Davis Peace Prize awarded to Laouali '12

By Sean Ryan

Rayanatou Laouali ’12 is the Macalester recipient this year of funding for a Davis Project for Peace, an initiative for all students at the Davis United World College Scholars Program partner schools to design their own grassroots projects. The projects can take place anywhere in the world, and must promote peace and address the root causes of conflict among parties. Funding for the prize is provided by Kathryn Davis, a philanthropist who in 2007 decided to donate $10,000 for at least one student at every Davis UWC Scholars college to enact a project that defined peace in their own terms.

In the case of Laouali, who eventually hopes to work for a microfinance non-profit in Niger, she will have the advantage of working with people who speak the same language that she does and come from a similar cultural background. An economics and applied mathematics major originally from Niamey, Niger, she has chosen to work with the Hadin-Kay cooperative, a group of women who run a peanut-processing business for a local farmer.

“I first heard about the Davis Projects for Peace in my freshmen year when it was being advertised,” said Laouali. “Since then, I thought of taking the opportunity to do something in my home community, Maradi.”

Laouali will attempt to implement a new system whereby the women can buy their own peanut oil, and as a result of their processing work, then sell their own peanuts as well.

“I am hoping that my project will contribute to improve the lives of the women in Hadin-Kay through various ways,” she said. “I want to give them a chance to increase the scale of their business and earn more profit to be able to provide for basic needs of their families.”

Eily Marlow ’97, a Lily Project Associate at the Center for Spiritual and Religious Life at Macalester emphasized the connection of the Davis Project for Peace to civic engagement and ethical vocation.

“The Davis Peace Prize is a wonderful vehicle for civic engagement as it gives students the opportunity to work side by side with people within their home country or another community to imagine solutions to struggles that might not have been possible if the partnership was not forged,” Marlow said.

“Students who receive the prize get to try out such work as development, education, peacemaking and organizing which has a tremendous impact on their own personal development and vocational path,” she said. “I think that Macalester students should really consider this opportunity given to us by Davis Projects for Peace. I don’t know if words can explain how incredible it is to be given this chance to accomplish a dream of help making change in a community.