Donna Bio.JPG

I’ve always been a feminist. Even before I was familiar with the word I knew that I shouldn’t be treated different fromly than my brother. Instinctively, I knew that gender should not dictate how I walked, talked or thought. My role models were people that defied gender norms and collectively, with my family, shaped my understanding of leadership and the desire to nudge change in gender constructs through my work.

As a feminist, it’s the holistic approach to leadership development that I’m so drawn to at Akili Dada, addressing and seeing the whole person. We know that investment in women and girls is critical for peace, security, for more reflective policies, comprehensive systems and radical innovations that our world needs. But, what do we mean when we call for ‘investment in girls’? At Akili Dada I see investment beyond dollars – though financial support is fundamental, it does not alone shape leaders. Transformative leaders are fostered through consistent mentorship, coaching, encouragement and experiential education. It’s also knowing that the path to leadership is not always linear, a step back does not equal defeat or failure. The path also doesn’t end at 18, but rather, leadership is facilitated through young adulthood. This investment in the whole person is something I’ve been fortunate to experience myself.

I used to think that I was solely responsible for shaping me. I still agree with much of my early feminist convictions, however I now appreciate the fact that so much more shaped and continues to shape me. I am the sum of my family, my coaches, my friends, and instructors. I know that the women before me – my mentors, my ancestors, my matriarchs – forged the path I walk on. And it’s my obligation, together with my sisters, to make the path wider and more inclusive. I see my role in the feminist movement both as an active voice and as an enabler, driving new ideas and future leaders to the fore.

It’s equally my gratitude and discontent that compels me to work in the women and girls sector. In college, at the University of Maryland, I started to unpack issues surrounding women’s bodily integrity and sexual rights. I worked at The SAGE Project, a trauma recovery center for exploited individuals, where I led the anti-trafficking team in building a robust network of resources for survivors. Later, I returned to school at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS) with this question in mind: How might we build more sustainable social impact organizations? I wanted to pursue social change work through alternatives to the traditional nonprofit model. I engaged critically with organizational and business development in the social impact space while sticking with the theme of gender. Through consultancies with organizations like the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center and Resonate, a Rwandan startup that uses the storytelling framework to unleash leadership and confidence in women and girls, I’ve contributed to dynamic business structures for social ventures in diverse contexts.

I’m grateful and thrilled to join the Akili Dada sisterhood, an organization that not only fosters young feminists but also embraces a feminist framework in its approach. I look forward to propelling Akili Dada’s holistic and vibrant women and girls’ leadership model further into the global social impact space. I’m excited to work with and learn from the team and all of Akili Dada’s friends and supporters!

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