The path to peace through gender equality

The horrifying outcomes of war in Africa motivated former Kenyan occupational therapist, Mohamed Sheikh Yussuf, to change career paths and study at The University of Queensland.

Mohamed will leave UQ’s School of Political Science and International Studies as a Master of Peace and Conflict Studies, which he plans to use to help stop violence at the source, rather than treating the end result in UNHCR-run refugee camps.

“I used to get satisfaction in rehabilitating my clients to be independent again, but I was enraged by the senseless maiming of innocent civilians and used to think about what I should do to halt, or at least limit the devastating impact of these conflicts,” he said.

“Like they say in public health, prevention is better than cure, meaning it’s cheaper to engage in conflict resolution than responding to devastation wrought by conflict in loss of limbs, lives and properties.”

“The gruelling rehabilitation process of these individuals used to take a toll on me.

“It’s on this basis that I finally decided to take a detour from my profession and that is how I ended up being a Rotary Peace Fellow.”

While studying at UQ, Mohamed was inspired by the classes of Associate Professor Nicole George and decided he wanted to work in gender empowerment.

“I belatedly realized I am a feminist, and want better treatment for our women folk,” he said.

“Growing research indicates that societies that treat their women well tend to be stable societies where meaningful economic development can be realized because there is peace.”

“I am more passionate than ever before about formulating pro-active gender equity policies for peace and prosperity’s sake.”

As he winds up his studies in Brisbane, he has already decided his next step in the path to peace.

“After graduation I intend to go back home and continue working for Garissa Mediation Council, in building peace, justice, dignity and respect for women.”

Garissa Mediation Council is a community-based organisation founded in 2005 to foster dialogue and cohesion among communities occupying the volatile areas that straddle the borders of Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Mohamed said he realised achieving change would take time, but he had big plans.

“I hope to achieve many things like being involved in the eradication of female genital mutilation and allowing girls to go to school instead of being married too soon.

“I am immensely grateful to have been awarded a scholarship by The Rotary Foundation to study for my master’s degree.

“I believe it gives me the special skills, knowledge and experience to become an all-round peace maker both at the local and international level.”

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