Marshalls woman gets posthumous honour in Taiwan

9:13 am on 25 May 2015

A Marshallese woman who died fighting for justice for the survivors of United States nuclear weapons tests on her country's islands is being honoured in Taiwan this week with the Global Love of Lives award from a Taipei non-profit foundation.

Darlene Keju, 1995, Marshall Islands

Darlene Keju in a 1995 photo leads Youth to Youth in Health members in a lively song as part of a community health outreach program in Majuro. Photo: RNZI/Giff Johnson

Darlene Keju, who exposed a United States cover up of nuclear test-caused health problems in her islands, also formed the internationally recognised non-profit group Youth to Youth in Health in the Marshall Islands.

She died nineteen years ago from cancer and is the only Pacific islander in the group that is being to honoured.

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.

The other 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 group will officially receive their awards on Thursday in Kaohsiung.

The 19 recipients were chosen from over 2,000 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.

Darlene Keju will being represented in Taiwan this week by Marshall Islands Journal newspaper editor Giff Johnson, her husband of 14 years, and his wife Mathilda R. Johnson.

The Chou Ta-Kuan Foundation described Keju as "the Environmental Godmother" of the Marshall Islands who revealed the story of the 67 U.S. 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 organization she established continues providing Marshall Islanders with healthcare services and youth leadership training programs.

Giff Johnson published a biography about Keju in 2013 titled, "Don't Ever Whisper -- Darlene Keju: Pacific Health Pioneer, Champion for Nuclear Survivors."