Nineteen years after her death from cancer, Marshall Islander Darlene Keju has been honored in Taiwan with the Global Love of Lives award from a Taipei non-profit foundation.
The Chou Ta-Kuan Educational and Cultural Foundation is honoring 19 people from around the world in an annual ceremony launched 18 years ago following the death of the foundation’s namesake, a Taiwanese boy who died at 10 from cancer.
Keju exposed a United States cover up of nuclear test-caused health problems in her islands and later formed the internationally recognised non-profit group Youth to Youth in Health in the Marshall Islands.
She was represented in Taiwan by Marshall Islands Journal newspaper editor Giff Johnson, her husband of 14 years.
The Chou Ta-Kuan Foundation described Keju as “the Environmental Godmother” of the Marshall Islands who revealed the story of the 67 US nuclear weapons tests at Bikini and Enewetak to protect the safety and health of Marshall Islanders.
Despite Keju’s death in 1996, the youth health organisation she established continues “providing Marshall Islanders with healthcare services and youth leadership training programmes,” said the foundation.
Darlene Keju’s life story, by her husband Giff Johnson.
“It’s sad to say that the US nuclear test legacy continues to this day unresolved and that’s one of the reasons why her advocacy 30 years ago is still relevant now,” he said.
Johnson said Darlene had a tendency to jump in on issues that others were ignoring.
“She definitely was a pioneer in getting out ahead of the curve and bringing people along,” he said.
“But I’m sure she would have found a niche that nobody else was developing.”
He said a priority for Keju was in “developing the skills of young people to be advocates and to get out and do work for other people”.
In addition to Keju, the winners of the foundation’s award this year are from South Korea, Norway, Turkey, Ecuador, China, Belgium, Japan, Germany and Taiwan.
They are active in a range of peace, climate, education, health, human rights, and artistic projects.
The 19 recipients were chosen from 2341 applicants from around the world.
During their visit to Taiwan this week, they will share their stories with high school students, meet with President Ma Ying-Jeou and the mayors of New Taipei City and Taichung City, and visit with children in local hospitals to share messages of hope.