Akili Dada Fellows
The application process for 2013 Fellowship is now closed. Please check back in late 2013 for information about applying for our next fellowship cohort.
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. More about the fellowship below.
Meet the 2013 Akili Dada Fellows!
Pamellah is an environmental conservationist by profession with about four years experience. She graduated from Moi University with a bachelor of science degree in wildlife management and conservation. Previously, she has worked as a research assistant, field assistant and a volunteer in conservation work around Taita Taveta County. Currently, she works with Nature Kenya (the East Africa Natural history Society) as a site conservation officer in Taita Hills Forests important bird area. The activities under her work are biodiversity monitoring, environmental education in schools and community empowerment to participate in conservation work. She is a member of Nature Kenya, Youth for Conservation and Undugu Mentorship Initiative. Pamellah delights in mentoring young people in schools, field expeditions, writing articles, and community service.
Pamellah’s social change project involves environmental education in schools to address lack of awareness on environmental conservation, which has led to deforestation in Taita Hills. This has resulted in loss of water catchments, wetlands and endangerment of life. Project activities will include education and awareness, clean up events, exchange programmes, 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.
Ann graduated from secondary school in 2012 and has been a volunteer at Groots Kenya in her home area of Mathare since 2010. Through Groots, she underwent training on adolescent reproductive health and HIV/AIDS as well as entrepreneurship, financial literacy, life skills, and employability of young women in enterprise. While a student at Our Lady of Fatima Secondary School, Ann participated in school clubs, such as International Climate Change Club and Health Club. Ann was elected as environmental prefect in 2011/2012. Having being born and raised in slum areas of Nairobi, Ann believes that young women need opportunities to acquire both formal and non-formal education so as to cope with challenges during adolescence and to be economically empowered to break negative cycles of poverty, early marriage, and prostitution. To that end, Ann’s social change project is to bring young women together through a briquette-making livelihood project in Mathare slum, using the enterprise as a platform to address the deeper social obstacles the young women face in their everyday lives.
Caroline works as a Volunteer Programme Manager at Ecofinder Kenya organization based in Kisumu. She 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 is also an Alumni of Earth Corps, Seattle-WA, USA and Ferry Beach Ecology School, Maine USA.
Caroline’s social change project endeavors to promote 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.
A nutritionist by profession, Maria is a co-founder and the CEO of The Action Foundation, a registered NGO based in Kenya 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. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Foods, Nutrition and Dietetics from Kenyatta University, she 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. 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.
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. Based in Mashimoni, which is at the heart of Kibera in Nairobi, Maria’s social change 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. Through this project, local volunteers from Kibera and parents will be trained in therapy and care for children with special needs in their community.
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. Grace’s social change project is the Youth Agro-Environment Initiative, a Community Based Organization which she co-founded in 2011 that provides opportunities for youth in the agricultural sector in an attempt to tackle food insecurity and increasing rates of unemployment amongst youth in Kenya.
About the Akili Dada Fellowship Program
The 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.
Under the re-designed program, fellowship selection is now 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.