Taylor (Stevenson) Cass Talbott, a graduate of the Rotary Peace Center at the International Christian University in Japan — Stevenson developed a global grant to improve sanitary conditions for waste collectors in Pune, India. Waste collectors together handle 20 tons of unwrapped sanitary waste every day. Stevenson collaborated with SWaCH, a waste-collector cooperative, to create the “Red Dot” campaign, which calls for people to wrap their sanitary waste in newspaper or bags and mark it with a red dot.
This helps waste collectors identify sanitary waste and handle it accordingly. Stevenson developed all the educational imaging for the campaign. She also secured in-kind offerings of support, including free training space and campaign printing. She is also a Global Peace Index ambassador.