The selections for Acumen's fourth cohort of East Africa Fellows were announced on 1 February after a competitive application process. This year’s Fellows are fighting poverty and changing lives across East Africa through unique social initiatives that range from providing much-needed ambulance services to helping make hygienic sanitation more accessible and affordable to empowering young women to start viable agro-enterprises and more. Acumen selected 21 leaders from five different countries in the region: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and, for the first time, Ethiopia. Of these, 6 are inspiring, young women founders of social ventures all making an important impact in their communities.
The Acumen East Africa Fellows Program is a one-year, fully-funded leadership development program that gives selected participants from across East Africa the training they need to accelerate their social impact and leadership potential. Acumen Fellows come from diverse cultural, geographic, and socioeconomic backgrounds and share a commitment to ending poverty in their communities. Fellows remain in their jobs over the year and meet for five week-long seminars where they receive world-class financial and operational skills training. Through the program, Fellows build strong networks of social change leaders within their cohort and Acumen’s global community.
Read more about each of the 6 women and their inspiring work below.
Speciosa Mbula Nguku
Speciosa is the founder and director of Machakos Surgery where she is also an anesthesiologist and pain specialist. Machakos Surgery operates as a surgical clinic in eastern Kenya, the first network of surgical hospitals in Kenya offering quality, affordable and ethical care. Speciosa works with children living with disabilities as part of a team dedicated to restoring dignity to patients through surgically correcting deformities. She holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery and a master’s degree in anesthesiology.
Judith is the co-founder and Operations Director of Akirachix, a Kenyan organization that nurtures generations of women who use technology to develop innovations and solutions for Africa. Through Akirachix, she is increasing the number of women who create technological solutions and, in effect, the perception of women in technology. Judith is a 2014 International Focus Fellow and recipient of the Anita Borg Change Agent Award 2011 for Women and Technology. She lives in Nairobi, Kenya and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in applied computing at the University of Nairobi.
Krupa is the founder and CEO of Anza, a business incubator that provides a range of services to start, support and scale social impact businesses in Tanzania. Krupa is passionate about the transformational potential social businesses have on society and has infused these beliefs into all of Anza’s activities. Anza supports over 104 start-up entrepreneurs with mentorship and financing, in addition to running a number of in-house social businesses as subsidiaries of Anza. Krupa lives in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania.
Birikit Terefe Tiruneh
Birikit is an African feminist and the founding director of Women’s Health Association of Ethiopia, a grassroots knowledge-building organization that focuses on training women in life skills as well as health matters. Women’s Health works across nine regions in Ethiopia seeking economic empowerment through investing in marginalized women’s group businesses. The project has reached over 500 women in four years. Birikit holds master’s degrees in social work and rural development from Addis Ababa University and Indira Gandhi National Open University, respectively. She was a Peace, Security and Development Fellow at The African Leadership Centre, King’s College London.
Faith Nafula Wafula
Faith is the founder of SEMA, a youth-targeted initiative which creates policy change and aims to shift mentality and behavior to end the cycle of gender-based violence (GBV) in Kenya. She implements the program at Strategic Applications International, where she is the Gender-Based Violence Program Officer. Through SEMA, Faith has reached over 4,000 university, secondary school and community level youth with GBV training on awareness and advocacy. SEMA also launched the first GBV reporting phone app in Kenya. Faith lives in Nairobi, Kenya, holds a law degree and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in governance, peace and security at Africa Nazarene University.
Brenda is the CEO and co-founder of Brainstorm Africa, an online media organization whose mission is to address the need for critical thought in Kenya and Africa at large. Brainstorm Africa runs an award-winning weekly journal, Brainstorm, as well as a quarterly topical e-book. Brainstorm has had over 70,000 unique readers since its inception and its books have been downloaded over 5,000 times. Brenda holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Hons) in Marketing and is an Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Affiliate.
The Lionesses of Africa community wishes each of these women well during their year as participants in the Acumen East Africa Fellows Program. We look forward to watching them accelerate their social impact and leadership potential.