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Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro: A Peacebuilder’s Journey of Purpose and Passion

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by Naomi MacMurdie

For Irene Ishengoma, being a peacebuilder is a lifelong journey. While she serves as the Country Director (Tanzania) for Global Peace Women, an affiliate of the Global Peace Foundation, she hopes to share her passion for building peace as not a job but a lifestyle that all people can aspire towards.

Irene was joined by a company of peace activists, including GPF Tanzania Director Martha Nghambi, to climb the tallest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, to plant a peace dove flag at the peak in solidarity with International Day of Peace 2022.

Irene and Martha beginning a journey up Mount Kilimanjaro

The hike is a grueling three-and-a-half-day journey. The final leg of the summit is a harsh challenge, even for experienced hikers. Irene recounted her difficult trek saying, “There is a lot of dust and stones. I was vomiting very badly. The guide told me I could not do it. I didn't listen. I took one small step at a time, like a baby. I told her I was going to make it. No one could tell me no.”

Despite the toll it took on her body, Irene still achieved a major triumph by making it to one of three peaks at Kilimanjaro's summit: Gilman's peak, the first of the three peaks leading to the tallest point, Uhuru Peak. She cried thinking about how close she was to reaching the highest peak. “It was just two kilometers,” Irene said, smiling through her tears, “Next time.” Her hiking companion Martha carried the rest of the team in her heart as the only one of the original group to reach the highest point, Uhuru Peak.

“I don't think I could have made it if I didn't have passion,” shares Irene. For her, it has been a life goal to climb the mountain of her home country, Tanzania. “Many foreigners climb it, but you almost never see a local Tanzanian. And we were doing it for peace.”

“If you know your purpose… as a peacemaker, as a woman, the obstacles won't deny you to reach your goals,” reflected Irene, “And, you never know; your journey may open up opportunities that you didn't expect.” Irene and Martha were recognized by the Prime Minister of Tanzania, who honored them in person with a certificate for climbing Mt. Kilamajaro during the International Day of Peace celebrations in September 2022.

“Imagine if Madam Martha gave up? Imagine if I listened to the weakness inside my body,” said Irene, “We didn't give up, and we did it together. If we embrace teamwork, if we remember our purpose, our love, our great goals, we will reach goals we haven't even dreamed of.”

“First, Mt. Kilamajaro,” said the women smiling, “Next, a world of peace for every child, woman, and family. A woman with purpose and passion can make anything possible.”

Learn more about Global Peace Women and our peacebuilding programs in Tanzania.