Fellowship Program

Akili Dada Fellowship Program

Akili Dada’s fellowship program grows out of our belief that African women, especially those from poor communities, are best positioned to design solutions to the challenges facing those communities. The  goal of the program is to build the capacity of some of the continent’s most innovative young women changemakers to drive solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing African society.

The Akili Dada Fellows program awards year-long fellowships to young women leaders engaged in social change projects of their design.  The program serves as an incubator providing financial, intellectual, mentoring, and networking resources to young women as they grow their projects to scale and sustainability.

These fellowships were created in direct response to the absence of African women among the ranks of those celebrated in existing social entrepreneurship incubators.

Fellowship selection is based on the strength of a candidate’s social change project, previous leadership initiative and experience, willingness to learn from peers and more experienced mentors, and a willingness to share their own skills with peers and intended beneficiaries.  Fellows must have deep roots in the communities they seek to transform and come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Selection is not necessarily based on past academic performance, as a strategic aim to invest even in those young women who have not previously had access to formal education.

Akili Dada Fellows benefit from a modest stipend to sustain themselves for the duration of the fellowship, a series of seminars from experts in the field and site visits to successful social change organizations; an assigned mentor; access to the Akili Dada network of funding partners and social change agents; and access to Akili Dada’s office facilities. By the completion of the fellowship the Fellow is expected to be leading a strong, sustainable and accountable initiative that is bringing about measurable social change.

If you would like additional information about the fellows’ social change projects, please contact Joyce@akilidada.org.

Meet the 2014-2015 Akili Dada Fellows!

Memory Orode | Kenya

Memory Orode (3)

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.

Wilkister Ahinga | Kenya

Wilkester Ahinga (3)

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 with Digital 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.

Ann Gloria Njoki | Kenya

Ann Gloria (2)

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. Lukes 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.

Wanjiru Kanuri | Kenya

Wanjiru Kaniru

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.

Hadijah Nankanja | Uganda

Hadija Nankaja (3)

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.

Miriam Wambui Kamau | Kenya

Miriam (2)

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 | Kenya


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. 

Ayiorwoth Best | Uganda

Best Ayiorwoth (2)

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.

Lilian Balanga | Kenya

Lilian Balanga (2)

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.

The organization will take a women’s rights-based approach, developing programs that use education and community mobilization to push for equal access to decision-making power and resources.

Beth Wanjiku Koigi | Kenya

Beth koigi (2)

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: Technologia Mashinani 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. Technologia Mashinani 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.

Previous Akili Dada Fellows