grantees » Mikelita Lenapir, 1982

Mikelita  Lenapir, Kenya

Mikelita is a strong voice for the El-molo people, an indigenous population of 1,000 living on the shores of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya. The El-molo community depends heavily on fishing, and the recent decrease in water level in the lake due to climate change affects all community members. Having grown up in this region, Mikelita understands that the well-being of her community ultimately depends on an intact environment. Through her own initiatives and work with Alliance Francaise, she has united social and environmental issues in her work to fight against local deforestation and environmental degradation. Furthermore, Mikelita was selected to represent Kenya at the International Youth Forum Go4BioDiv in parallel to the UN Biodiversity Summit (CBD-COP10) in Japan in October 2010. There she had the courage to speak out and inform the UN-delegates of the risks that her World Heritage site Lake Turkana is facing due to the controversial dam construction. Due to her convincing interventions at the CBD and her follow-up work, the World Heritage Committee decided to call on the Ethiopian government to stop the construction of the dam. Her awareness-raising campaign was an achievement of local and international significance.

In order to further develop her leadership qualities, Mikelita was awarded a JWH Initiative grant to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Development Studies at Mt. Kenya University. As a 2011 grantee, Mikelita was so successful in her studies that she was awarded an additional grant for the year 2012 to complete her education and pursue an additional certificate in Environmental Studies from Kenya Polytechnic University College. Mikelita says that her courses have helped her to realize what it takes to be an effective leader, and have equipped her with the skills she needs to apply the theoretical concepts she learned. She also says that an invaluable aspect of her studies was working with people from different backgrounds, which helped her to understand diverse perspectives. Mikelita herself offered a unique perspective in that her rural background contrasted greatly with that of her urban classmates, but she said she “contributed direct experience from the reality of my desert region and past development projects, which was very much appreciated by my teachers and classmates.”

Her nominator, Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend, says of Mikelita that “this grant provided her with the opportunity to support her community in their multiple challenges, and lead them into a more positive future.” Mikelita has expressed sincere gratitude to the JWH Initiative for making her “dream come true to finish [her] studies”.