2015 Akili Dada Fellows
Yvonne’s social change initiative targets young men and women in informal settlements from the hawking community in Parklands, Nairobi. The initiative brings together young people in a safe space where they will openly talk about violence and discuss it negative effects. The initiative uses Arts as a communication tool and a source of economic empowerment where initiative beneficiaries produce paintings and bead work which are exhibited and sold.
Yvonne has worked and volunteered in youth led and youth focused organizations that champion social change by engaging young people as change agents. Yvonne has a diploma in Gender and Development as well as a certificate in Intercultural Dialogue, Communication and Understanding from the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is currently pursuing a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at the St Paul’s University Campus in Nairobi.
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Jennifer is the co- founder of 'Tsavolife', a Community Based Organization based at Mtito – Andei, Makueni County, in Eastern Kenya. Tsavolife was formed with the aim of addressing the challenges women and girls face, fighting against gender discrimination, gender based violence, poverty, early pregnancies, and the high drop out rates of girls from schools. Jennifer’s social change initiative is the ‘Tsavolife Young Women Empowerment and Mentoring program’ that targets adolescent girls between the ages of 10-14 with the objective of equipping them to be self-reliant, independent and compete favorably with boys both academically and socially.
Jennifer has a passion for girls and women’s rights advocacy and is currently pursuing her law degree at the University of Nairobi.
Kansime is the founder of ‘Girls to Lead Africa (GLAF)’, an incubator for young female politicians in Uganda. GLAF targets girls in Institutions of learning (schools, colleges, universities) who have taken up elective and appointive positions of leadership in these institutions.
An emerging female politician herself, Kansime is passionate about creating a new breed of young female leaders who are ready and capable of taking up elective and appointive political leadership positions, with the aim of making policies and laws that will transform the life of women in Uganda and the African continent as a whole.
Veronica's social change initiative falls under her organization called RADIC, a registered a local Community Based Organization situated in Kawangware with a mission of transforming the lives of vulnerable children in the community.
The focus of RADIC is to empower children in the communities by helping them expand their potential. They equip children from all walks of life with necessary life skills that would go a long way in helping them lead secure, independent lives as they enter adulthood. Veronica is a community worker and has a Diploma from the Mount Kenya University in Community Development and Social work.
Blandine comes from Rwanda and is the founder and managing Director of Cosmos Multimedia Center Ltd, a media house and publisher of Cosmos Magazine. Through Cosmos, Blandine targets young mothers equipping them with relevant information on the psychological and practical aspects of raising a child and the emotional issues that face mothers, from nurturing their own friendships to juggling various aspects of their lives.
For the next one year, Blandine is working to launch a mobile application to disseminate information on maternal and reproductive health for young women in Rwanda and hopes to use this application as an advocacy tool for maternal rights issues.
Blandine has a Bachelor’s in Business Information and Communication Technology from Mount Kenya University and an Advanced Diploma in Information Technology from Tumba College of Technology.
Grace is the founder of Serian Foundation, an organization that seeks to use mentorship as a tool to empower girls and young women from the marginalized Maasai community to realize their full potential. Through the Serian foundation, Grace sensitizes the community on the impact of cultural practices like early marriages; Female Genital Mutilation and lack of education have on the future of the girls and the community at large. She challenges her community to embrace education as a means of changing the course of girls’ lives and opening up the doors to limitless opportunity.
Grace is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Gender, Women and Development studies at Egerton University, Nairobi campus.
Rhoda’s social change initiative seeks to change the lives of young mothers through a social entrepreneurship program, which will build their capacity and offer mentoring with the end goal of being connected to business financing.
She envisions a world where these women would be financially independent and allow for healthy, independent decision making. She hopes to create a space for them to eventually be linked back to complete their studies and live happy and fulfilled life. Rhoda pursued Development Studies from the St Paul’s University and is paying back to Kibera community, where she grew up. At the moment she is also volunteers as a Behavior Change Interventionist in her community.
Njambi is a social worker whose social change Initiative is a Life Skills Program for children from low-income areas and informal settlements around Nairobi, aged between 11-14 years. Njambi envisions a world where the children impacted by her program will learn and live out the values of responsibility, integrity and hard work while speaking out for themselves and others. Her aim is to expand the children’s horizons, to see life beyond where they are and to create a safe space for creativity and critical thinking.
Njambi is motivated by three things. Her deep passion for justice, standing up for those who cannot stand for themselves and seeing enlightenment in the eyes of children when it dawns on them that they can actually be more and do more than they have been led to believe.
Mercy’s social change initiative is called ‘Nipe nafasi’ Swahili for give me a chance. Through 'Nipe Nafasi' Mercy hope to raise the profile and advocate for the rights of persons living with disabilities. She envisions a world where persons living with disabilities would be included in the society and the right information would be shared and understood by the larger community, dispelling the long held and widely accepted myths and misconceptions around disabilities.
Mercy is passionate and advocates for an inclusive society where all diversities are accommodated. She is a graduate of Kenyatta University and is currently pursuing her masters in gender and development studies in the same University.
Jescah’s social change initiative is the ‘Golden Girl Initiative’ based in Korao in Kuresoi as well as Kaptembwo in Nakuru West. Through this grassroot community initiative, Jescah is dedicated to improving the health, education, human welfare and opportunities for the girl child in the two communities. Jescah is passionate about music and uses her talent as an advocacy tool for children's and girls rights.
She holds a diploma in Christian Education from Kenya Highlands Evangelical University.
Joan runs a social initiative dubbed 'Lulu Thamani'. Through this program, Joan reaches needy young women between 18-25 years from Kahawa West and Kamae communities in Nairobi, Kenya.
She specifically targets young women who can’t access education, and offers them a platform that would act as a stepping-stone to achieving their dreams. Joan is a strong believer in the philosophy of investing in girl’s education to positively impact the economy. She is an outgoing person who loves challenges and taking on new adventures.
Her happiness is drawn from seeing those around her happy and well. Joan is a marketing student from the University of Nairobi and is a student leader under Women Student Welfare Association (WOSWA).
Stellah’s social change initiative is a mobile academy for teaching computer packages, coding lessons, providing online resource connection and opportunities to girls and young women through an online portal. Through this initiative she will empower women to take up take up Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses and increase the visibility of women pursuing careers along this line.
A computer scientist by profession, Stellah is passionate about creating a scientific and technologically literate population capable of looking critically at the development of community through leveraging technology in all the sectors of the economy.
Antonia’s social change initiative is targeted to helping and advocating for the rights of Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) children as well as People living with HIV /Aids (PLWHA), living in Ngaremara Division in Isiolo County. She envisions a world where society will create a space for these groups to grow and develop into healthy and productive members of the society. Antonia is passionate about women’s right advocacy. She is a student, currently pursuing degree in education arts from the Mount Kenya University.
2014 Akili Dada Fellows
Memory Orode earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and is currently enrolled in Strathmore University to complete her CPAs. Her passion in life is to assist the marginalized individuals in our society with the skills and knowledge she has attained. For the past two years, Memory has been working for an NGO that supports Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) in Rarieda District, which is an area with high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which has left hundreds of children orphaned. Working for this organization has motivated her to register an NGO called Humanity First, whose primary focus is to assist the marginalized individuals in Nairobi County.
Social Change Project: Memory has initiated a volunteer program called Humanity First Volunteer Program. Through her work, Memory observed that there are some local organizations that aid the community, however they are often understaffed. This program partners with local organizations, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations and children’s orphanages to provide volunteers to help address their needs. Volunteers of Humanity Trust will in turn be trained in a number of skills to help them thrive in their own lives.
Miriam graduated from Nairobits Digital Design School in 2008 as one of the best female students in web design and development. She worked for FIDA-Kenya then went back to train at Nairobits as a community-based trainer. She also worked in Kampala, Uganda as an ICT trainer to build valuable skills among youth. She is very passionate when it comes to community development through ICT and focuses on providing programs for marginalized youth.
Social Change Project: Miriam’s project, Maendeleo Mtaa, is a training program for youth between the ages of 18 to 35 on ICT, entrepreneurship and life skills. The core participants are youth in Dandora and Kariobangi slums who are unable to continue with their studies due to lack of finances or family support. As a result, these youth are at risk for early pregnancy and illegal activities, resulting in a cycle of poverty in the community. The project is a platform to transform their lives through the skills they acquire while tapping into their immense potential and talents to create social change.
Ivy Nyawira is in her final year at the University of Nairobi where she is pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Sociology and Philosophy. She is passionate about contributing to the lives of young girls and is currently working at the Resource Center for Women and Girls, an organization based in Machakos, which deals with empowerment and personal development of young women from rural areas and informal settlements. Through the Resource Center for Women and Girls, she has been exposed to different opportunities to train and be trained on issues affecting young women, especially in terms of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, leadership and resource mobilization.
Social change project: Ivy’s project aims at increasing awareness of young women on their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights by educating them on the importance of education and remaining in school throughout their menstruation period. Absenteeism in school among these young women has resulted to deteriorated performance of girls and slimmer chances for them to pursue higher education. It also affects their self-esteem. Through this project, more girls will be able to internalize the importance of education and gain knowledge about their sexual and reproductive health rights which will allow them to make informed choices about their bodies and create self awareness.
Beth has a Bachelors of Science in Community Development from Chuka University. She has volunteered with Kenya Connection Kids (KCK) Chuka to assist in community mobilization, education and sensitization of women and children’s rights. Beth also conducted follow-ups on the performance of children sponsored by KCK in schools, prepared monthly project reports and carried out assessments around emotional and psychological needs. She was also responsible for the financial and narrative reports and acquisition of external funding for the programs under implementation. She has worked with Mukeu School for children with special needs and was one of the pioneer volunteers of Chuka Red Cross where she served as a secretary for a year.
Social Change Project: AquaClean Initiative is a project that aims to promote access to safe water for domestic use within the Rukindu Village in Chuka. The whole of Chuka’s area is mountainous, hence it experiences a great amount of soil erosion and most of the rivers are full of silt. Since most of the residents of this area get their drinking water from rivers, they are exposed to diseases that exist in the water. AquaClean Initiative involves information sharing with the community about the dangers of using unsafe water, and education on how to purify water using solar technologies. Through this project, they also make charcoal water filters and distribute these filters to the affected areas to facilitate access to clean water.
Ayiorwoth has a certificate in graphics and web design from Kampabits, a catering certificate from St. Elizabeth Vocational Training Schools and a certificate in entrepreneurship acquired at S7 Project in Kampala, Uganda. From her personal experience and boost from her mentor, Best has been building her own organization since 2011. She is the founder and CEO of Girl Power Micro Lending Organization (GIPOMO), a community-based organization in Northern Uganda that promotes girl child education through micro-lending. GIPOMO empowers mothers to contribute towards their daughter’s educational needs by providing them with loans that can help them start businesses or partake in agriculture. Her organization won the 2013 Anzisha Prize for best organization.
Social Change Project: Best’s project, Girls on Skills, is based in Northern Uganda, Nebbi District, an area affected by the LRA war. This is also a part of Uganda with the lowest percentage of educated girls in the country. Her project focuses on girls who have dropped out of school, and creates pathways to vocational schools to acquire skills. GIPOMO pays their tuition, and in return, their mothers pay back the loans in installments. This project equips the girls with skills that will help them contribute to existing initiatives or start their own initiative in order to produce an income that may enable her to go back to school later.
Ann Gloria Njoki is a feminist, human rights activist, and founder of Deaf Outreach Program, a Kenya-based NGO that seeks to bridge the existing gap between hearing and hearing impaired persons through trainings, development support, advocacy and research work. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Community Development from Daystar University in Kenya and is passionate about inclusion of marginalized groups in the global and local development agenda. She loves to work with people in the community and finds joy in empowering individuals to reach their full potential.
Social Change Project: Gloria’s social change project is partnering with St. Luke's School for the Deaf in establishing a Deaf School Mentorship Program. The program uses club platforms to facilitate capacity building in three key life skills: sexual reproductive health rights (SRHR), Leadership and Academic performance. The project seeks to cultivate knowledge and skills in deaf children to boost their self-esteem and improve their academic performance.
Hadijah Nankanja is the founder and director of Community Women’s Enterprise Network, a nonprofit organization with a mission to build the entrepreneurial capacity of women to overcome economic and social barriers to achieve self-sufficiency. She has professional training in hotel, tourism and environmental management and social development. She is currently pursuing Entrepreneurship Studies at Makerere University Business School- Kampala. She is an Alumna of Community Solutions Program 2011, Washington DC, USA and has worked as a Third Chamber (DederKarmer) representative in Holland 2009-2010. Hadijah is very passionate about women and entrepreneurship, and envisions a world of economically empowered women with ethical business practices. She believes that having women in the mainstream economy results in healthier, educated children and strong communities. Her daily mantra is passion, clarity and focus.
Social Change project: Hadijah’s project is titled Women on the Shelf. The project aims to cultivate and strengthen the capacity of women entrepreneurs through production, packaging, branding, marketing, standardization, merchandizing and promotions of their goods. Local and regional stores demand quality standards which through funding and technical assistance can be highly achieved. Through Women on the Shelf, products sell at higher prices, which could double, shift mentality and expand the markets of women entrepreneurs locally and globally.
Wilkister is a lead facilitator at Kito International where she facilitates lessons in financial literacy, entrepreneurship, life skills, leadership, computers, business, and English. She is driven by a passion to transform and empower youth and their communities by helping them expand their human awareness and potential. She has worked withDigital Opportunity Trust Kenya for one year where she has trained youth in ICT, entrepreneurship and livelihoods. She has over three years of experience with coaching business startups in Kenya and also has an advanced diploma in project planning and management.
Social Change Project: Wilkister runs a project called the STAR initiative. It partners with the private and public sectors to create youth-centered initiatives related to information and relevant workplace skills, including basic ICT, entrepreneurship, mentorship, and work exposure through apprenticeships. The goal of the program is to nurture the talent of youth to help them become competitive in the job market.
Wanjiru has a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education, as well as certificates in behavior modification, early communication, hearing impairment, delayed developmental milestones on learning and autism. Wanjiru has a wealth of experience in the field of special education, having worked in different organizations in various capacities over the last seven years. During this time she has given valuable support to parents and guardians of children with disabilities. Wanjiru works as a Volunteer Education Officer at Maji Masafi Initiative based in Magadi. She is passionate about addressing challenges faced by children with special needs and the mutual love and appreciation keeps her going.
Social change project: Wanjiru is the founder and director of Matasia Special Needs Centre. The centre seeks to give equal opportunities, therapy and rehabilitation services to children and youth with disabilities. Wanjiru’s project provides physiotherapy, occupational therapy and rehabilitation services to youth with disabilities, and psychosocial support to the parents. The centre is based in Matasia – Kajiado County.
Lilian Nguracha Balanga is the founder and chairlady of Samburu Youth and Women Empowerment Organisation (SYWEO). She is a social worker by profession and holds a Bachelors Degree in Leadership and Management, as well as certificates in community development, project planning and management. Lilian has worked for four different NGOs focusing on development projects for indigenous Samburu and Maasai communities and has over ten years of experience in community development. She was born in Marsabit County where she attended both primary and secondary schools, and is currently a resident of Samburu County. Her passion is creating positive social change among women and girls of Samburu County.
Social Change Project: Lilian is focusing on further development of the Samburu Youth and Empowerment Organization Kenya (SYWEO). Women in Samburu are affected by poverty and male dominance in the community. In most cases, girls are not in a position to protect themselves from sexual violence, early pregnancy, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriage. There is also a lack of agency among adult women when it comes to decision-making and other developmental issues. SYWEO seeks to liberate women, girls and youth by working toward equal recognition and participation in the Samburu community and county governance.
2013 Akili Dada Fellows
Grace Njeri Wanene
Grace Njeri Wanene holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Sciences and certificates in project management, monitoring and evaluation and gender studies among others. Grace has considerable experience in the communications sector, having worked as a freelance writer and communications Assistant for 3 years. Her passions include women and youth empowerment, food security and non-profit communications.
Social Change Project: Grace’s social change project, the Youth Agro-Environment Initiative, recently won the Google Innovation in Agriculture Award. The Youth Agro-Environment Initiative is a community-based organization which Grace co-founded in 2011. The initiative provides opportunities for youth in the agricultural sector in an attempt to tackle food insecurity and increasing rates of unemployment amongst youth in Kenya.
Maria earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Foods, Nutrition and Dietetics from Kenyatta University, and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in the same field. Her research interest is in the nutritional management of developmental disabilities in children, with emphasis on autism and cerebral palsy. A nutritionist by profession, Maria is a co-founder and the CEO of The Action Foundation, a Kenya-based NGO that seeks to improve the lives of children living with disabilities. She has volunteered in projects supporting persons with disabilities in Mathare and Kenyatta University since 2009. She is passionate about giving children with special needs opportunities to learn, play and develop their social and motor skills. She enjoys reading, writing poetry, cooking, singing and travelling.
Social Change Project: Maria’s project isbased in Mashimoni, at the heart of Kibera, an informal slum community in Nairobi. The project provides nutritional care, special education and therapy to children living with disability in the slum. This includes children with conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism and Down’s syndrome.
The fundamental needs of children living with disability have largely been ignored by society as a result of deep-rooted social, cultural and religious stigma associated with disability. Lack of access to good nutrition, therapy and education has led to poor physical, mental and social health of children with special needs in low income and slum areas. Many are hidden, isolated and denied opportunities to engage in social and physical activities. Through this project, local volunteers from Kibera and parents will be trained in therapy and care for children with special needs in their community.
Caroline has professional training in Business Administration with IT, and has over five years experience working with local communities around the Lake Victoria region on areas of water and sanitation, conservation education and public awareness, green energy and capacity building trainings on entrepreneurship among others. She works as Volunteer Programme Manager at Ecofinder Kenya organization based in Kisumu. She She is also an Alumni of Earth Corps, Seattle, WA, USA and Ferry Beach Ecology School, Maine, USA.
Social Change Project: Caroline’s project promotes access to affordable, clean and safe energy to women within the rural and peri urban settlements of Kisumu District. Peri urban areas are mostly disadvantaged from many urban services which include modern energy. They mainly rely on traditional and unclean energy sources for cooking, lighting and even phone charging. This causes numerous problems, including respiratory diseases, fire hazards, lack of disposable income among women, and medical expenditures. Women and children are rendered the most vulnerable in such circumstances. The project therefore will seek to establish energy micro enterprises run by women and will provide trainings on entrepreneurship. The project will also undertake a ‘Women Savings for a Change’ initiative to ensure ownership for rural women of clean and safe energy for lighting and cooking.
Ann just recently graduated from Our Lady of Fatima Secondary School, where she involved in various social change groups including International Climate Change and Health Club. A standout student and leader at Our Lady of Fatima, Ann was elected as environmental prefect in 2011/2012. With a passion for social change and desire to make an impact, Ann became a volunteer at Groots Kenya in her home area of Mathare in 2010. In her three years with Groots, Ann underwent training on adolescent reproductive health and HIV/AIDS ,as well as entrepreneurship, financial literacy, life skills, and employability of young women in enterprise. Having being born and raised in an informal slum community, Ann believes that young women need opportunities to acquire both formal and non-formal education to actively cope with challenges during adolescence. She believes this is the way to ensure that young women become economically empowered, breaking negative cycles of poverty, early marriage, and prostitution.
Social Change Project: Ann’s social change project is to bring young women together through a project that creates alternative fuels for household use. The briquette-making livelihood project in Mathare slum uses the enterprise as a platform to address the deeper social obstacles the young women face in their everyday lives.
Pamellah graduated from Moi University with a bachelor of science degree in wildlife management and conservation. She is an environmental conservationist by profession, and has worked as a research assistant, field assistant and a volunteer in conservation work around Taita Taveta County. Currently, Pamellah works with Nature Kenya (the East Africa Natural history Society) as a site conservation officer in Taita Hills Forests. Her work focuses on biodiversity monitoring, environmental education in schools, and community empowerment to participate in conservation work. She is a member of Youth for Conservation and the Undugu Mentorship Initiative. Pamellah finds inspiration in mentoring young people, field expeditions, writing articles, and community service.
Social Change Project: Pamellah is working to increase environmental education in Taita Taveta schools to address lack of awareness on environmental conservation, which has led to deforestation in Taita Hills. The deforestation has resulted in loss of water catchments, wetlands and endangerment of life. Project activities include education and awareness, clean-up events, exchange programs, and tree planting activities in institutions. Through her project, Pamellah hopes to transform her community to be more aware of environmental degradation and to contribute to environmental restoration, protection and conservation in the Taita Hills forests and its environs.