As the Chair of the Akili Dada Board of Directors, I have been present at every turn as we’ve navigated Wanjiru’s thoughtful departure from the position of Executive Director. Founder transitions can be complicated, but this one, two years in the making, has been open, honest and has kept the well-being of Akili Dada at the center throughout. Although there is undoubtedly (and thankfully) much of Wanjiru in the fabric of this sisterhood, we are a community that is collectively invested in the mission and work of Akili Dada. My fellow Board members and I could not be more confident in our decision to appoint Purity Kagwiria as the next Executive Director of Akili Dada after a rigorous two day interview process. We know that managing and Executive Director transition is one of the most important responsibilities of a Board of Directors and we are here to actively guide the organization through this transition in leadership.
Thank you for your enduring support of Akili Dada and its important mission. We look forward to entering the next decade of Akili Dada with all of you as we work together to nurture the next generation of African women leaders.
– Wanja Muguongo, Board Chair
Human Rights Activist and Executive Director of UHAI- the East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative. Her mission is to nurture grassroots activism around sexuality, health and human rights in Africa, moving society toward equality and non-discrimination. Wanja is a 2012 Yale World Fellow and has previously worked for a variety of NGOs in East Africa, India, and Pakistan, where she managed community development projects.
What resonates strongest for me, and I think what sets Akili Dada apart, is the organization’s approach to leadership. The vision of leadership that we operate under doesn’t objectify the girls we work with or create a culture of pity. Rather, it’s about walking the journey to leadership WITH them. Akili Dada is about creating something with a girl who sees more for herself than her current circumstances allow. We are there for girls who need a sister for that exact reason, and not to fulfill someone else’s need to ‘help’. It is very genuinely all about the girls and developing their leadership.
Vallen is a lawyer with an LLB degree from Moi University, Kenya and an alumna of Akili Dada’s Young Changemakers program. She a driven young woman with a passion for promoting the politics of equality and inclusivity in all spheres of global leadership. Vallen is currently working to become an advocate of the High court of Kenya. In the past, Vallen has worked at UHAI, and interned with Akili Dada and The Center for Intellectual Property (CIPIT) at the Strathmore Law School.
Poverty restricts you in so many ways. Most importantly, it restricts how you think. You can’t think of doing things because of a lack of resources or network of the ‘right people’. Being an Akili Dada scholar shifted my thinking. I realized that just because I may be without a particular resource, I can’t be stopped from working hard and contributing what I want to this world. That shift in thinking is the main reason I continue serving Akili Dada and its mission. I don’t want the young women we work with —young women who have so much potential but who come from a resource-poor background— to be limited in their potential. I know Akili Dada accomplishes its mission because it changed my life.
Dr. Ashley Noelle Biser
Dr. Ashley N. Biser is an Assistant Professor of Politics and Government at Ohio Wesleyan University. She shares with Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg a desire to extend the incredible educational opportunities that have been afforded her to women in underprivileged areas around the globe.
For me, the unique value of Akili Dada as an organization is two-fold. First, the kind of resources we bring to girls help them tap into the potential they already have. These resources go far beyond monetary support. When a young woman enters the Akili Dada community, she is welcomed into a sisterhood of role models and mentors. She has the opportunity to intern with Akili Dada once she graduates from high school, and is supported by our networks long after. Second, there is tremendous value in the community of women which has developed around Akili Dada. Akili Dada scholars are at the core, but they are held up and supported by a committed transnational community of women who support Akili Dada’s mission. This is not about what we can do on our own, but about using our independent potential for collective action. Akili Dada is about women supporting women, regardless of background or specific career interests.
Jebet Chemng’orem Ahluwalia
Jebet is the founder and Managing Director at GreyOwl Limited – an indigenous fast growing brand design agency with an aim to deliver growth and value to businesses in Africa and around the globe. After graduating from the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, she earned her first professional position as creative director for Watch Magazine in Britain.
I believe that education has the power to alter and change. Akili Dada carries this power to spaces where change would not have happened without some kind of intervention. For us at Akili Dada education means a wholesome kind of learning which isn’t just knowledge or skills-lent, but one that will affect character. What Akili Dada does is a commitment to meet this full spectrum of leadership development. Even as they have evolved, the programs we run have stayed true to ‘nurturing the next generation of African Women Leaders’.
I also serve on Akili Dada’s Board of Directors because I’m in love with the spirit of sisterhood so clearly evident among our scholars, the staff, the Board, and with all our partners. Akili Dada’s team are wonderfully committed and a great lot of truly vested women (and men!) We’ve had great times, while tackling challenging conversations.
Mechtild van den Hombergh
Mechtild van den Hombergh works as an international, independent consultant for VandenHombergh Consultancies. Core business is to strengthen the capacity of organizations and further develop governance, management and leadership. For example, Mechtild serves as interim Country Representative for PharmAccess Foundation Kenya, a Dutch not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving health in Africa through pioneering innovative approaches, managing a grant making fund, developing and implementing a Management and Leadership Programme for the African Biogas Partnership Programme in 5 countries, and facilitating several strategic planning processes.
The most important aspect is that the organization is sincere. It is for real, it is from the heart. At the same time it is also from the brains. It is a bunch of very intelligent women who are able to substantiate their strategies and policies. The mission of this organization is completely internalized by the board, staff, alumnae, volunteers, and mentors – empowering promising young women from underprivileged backgrounds to become the next generation of African women leaders. Of course, the mission attracts me and I think it is very important. But the genuine, truthful way Akili Dada implements it – that is what attracts me the most.