Program to change the global development media and advocacy discussion includes 25 Fellows from 17 African, Asian and Latin American Countries.
Contact: Michelle Geis Wallace
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Washington, DC, January 30, 2019 — The Aspen Institute announced today the 2019 class of the New Voices Fellowship, a groundbreaking program designed to equip experts from developing countries to play a more powerful role as advocates and experts in the global development discussion.
The 2019 class also marks the start of a new, three-year Aspen initiative for Fellows who focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
Ten of this year’s 25 New Voices Fellows are experts on different aspects of this crucial issue, including an Egyptian doctor who focuses on preventing gender-based violence, an Ethiopian public health advocate whose organization teaches teenage brides about family planning, and a Kenyan human rights lawyer who works on cases involving safe abortion and forced sterilization.
“We’re honored to welcome this inaugural class of Fellows who bring a vast array of lived and learned expertise that deepen our understanding of sexual and reproductive health and rights around the world,” said Fellowship Associate Director Emily Kaiser. “Sexual and reproductive health and rights are central to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and these Fellows bring new ideas that can transform discussions and shape real-world actions.”
The 2019 New Voices class also includes 15 leading public health specialists, doctors, scientists, social entrepreneurs and policy experts who work on issues including food security, infectious disease, education and climate change. Altogether, the 2019 class represents 17 countries across Africa, Latin America, and Asia, making it the most diverse Fellowship class yet.
The full list of 2019 Fellows and descriptions of their work can be found below.
“We are very excited to expand New Voices this year,” said Fellowship Director Andrew Quinn. “These are the experts and advocates who hold the key to our global future and will be crucial sources of both information and inspiration as we take on the world’s biggest development challenges.”
Meet the Fellows
The 2019 New Voices Fellows come from Ethiopia, Egypt, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Niger, Kenya, Indonesia, India, Ghana, Guyana, South Africa, Nigeria, India, Liberia and Sierra Leone. They will undertake a program of intensive media training and mentorship to reach a broader global audience through both traditional and new media, as well as speaking engagements.
This year’s Fellows include:
- A surgeon from Kenya who lost four siblings to HIV and later helped to pioneer male circumcision as a strategy to fight the AIDS epidemic
- A South African woman engineer who now leads efforts to develop engineering and STEM talent in girls across several African countries
- A Nigerian former oil company executive who left the corporate world to become a “Farmer in a Suit” and promote agriculture as a career choice for young people
- An Indonesian entomologist who has developed new ways to fight insect pests without harming the environment
The SHRH Fellows include:
- A former sex worker in Uganda who founded an organization that connects sex workers to services such as job training and reproductive healthcare
- A Guatemalan doctor and former ballerina who fights for access to contraception and family planning education to help vulnerable girls lead healthier, happier lives
- A demographer from Niger who uses statistics to show how the population in one of Africa’s poorest countries will quadruple by 2050 unless stronger family planning programs are implemented
During the program’s first six years, New Voices Fellows were featured over 5,500 times in media outlets and delivered numerous TED and TEDx talks. Under a training partnership with The Moth, a non-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling, New Voices Fellows have told their stories to live US audiences and through radio and podcast syndication.
Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Open Societies Foundation, the New Voices Fellowship was established in 2013 to bring the essential perspectives of development experts from Africa and other parts of the developing world into the global development conversation.
The new, three-year project to spotlight experts involved with sexual and reproductive health and rights has been supported by an anonymous donor. Application to the Fellowship is by nomination only, and nominations will open in August 2019 for the next class.
For press materials, visit AspenNewVoices.org/Press
A complete list of the 2019 Aspen New Voices Fellows is below.
Adaeze Oreh, Nigeria
Senior Medical Officer, Nigerian Health Ministry
As a young medical doctor and new mother, Adaeze’s world was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer, in 2005. The experience was fraught, not only because of the medical risks but because of the financial burdens of treatment. Adaeze emerged cancer-free, but with a new dedication to both blood safety and, ultimately, universal health care. “I have time and time again seen patients and their families literally break down under the weight of a diagnosis. Not necessarily because of the illness in itself, but often because they saw the health care bills as a death sentence,” she says.
Alice Ruhweza, Uganda
Vice President of Programs and Partnerships, Conservation International-Africa
Alice oversees, among other things, the Vital Signs Monitoring Program, an organization which collects and integrates data on agriculture, ecosystems and human well-being across a number of East African countries. Alice formerly worked at UNDP, and says she is trying to break down silos and put data at the center of decision making about food and the environment. It has been challenging so far. “We need to invest time in really understanding the incentives that will drive this shift to a more integrated approach, and what kind of data is needed to engender this shift,” she says. She’s also incredibly passionate about addressing the intersection of human capital (girls education in particular) and natural capital (natural resources, environment, conservation).
Brenda Moor, Liberia
Founder, Kids Educational Engagement Project (KEEP) – Liberia
Brenda’s road to activism began with a simple realization: there are no public libraries in Liberia. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Brenda began teaching her children at home when the public schools were closed. She quickly noticed that there were many other children who were simple idle and had no way to access educational materials. She began supporting them with free worksheets and educational packets, starting a program which eventually reached more than 7,000 students across the country. Ebola has retreated as a threat, but the lack of educational opportunity remains. “My country currently has no public library. This means that for thousands of school children across the country, doing things that many others take for granted like visiting a library, researching, etc., these are far-fetched illusions,” Brenda says.
Buyung Hadi, Indonesia
Cambodia Country Representative, International Rice Research Institute
Buyung, an Indonesian entomologist, is currently serving as the country representative for the International Rice Research Institute in Cambodia, a position he says gives him a ringside seat for observing how scientific innovation can play a role in national food security policy. “I believe in science-based advocacy,” Buyung says, adding that the challenges include how to make complex technical issues clear to political leaders. Buyung says issues like climate change make it even more crucial for this information needs to get through.
Dorothy Tuma, Uganda
Advisor, Trade and Regional Integration Project, East African Community
Dorothy’s family fled her native Uganda during the reign of Idi Amin, joining hundreds and soon thousands of Ugandan exiles in neighboring Kenya where they literally rebuilt their live from scratch, through the generosity of friends and family. This experience taught her two essential truths, she says – women are economically crucial to family welfare, and “you can make transitions easier for people if you give them a helping hand.” Tuma went on to get an MBA at UCLA and an MPA at Harvard. During that time she began a corporate career in brand management, later transitioning into international development consulting with a focus on women’s entrepreneurship in East Africa. She currently chairs the 20,000-women strong East African Women in Business Platform.
Fredros Okumu, Tanzania
Director of Science, Ifakara Health Institute
Fredros is an infectious disease specialist who is focused on malaria control and prevention by targeting mosquito that carry the disease. Fredros says his many years of work in the field on malaria have persuaded him that focusing on narrow, technical fixes will not bring the disease under control. “At the moment we have an over-reliance on commodities such as insecticide-treated bed nets, which require frequent replacements and strong user compliance,” he says. “Greater gains can be achieved by more permanent measures, such as improved housing, environmental management, better health systems and greater public education.”
Isabelle Kamariza, Rwanda
President and Founder, Solid’Africa
Isabelle was in law school in Belgium when she decided that the legal path wasn’t for her. It was shortly after dropping out of law school that she encountered the serious issue of homelessness in Brussels. One week after befriending a homeless man in Belgium, she and her friends were feeding 200 homeless people. Shortly after she return to Rwanda, she was told about the lack of food in public hospitals in Rwanda. Realizing the magnitude of the issue, Isabelle developed a plan and later started her organization SolidAfrica which is currently providing fresh food to patients in the two largest public hospitals in Rwanda and has plans to scale further. Isabelle says that “advocating for food as medicine” is her biggest priority.
Kapil Mohabir, Guyana
Managing Partner and Head Grower, Plympton Farms
Kapil has wanted to help smallholder farmers since he was a small boy. When his family was forced to abandon their first home along the coast of Guyana due to flooding, his parents left their jobs as teachers and became inland farmers. Quickly he became a first-hand witness to the limited economic opportunities and day-to-day hardships of a cash crop farmer. After completing an MBA at Harvard University, Kapil returned to Guyana where he set out to build a farming business that would build local economic sustainability while helping farmers combat the limited local market. Today, his company, Plympton Farms, is the largest grower, aggregator, and processor of chili pepper in the Caribbean. His company provides economic opportunities that help to empower smallholder farmers and indigenous communities.
Maulik Sisodia, India
Executive Director, Tarun Bharat Sangh
“If you work for water, you are working for every dimension of development,” says Maulik Sisodia, who runs Tarun Bharat Sangh, a water-focused development NGO. The organization has historically been focused on spreading simple water-saving steps such as rain-water harvesting to local communities across the arid reaches of India’s Rajasthan state. But Maulik says it is now becoming clear NGOs must influence national water policy if India is to adapt to rapidly declining water resources. “Water security comes before food security,” Maulik says, noting that government policies on privatization of national resources should be stopped.
Mohamed Bailor Barrie, Sierra Leone
Co-founder and Chief Strategic Officer, Wellbody Alliance
Mohamed grew up in rural Sierra Leone and earned money to complete his high school education by selling candy, roast meat and kerosene by the side of the road. Eventually he became one of the first students to graduate from Sierra Leone’s new national medical school, and upon graduation was offered well-paying jobs with international organizations like WHO and UNICEF. Mohamed declined these opportunities, instead moving to an even more remote part of Sierra Leone to start an organization called the Wellbody Alliance designed to bring high quality medical care to civilian amputee victims of the civil war. The organization grew to become a general healthcare provider for the district, offering community healthcare programs for HIV, TB, maternal and child health. When Ebola struck Sierra Leone, Mohamed built a partnership between Wellbody and Partners in Health to deliver Ebola care. The partnership is now looking at ways to strengthen Sierra Leone’s basic healthcare system.
Naadiya Moosajee, South Africa
Co-Founder, Women in Engineering
“I am a female engineer,” Naadiya says. “When I introduce myself, I still get gasps or looks of surprise. This isn’t a surprise to me, as women account for just 11% of employees in architecture and engineering globally.” Naadiya sought to remedy this imbalance by launching Women in Engineering (WomEng), a social enterprise that seeks to develop engineering and STEM talent in girls in multiple African countries and now globally. Naadiya went through a period of intense media exposure and as a member of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Community, resulted in invites to Davos and other major gatherings. These invites led to her uncertainty over how to describe the larger issues facing women as engineers and entrepreneurs. She remains committed to the goal. “Engineers design our world and our society, and if we don’t have women at the design table, we exclude 50% of the population,” she says.
Selorm Branttie, Ghana
Global Strategy Director, mPedigree
Selorm is pioneering the use of is mPedigree, a mobile-based solution to securing products against faking, counterfeiting, and diversion. So far, the app has been designed to identify fraudulent medicine and drugs in Africa and Asia as well as identify counterfeit agricultural products. In addition to his work with mPedigree, Selorm co-founded the largest bipartisan think tank in Ghana and has helped to craft relevant public communication on government policies. He has leveraged this to trigger several grassroots protests to lobby the Ghanaian government to support policies that best protect and support the citizens. He’s working hard to change outside perspectives of the innovation and ingenuity of Africa, saying “we cannot fail the future. The future is us, the future is a multitude of our dreams of a continent.”
Usman Ali Lawan, Nigeria
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of USAIFA International Ltd
Growing up in rural northern Nigeria, Usman says he was painfully aware of the difficulties that subsistence farmers, like his grandfather, faced. “The agricultural value chain is marred by post-harvest losses, lack of access to quality farm-input, poor extension services, and almost zero access to finance”. He left to find an easier life and found himself working in the oil and gas sector in Lagos until 2010 when he lost his job. This personal experience with failure led him to think again about the plight of the Nigerian farmers. That was when he decided to reinvent the farming industry in Nigeria. Usman founded USAIFA Agro-Allied, a farm focused on practicing and promoting zero waste agriculture. He is currently working on “Farmer In Suit,” a program which seeks to reinvigorate the aging farming population by re-branding farming and using personal examples to show how to create wealth and earn a living through agribusiness.
Walter Ochieng, Kenya
Health Economist, US Centers for Disease Control
Walter is a surgeon and public health economist who currently works with the CDC’s Center for Global Health. While in Kenya, he spearheaded a program to promote circumcision as a tool to fight the spread of HIV. Walter was drawn to this work after losing four of his 19 siblings to HIV. His current focus is on how global health programs can succeed with limited resources in a challenging political climate. His goal is to ensure that young mothers have a healthier life than his own mother, who died when Walter was 16. “Like any marathon, there is tremendous enthusiasm at the beginning of the race and everyone is supportive. The true test comes mid-race, when the pain sets in and the non-believers drop off,” Walter says. “Public health programming is a marathon. Clarity of, and dedication to the end goals are vital.”
Wendo Aszed, Kenya
Founder and Executive Director, Dandelion Africa
Wendo is the founder of a grass-roots organization based in Mogotio, Kenya, which focuses on women’s health economic empowerment. A former bank executive, she dedicated herself to the welfare of women in rural areas, after her best friend died of HIV-related disease. Along with economic and skills-training, Dandelion Africa provides health information to youths in and out of schools and is constructing a maternity clinic. Wendo is a dynamic, charismatic speaker and a beautiful writer. “I believe that we should tell our stories of triumph and not focus on the misery of life. There is so much more to us than economic poverty, because we have been to those dark places and we have seen those light places, and where we are going is so much more than where we have been.”
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Fellows
Abdoul-Moumouni Nouhou, Niger
Niger Program Director, The OASIS Initiative
Abdoul-Moumouni is a statistician and demographer who works for women’s reproductive health and rights in the Sahelian region context. He advocates for a sustainable socioeconomic development through girls’ education, women’s empowerment and family planning. Because of sociocultural and political constraints in some Sahelian countries, such as Niger, it is still difficult to engage in a frank and open debate about family planning. By focusing on data and facts, Abdoul-Moumouni contributes to discussions on the demographic issue and promotes policy changes in this area.
Ana Michelle Dubon Estrada, Guatemala
Medical Director, Wings Guatemala
Michelle is an OBGYN and medical director at an NGO which provides services to thousands of people each year. “Before I could even speak, I knew I wanted to be a doctor,” she says. She also wanted to be a ballerina – so she did both. After performing for thousands as part of a renowned ballet school in Guatemala, she completed her medical degree. Michelle’s work at WINGS is rooted in the belief that it all begins with reproductive rights. Her passion stems from caring for young girls who had unwanted pregnancies, including one child who was forced into marriage as a means of survival. “Poverty and hunger led her to become a mother of three at 12 years old,” Michelle says. She now advocates for laws that would give young Guatemalan girls access to contraceptives.
Mugove (Gerald) Madziyire, Zimbabwe
Lecturer, University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences
Gerald is an OBGYN and university lecturer who “has a passion for reducing maternal mortality through improving sexual and reproductive health and introducing high-impact and low-cost interventions in emergency obstetrics.” He works in both private clinics and public hospitals, giving him a firsthand view of healthcare inequity. In his spare time, he dabbles in stand-up comedy and runs marathons.
Edinah Masiyiwa, Zimbabwe
Executive Director, Women’s Action Group
Edinah directs an NGO that promotes sexual and reproductive health and rights in Zimbabwe. “My passion for women’s rights and gender equality is derived from my experience as a nurse midwife,” she says. “I witnessed young women who died or had irreversible complications as a result of unsafe abortions.” Edinah wants Zimbabwe to lift its decades-old restrictions on abortion. As long as those laws remain on the books, she is advocating for access to post-abortion care to save the lives of women who resort to unsafe termination.
Deborah Nakatudde, Uganda
Founder, Serving Lives Under Marginalization (SLUM)
Deborah founded SLUM, a group dedicated to linking and referring sex workers to services such as job training and reproductive healthcare. Growing up poor in a Uganda slum, Deborah began exchanging sex for food, clothing and money when she was just 15 years old. From Deborah’s perspective, “sex work came with a lot of challenges but,” as she put it. “I could not give up on it because it allowed me to meet my personal needs and those of my children.” She now works to break the stigma and discrimination against women who choose sex work, and also to create pathways to other employment for those who unwillingly turned to sex as a means of survival.
Ghada Jabbour, Lebanon
Founder, KAFA (Enough)
Ghada founded and currently leads the anti-trafficking division at KAFA, an advocacy group dedicated to combating gender- and sexual-based violence in Lebanon. She works on supporting women in prostitution and advocating for their rights. As the Syrian crisis intensified, her work expanded to serve the growing needs of refugees streaming into her country. Ghada sees prostitution as a form of male violence against women and is fighting for legal changes in Lebanon and across the Arab world that shift the criminal burden to profiteers and buyers of sex.
Metsehate Ayenekulu, Ethiopia
Adolescents 360 Program Director PSI Ethiopia
Metsehate is a public health and gender expert who leads a program that teaches teenage brides about family planning. Her interest is in adolescent and youth development, with an emphasis on rural girls. She is the daughter of a child bride – her mother was married at age 10. This sparked Metsehate’s interest in working with rural girls to better understand their bodies and how childbirth affects their future. Describing her work, she says, “I want to tell the story of girls – those we assume are off track but really, they dream big. They have courage and passion in their context to live life.” She is a single mother who left an abusive marriage and aims to help other girls and women avoid gender-based violence.
Monalisa Padhee, India
Program Head, Women Wellness Initiative
Monalisa is a medical researcher who focuses on women’s health in rural India. She earned her PhD in Australia, studying the impact of prenatal and pre-pregnancy nutrition. Her strong inclination to understand the relevancy of her research for women in rural India has compelled her to return to her home country. She found that “sexual and reproductive health rights is far from reality for many Indian girls and women, particularly in rural India” and is the main reason behind their poor health status. She works with a grassroots organization, Barefoot College, that has developed curriculum to teach illiterate girls and women about menstruation and their bodies.
Shadia Elshiwy, Egypt
Assistant Regional Director, Planned Parenthood International
Shadia is a physician and public health expert focusing on sexual and reproductive health and preventing gender-based violence in the Middle East and North Africa. She was drawn to this work after witnessing the female genital mutilation of a young girl in rural Egypt. “The look in her eyes fueled me with anger and insistence to know that I needed to change it – no girl should be forced to be mutilated like this girl was. I felt that I had to make a change, I could not stay silent.” Through her leadership role with Planned Parenthood in the Arab World, she works to create a conducive environment and change the social norms to make sexual and reproductive health not just a priority, but a right, for women across the Arab Region.
Tabitha Saoyo, Kenya
Deputy Executive Director, KELIN-Kenya
Tabitha is a human rights lawyer in Kenya, who litigates on behalf of marginalized women. She specializes in issues related to safe abortion, forced sterilization of women, and sexual and gender-based violence. As a vocal advocate, she works hard to integrate constitutional and human rights changes into policies, laws, and frameworks. Through her work, Tabitha hopes to bring long-lasting change in Kenya and beyond. She says, “I believe that the narrative on abortion and other sexual and reproductive health rights needs to change. Far too long has abortion been stigmatized with negative stories of botched trials and women dying. Hardly does the narrative involve a happy woman who had a choice, received safe services and now has access to opportunities.”
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