2016 Participants

Ahmed Abdi – Somalia

Ahmed-Abdi-SomaliaAhmed Abdi has over five years of experience in various fields such as community interpreting, social work, and community development. Since 2010, Ahmed has been a professional community interpreter for the UNHCR field office in Kakuma, Kenya, where he works as a humanitarian interpreter in English and Somali. Ahmed is also a co-founder and leader of a youth association, where he volunteers in teaching adult classes, mentoring youth, and raising awareness on social issues. Ahmed holds an advanced diploma in Liberal Arts and Business from Regis University in the US, and he has strong skills in communication, leadership, project management, and social entrepreneurship. He is also currently pursuing a postgraduate certificate in Humanitarian Studies from the University of Geneva. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Ahmed plans to continue his commitment to the community with a focus on youth development and social entrepreneurship.


Nana Boakye-Yiadom – Ghana

Nana-Boakye-Yiadom-GhanaNana Boakye-Yiadom is an international award-winning journalist with over seven years of experience in the industry. Currently, he is the Ghana correspondent for the New York Times, Radio France International (RFI) and global news agency AFP. He is also the deputy director of news programming at Citi FM in Accra. He won a continent-wide competition, the African Story Challenge, emerging out of over 300 African journalists in 2013. Nana is also the founder and president of iJourno Africa. He is a communications consultant as well.


Hussein Butoyi – Burundi

Hussein-Butoyi-BurundiHussein Butoyi has seven years’ experience in several fields of the community-development sector. Hussein is currently a journalist and teacher. As a freelance journalist, he is covering the current political and security situation in Burundi for AFP and Iwacu, one of the last remaining Burundian independent media houses. As a teacher, Hussein strives to change the mindsets of young people and reinforce their capacities against manipulation into joining armed groups or going astray on the streets. Hussein assists several associations in the field of women empowerment and community-based solidarity in improving their skills in communication, public information (PI), and external relations. Hussein is a thesis defense away from finishing a bachelor’s degree in English literature. He hopes to apply the skills acquired during the Mandela Washington Fellowship to better use his position as a journalist and teacher to encourage adolescents to continue their education and be leaders in their communities.


Simbongile Cele – South Africa

Simbongile-Cele-South AfricaSim Cele is currently the afterschool program operations manager for the nonprofit organization, Genesis Youth. She has been involved, both as a volunteer and employed staff, in community work since she was 16 years old. She has 10 years’ experience in civic leadership, youth mentorship, youth development, outreach to orphans, youth program coordination, education- and community-building, and creative design and camp leadership. Having not gone to university herself, she is a passionate advocate for quality education, skills development, and community development. She runs a practical science club for children from an underprivileged community and volunteers her time to her church, teaching Sunday school and mentoring young girls. She is currently studying a diploma in small business, pattern cutting, and dressmaking, which she hopes to use to empower women in the future. She hopes to use her Mandela Washington Fellowship experience to expand her educational programs.


Doris Darkwah – Ghana

Doris-Darkwah-GhanaDoris Darkwah has four years’ experience in program development and management for women in rural communities, and working with street girls in urban centers. Currently, Doris is the executive director of A Ban Against Neglect (ABAN GHANA), a social enterprise not-for-profit organization, which focuses on women’s empowerment in rural Ghana through skills training, financial education, and environmental stewardship.   Doris volunteers as a youth and children’s service teacher at her local church, is involved in a campaign with a modeling agency to re-brand disability in Ghana, and has had several speaking engagements in local schools in her community. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Information Studies from the University of Ghana, and is a Ford Motor Company fellow. Upon completion the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Doris plans to champion the course of underprivileged women and girls by creating employment opportunities for them within their communities.


Dansira Dembele – Mali

Dansira-Dembele-MaliDansira Dembele is a Malian journalist. During her six years of experience she has developed a passion for climate and environmental issues in Mali. She is communications officer in international relief and development in a project called Strengthening Community Initiatives for Resilience to Climate Extremes (RIC4REC), which aims to build the resilience of vulnerable people in Mali related to climate change.   Dansira holds a master’s degree in Academic English. She is responsible for designing of radio programs for rural communities, with content focusing on climate change realities and smart agriculture practices aimed at helping small farmers gain information related to their livelihoods. In addition, Dansira is co-founder of the Association A2D (Africa Sustainable Development), which proposes projects for sustainable development in West Africa. After the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Dansira plans to go deeper into helping farmers gain access to better climate information.


Hind Mohamedsalih – Sudan

Hind-Elhaj-SudanHind Mohamedsalih has over three years of experience working both online and offline in Sudanese media. Her most recent position was at the United Nations Development program, where she was the media, advocacy and communications consultant under the poverty-reduction unit. Prior to this she was the programs and content manager at Sudan’s first-ever English-speaking radio station. She has used her experiences to launch an online platform where she scripts, films, and edits programs that aim to engage Sudanese youth in debates about social and somewhat ‘taboo’ issues in a comical way.  Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Hind hopes to be able to apply her new knowledge of American civic influence to Sudan, by adopting a localized model of American civic leadership.


David Fakudze – Swaziland

David-Fakudze-SwazilandFor more than seven years, David Fakudze has voluntarily worked with different key populations (KP) groups in various fields in health, and HIV and Aids prevention. Currently, he is the KP quality assurance mentor at Health Communication Capacity Collective (HC3), assisting community health educators to create links between the community and the health care services. David also partakes in many community developments and is the focal person for most of KP health-related interventions. David has an associate degree in Graphic Design from Swaziland’s Limkokwing University of Creative Technology and has also undertaken certified training in the fields of Health Communication, and HIV/Aids. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, David intends to craft various networks with other civil societies to organize sessions in the four regions of Swaziland, in order to promote empowerment of the youth, and vulnerable and marginalized populations.


Nana Akosua Hanson – Ghana

Nana Akosua-Hanson-GhanaNana Akosua Hanson has five years of media experience. She works at an urban radio station, Y-FM, as the host of the Y Lounge, a daily evening show, that through the prism of music, celebrity, and popular culture encourages a discussion on social behavior and social standards of conduct with a particular bias towards gender issues. She also co-hosts on Celebrity Fanzone, a weekly talk show with a panel of female co-hosts who discuss a variety of socio-cultural issues. Nana runs a series of sexual consent workshops, dubbed ‘Lets Talk Consent’, in schools in Accra and beyond, in order to fight an endemic rape culture. Nana is currently pursuing a Master of Arts/Philosophy in African studies, with a focus on gender issues. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to continue her work in gender equality in Ghana through the media and theatre.


Rachel Kalera-Mhango – Malawi

Rachel-Kalera Mhango-MalawiA Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi chapter award winner in the Maternal and Newborn Health category, Rachel Kalera Mhango has been a practicing journalist for ten years. She works for Times Television as a producer and presenter, having been chosen to specialize in health reporting. She currently hosts a popular TV show on health issues for young Malawians and volunteers in her free time to support young women in accessing sexual and reproductive health care.   Rachel is currently studying her Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication at Share World Open University in Malawi, with a focus on mass communication in health. She is also working on an independent project on challenges in health reporting. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Rachel plans to focus on community health education and change the mindset of rural young women in seeking health care through a project called ‘Save the Young Mother’.


Prince Kruah – Liberia

Prince-Kruah-LiberiaPrince M. Kruah has over six years of experience in the nongovernmental, private and public sectors. At the moment, Prince is the finance coordinator for the Liberian National Red Cross and the legal advisor for the Pursuit for Positive Action Youth Organization. There he provides financial guidance, ensures that all generated funds are spent in accordance with the donors’ rules and regulations, and reviews donors’ grant agreements for both entities. He also loves volunteering and working with the most vulnerable communities to ensure that their members’ voices are heard and their standards of living are improved. Prince holds a bachelor’s degree in Law and Business Administration from the University of Liberia and Stella Maris Polytechnic respectively. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Prince plans to establish a legal-aid clinic in his home country that will provide free and unconditional legal services to the most vulnerable communities.


Stella Lolik – South Sudan

Stella-Lolik-South SudanTuna Stella Lolik is a young dynamic South Sudanese woman who is passionate about justice and human dignity. Stella currently works as a legal aid officer for Stewardwomen.org, an organization that focuses on gender-based violence, women protection, women leadership and entrepreneurship development, child protection, good governance, peace and, reconciliation. In her 18 months’ work as a legal aid officer, Stella centered on designing and implementing access to justice activities which include promoting advocacy on human rights of women and girls, providing free legal aid services, promoting good governance, peace, and reconciliation. Stella volunteers in the community teaching local leaders and women basic laws of the country and she enjoys spending her free time associating with the survivors of gender-based violence and orphans. Upon completion of the Fellowship, Stella plans to continue providing legal aid services to the indigent people and advocating for the rights of women.


Christian Mapendano – Democratic Republic of Congo

Christian-Mapendano-Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)Christian Mapendano currently works as a radio-TV-video producer for Radio Okapi on behalf of the United Nations mission in the DR Congo. He has over seven years’ experience in journalism, community building and peaceful cohabitation among communities. Prior to the MONUSCO, he worked for Peace One Day as a media officer and for more than six years as a journalist reporter, presenter, and producer in local media in Congo.  Christian obtained a master’s degree in Pedagogy applied to Chemistry at ISP Bukavu (Institut Supérieur Pédagogique de Bukavu) and also trained in journalism and community leadership. He runs two youth organizations and sponsors a number of vulnerable young children by paying school fees. After the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Christian plans to continue working towards peace in the Great Lakes region by initiating a community radio station that will help raise awareness of peace, peaceful coexistence among communities, and development.


Njelekela Michael – Kenya

NJELEKELA-MICHAEL-KenyaAshura Michael has over four years’ experience in various fields of advocacy and peacebuilding, and volunteers in many organizations. She is a co-chair at the Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities Youth council; gender and social inclusion officer at Peace Ambassadors Integrated Organization; secretary general of the Youth section at the Kenya National Association of the Deaf; and founder of We are the People Initiative, where she focuses on peacebuilding and advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities. Ashura holds diploma in Law and is currently undertaking a bachelor’s degree in Gender and African Studies at the University of Nairobi. Upon completion of the Fellowship, Ashura plans to continue her work on peacebuilding and gender, focusing on disabled persons’ rights and equal opportunities. Ashura is guided by Mother Teresa’s principle: ‘I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.’


Nyasha Mharakurwa – Zimbabwe

Nyasha-Mharakurwa-ZimbabweNyasha Mharakurwa has a keen interest in the field of sport. He is currently finishing his master’s degree in Sport Management at the University of Johannesburg and is the founder of The NM Foundation, a nonprofit entity with the mission of advancing the lives of people with disabilities through sport. Nyasha is also a wheelchair tennis player and coach who has won several international titles and has represented Zimbabwe at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Nyasha would like to return to Zimbabwe and work in the field of sport for social change, focusing on people with disabilities.


Phazha Molebatsi – Botswana

Phazha-Molebatsi-BotswanaWithin a period of three years, Phazha Molebatsi has managed to make his mark in the advancement of human rights in Botswana and Africa. He recently joined the secretariat of the Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/Aids (BONELA) as a policy and legal advisor, heading the organization’s advocacy, human rights, and law program. Phazha is also a member of the Law Society of Botswana’s Rules Committee, and in general a promoter of human rights. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Law from the University of Botswana and a postgraduate certificate in Risk Management from the Botswana Accountancy College. Upon attainment of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Phazha vows to intensify his efforts to make Botswana, Africa, and the world a better place through the human rights approach.


Richard Musau – Kenya

Richard-Musau-KenyaRichard Mativu Musau has over nine years’ experience in the social development sector as an advocate, educator, facilitator, and research consultant, with a special focus on disability and inclusive development. Currently, Richard is the technical advisor, East Africa, for Deaf Child Worldwide. His role entails strengthening and supporting local partners to increase their capacity in developing and delivering programs with and for deaf children and their families. He is also on the board of directors with the National Council for Persons with Disability, where he chairs the Technical and Strategy Committee. Richard holds an MBA from University of Nairobi, Kenya, where he specialized in Strategic Management. As a deaf person, Richard adopts a unique blend of firsthand experience and professional excellence in his fields of expertise. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Richard plans to continue with his work in creating an inclusive society in East Africa and beyond.


Faith Ndlovu – Zimbabwe

Faith-Ndlovu-ZimbabweFaith N. Ndlovu is the programs officer at the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ). She has worked in the media and nonprofit sector for over six years. Faith’s current work involves initiating, designing and implementing interventions to promote a free, professional, accountable, and ethical media in Zimbabwe, including project monitoring and evaluation. She started her professional career as a researcher with the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, an independent trust that promotes balanced reporting in the country. In her spare time, Faith engages young people in her faith-based community on life skills and related matters. Faith holds an honors degree in Journalism and Media Studies from the National University of Science and Technology, and is working towards attaining a Law degree with the University of South Africa (UNISA). Faith wants to gain exposure to cutting-edge, cross-boundary solutions that will enhance her contribution to professionalizing and democratizing the Zimbabwean media space.


Ahmed Ogunlaja – Nigeria

Ahmed-Ogunlaja-NigeriaAhmed Ogunlaja is a medical professional and currently the executive director of Open Access Nigeria, a research and advocacy organization working to promote research activity (especially among students), free online access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications, and the use of open educational resources. Ahmed has three years’ experience mobilizing and organizing volunteers across Nigerian universities to engage with stakeholders and policymakers both in academia and in government, with an aim to enact policies that promote access to research and education as a means of enhancing innovation and accelerating discovery. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Ahmed plans to continue this work while pursuing his interest in public health advocacy in the area of non-communicable diseases, with a special emphasis on cardiovascular health and drug policy reform.


Serge Ouedraogo – Burkina Faso

Serge-Ouedraogo-Burkina FasoOver the past eight years, Serge Ouedraogo has researched and published works in human-interest photography and storytelling, engaging thousands of donors across the world to the cause of West-African children. He currently works for the American NGO Compassion International where he helps design and implement youth development programs for more than 50,000 adolescents. As a community organizer, he initiated and led programs that engaged youth in IGAs, civic education and social collaboration. In response to the growing school-drop rates of children in his community, Serge started an organization that implements a 1 child: 1 tutor program for school children by organizing teachers, volunteers, university students and alumni to deliver tutorship to students who cannot afford it. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Serge hopes to reinforce his leadership in his organization helping build a more resilient community that continues to fight against child labor, female genital mutilation, and unemployment.


Juanitill Pettus – South Africa

Juanitill-Pettus-South AfricaJuanitill Pettus has five years’ experience in youth development with a special interest in personal and skills development. She is the first person in her family to complete a university degree and she attributes this to dedicated teachers and a single mother who taught her the values of hard work, persistence, and a ‘can do’ attitude. Currently, Juanitill is a student supporter at the Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA), where her role is to facilitate learning, offer mentorship and coaching, and assist in the implementation of the curriculum. She also volunteers with the programs she herself participated in.   Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she hopes to partner with organizations in her community of Paarl, South Africa, to build capacity in local high schools. She aims to continue to use her skills and her story to introduce young people to the many possibilities the world offers.


Bethelihem Reda – Eritrea

Bethelihem RedaA teacher at Rainbow International School and former basketball player, Bethelihem Reda devotes much of her time to teaching and coaching girls in Eritrea.  As a student Bethelihem started a girls basketball team and competition in the face of much resistance, and continues to promote gender equality through coaching girls basketball.  Bethelihem is also an active member of the National Union of Eritrean Women.  Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she hopes to pursue entrepreneurship and open her own beauty salon, which would serve as a hub for women to gather, not just for beauty, but for mutual empowerment.


Loza Ruga – Ethiopia

Loza-Ruga-EthiopiaA graduate of Haramaya University College of Law, Loza Ruga has proven herself to be a person gifted with passion and multiple talents. In her early career, she has had an outstanding record of engagement in various sectors, including advocating for women’s empowerment, and volunteering in organizations working for the well-being of disadvantaged and disabled communities in sub-Saharan Africa. She was part of a team at African Union Headquarters that conducted extensive research on accessibility assessment for the inclusion of people with disabilities. Currently, Loza is launching the Ethiopian Association of Girls Guides and Girls Scouts, the first of its kind in Ethiopia. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to establish an inclusive community-based platform aimed at enabling and capacitating vulnerable segments in Addis Ababa and then in the whole of East Africa.


Tariro Tandi – Zimbabwe

Tariro-Tandi-ZimbabweTariro Tandi is a human-rights defender and lawyer who has overcome the odds of gender-based violence from a young age. This has informed her passion about women and children’s rights. Currently transformative justice manager for the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association, Tariro focuses on analyzing trends of cases, and designing and coordinating the implementation of advocacy initiatives for the organization. She volunteers with different institutions, giving free legal advice mostly to women and survivors of rape and sexual violence. Tariro also mentors a team of young women as she believes her life experiences can impact positively on their lives. Tariro holds a master’s degree in Women’s Law. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Tariro plans to continue her work on advocacy and gender equality with a specific focus on sexual gender-based violence. She also intends to intensify her blogging, which analyzes the law’s lived interactions with society.


Vanessa Willie – Nigeria

Vanessa-Willie-NigeriaVanessa Willie has over five years’ experience in youth empowerment and development, particularly focusing on those from dysfunctional homes. She is the founder of Janessa Foundation, an NGO which caters for young people from dysfunctional homes and victims of abuse and addictions. Until recently Vanessa was an on-air personality and host of The talk with Vanessa – a radio talk show dedicated to counseling people in the areas of addiction, abuse, careers, and relationships. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Science and Technology, Enugu State, Nigeria, and has also undergone basic leadership skills training with the Institute of National Transformation, Abuja. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she intends to use the instruments of the media and her NGO to strengthen family values and empower the youth, especially those from dysfunctional homes, by giving them a sense of hope and belonging.