Meet the new 8 Ashoka Fellows from Kenya and Rwanda

Judy Ndunge News & Updates April 4, 2024

On March 30th, 2024, Ashoka East Africa welcomed a fresh cohort of Fellows all drawn from Kenya and Rwanda. This is the 2023 cohort with 8 Fellows.

Ashoka is an international organisation focused on identifying social entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to pressing societal issues and the drive to implement large-scale changes. In Africa, Ashoka operates in 23 countries.  The 8 Fellows will be joining another 489 from across Africa. The ceremony to unveil the 8 was held at the Nairobi’s Jacaranda Hotel.

And who are the 8?

Ashoka has already established operations in no less than 23 African countries. Their tireless search for visionaries marked by creativity, determination, and an unwavering commitment to public welfare has yielded yet another crop of exceptional individuals.

The fellows include:

1) Jane Waithera – Positive Exposure (Kenya)

Jane Waithera describes herself as diversity and inclusion champion committed to sustainable solutions. She has a record of developing and implementing disability and inclusion initiatives with outstanding results. Waithera is the Co-founder and Programme Director of Positive Exposure Kenya. This is a non-profit organisation that promotes the well-being of persons with albinism by providing an opportunity for them, their families and communities to celebrate diversity, challenge stigma and celebrate each individual extra ordinary uniqueness.

Waithera is also co-founder, Climb for Albinism, a global movement that aims to raise awareness about albinism and challenge the stigma that surrounds it.

Over the years, Waithera has dedicated her time and resources to understanding the root causes and finding solutions to the challenges that Persons with Albinism (PWA) have been facing in Africa.

Waithera has made the de-stigmatization and advancement of people living with albinism a national policy priority for Kenya. With the explicit endorsement of the African Union, it has become an urgent policy priority for all the member states.


Waithera and her team educate the audience by targeting different segments of society who are strong opinion shapers with facts about albinism as an entry door to demystifying the misconceptions that the public has about the topic. They include public administrators, churches, elderly, among others.


2) Isabelle Kamariza- Solid’Africa (Rwanda)

Kamaliza is the President and Founder at Solid’Africa. This is a not for profit that aims to preserve dignity, accelerate the recovery process, and promote health equity for vulnerable patients in our public hospitals.

Though advancements in healthcare accessibility in Rwanda, over the last two decades have, been improved by Universal Health Coverage, a critical gap still remains in hospital nutrition.

Like most developing nations, the government, constrained by budget limitations and dependence on international aid, prioritizes critical medical needs over food provision in its health policy.

Kamariza saw that gap and founded Solid Africa Organisation, offering free, medically tailored meals to low-income hospitalized patients.

Solid Africa operates in an innovative farm-to-fork model, ensuring control over the entire value chain, guaranteeing quality and affordability as well as sustainability.

As Solid Africa’s impact has grown over the years, so too has her vision. She now sees nutrition security as a fundamental human right and is committed to ensuring equitable access to appropriate and adequate nutrition for everyone.

Kamariza is establishing the Institute of Culinary Arts and Nutrition in Rwanda in a bid to transform the hospitality industry by merging the disciplines of nutrition and culinary. The move is to ensure that meals prepared in hotels and restaurants are prepared with a nutrition first approach.

Beyond feeding patients; she is committed to changing the narrative around nutrition in healthcare, education, and beyond. To achieve that, she is exploring new ways of implementing her programs. Her journey reflects a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of health, nutrition, and societal well-being. Kamariza wants to leverage collaboration with the government to achieve sustainable and long-lasting systemic change.



3) Lucy Mukuria – True North – (Kenya)

Mukuria is psychologist, policy advocacy, program development and management specialist.

She exhibits a steadfast commitment to enhancing the human spirit. She is the founder of True North Society, an organization dedicated to spearheading innovative initiatives aimed at ensuring seamless reintegration of veterans into society.

In her professional journey, Mukuria realize the importance of comprehensive systems that address mental health issues. With this realization came a dedication to the cause. For 11 years, Mukuria worked as a pioneer military psychologist within the Kenyan Ministry of State for Defence. In 2017, driven by her passion and vision for improving life experiences and extending life expectancy for veterans on a larger scale, Mukuria founded the True North Society.

Mukuria’s pioneering approach focuses primarily on providing holistic mental health support through advocacy programs, treatment services and empowerment initiatives tailored specifically, towards veterans’ needs.

She has developed an innovative Cradle-based model which encompasses physical and mental well-being aspects of healthcare provision.

4) Olivier Nsengimana- Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association) (Rwanda)

Olivier harmoniously blends African cultural heritage and ecological wisdom, transforming conservation into a deeply personal and communal commitment. By tapping into the profound connection between people and nature in African societies, he’s spearheading a standard that seamlessly unites top-down policies with bottom-up community-driven initiatives. Drawing from the Rwandan proverb “three stones are required to have a pot standing,” symbolizing unity, this model revolutionizes communities’ relationship with conservation emphasizing collective responsibility and harmonious coexistence.

This is how Olivier describes himself in his LinkedIn account:

“I am a Rwandan veterinarian who designed and implemented a unique conservation project to abolish the illegal trade and reverse the shocking decline of my country’s endangered grey crowned cranes.
I have since established the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA), a nonprofit dedicated to expanding research and conservation projects connected to endangered or threatened species in Rwanda, including the grey crowned cranes. Prior to founding RWCA, I worked for Gorilla Doctors as a field veterinarian, providing life-saving veterinary care to mountain gorillas.
I graduated top of my class at veterinary school and received the Dean’s award. In 2015, I received a master’s degree in veterinary sciences, conservation medicine from the University of Edinburgh. In 2014, I won the Rolex Awards for Enterprise–Young Laureate, Environment honor for his conservation efforts. In 2016, I was a finalist for the Tusk Conservation Awards. In June 2017, I won the National Geographic / Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation in Africa. I also recently received the 2018 Whitley Awards, the 2019 Future for Nature Awards and the 2020 McKenna-Travers Award for Compassionate Conservation.”

5) Naomi Mwaura – Flone Initiative – Kenya

Naomi Mwaura is Global TED speaker with over 10 years of experience running not-for-profit organisations. She is the founder of Flone Initiative, an organization working to create a safe and professional public transport industry in Kenya. She is also a co-founder of Mama Afrika Festival, an organization that highlights and celebrates women in the arts. She was one of the lead organizers of MyDressMyChoice campaign that saw thousands of women protest gender based violence in the Kenyan public transport. She has led consultancies including research projects and the development of policy papers. Naomi holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. As part of Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, Naomi completed a civic leadership fellowship at Tulane University, USA. She was named “BBC 100 Inspirational and Influential Women” 2017 and featured in Forbes Women, BBC and Aljazeera. She is among the winners of the 2018 Ashoka Challenging Norms, Powering Economies Challenge.

She founded Flone Initiative in 2013, a women-led organization, that works towards the creation of safe, sustainable, and accessible public transportation spaces for women and vulnerable groups in Africa. Flone uses the advocacy approach based on data and research on public transportation sector.

Given the vital role that public transportation – and specifically the individual-owned matatus – play in economic and social mobility in Kenya, Mwaura feels there’s little resources or attention paid to social issues, like safety and equality of access in that sector. For that reason, she is seeking to change the nature of employment in the industry, permanently raise the quality of the experience for riders, so that women and other vulnerable groups in Kenya can participate more fully in the economy and society.


6) Malik Shaffy –Kina Rwanda

Malik Shaffy is redefining plays role in Rwandan society challenging conventional norms, liberating play from confined spaces and advocating its universal application.

Through a fusion of media advocacy, community engagement, and policy reform, he is driving a profound mindset shift, empowering play to be a catalyst for societal transformation.

As the founder of 63 Inc, a creative and behavioral communication agency, Shaffy leads a team dedicated to crafting campaigns that not only speak to the heart of Rwanda’s culture but also resonate globally.

Under the partnerships with Lego Foundation, Shaffy and his team developed and launched the Kina Rwanda tour, a movement meant to educate parents and caregivers about learning through play using branding media communication.

The Kina Rwanda Tour was as a collaborative effort of various partners in the learning spaces through play ecosystem and partners whose work includes promoting children’s growth, learning, and wellbeing.


7) Lizzie Kiama – The Ability Trust (Kenya)

Over the course of the last ten years, Lizzie Kiama has devoted herself to understanding and combating the negativity that surrounds the term “disabled. Through extensive experience and exploration, she has come to realise that one of the most effective ways to effect change is through an extensive outreach in advocacy.

By raising public awareness and working towards re-educating Kenyan society, Kiama hopes to help people unlearn negative connotations associated with disabilities.

In pursuit of this goal, she established The Ability Trust Organisation with a view to amplifying voices and building capacity for women and girls with disabilities across Kenya and beyond. Her vision is one in which these women are respected and empowered to lead fully integrated lives in political, economic, and social spheres.

As part of her mission, The Ability Trust engages in conversations with private sector organisations about disability inclusion in the workplace. Furthermore, they explore how advertising and marketing can play a role in realising rights for women with disabilities.

With Ashoka’s support network at their disposal, Kiama’s organisation will be able to achieve full representation across all 47 counties of Kenya while also expanding its reach throughout Africa. Kiama’s dedication over the past decade has been nothing short of remarkable milestone which she continues to pursue.


8) Nancy Maina – Lugha Ishara  (Kenya)

In order for deaf children to effectively cultivate their social and emotional skills, it is imperative that their parents and caregivers acquire a common language from the child’s birth, which they can share and learn together. Maina has taken a proactive approach in addressing the root cause of language deprivation at its earliest and most influential stage through her Lugha Ishara organization. The organization advocates for early hearing screening tests to be implemented within hospitals’ frameworks immediately after birth. Despite this, she has discovered through conversations with hospital personnel, doctors, and administrators that there are intricate complexities hindering the seamless integration of universal screening tests.

The hospital personnel recognised the need for controlled environments and specialized technology, that children requiring further evaluation could undergo tests in optimal conditions, thereby increasing the accuracy of their diagnoses.

Maina’s approach is dedicated to creating inclusive spaces involving entire families so as to enable deaf children to flourish and thrive.

Parents and caregivers often play a pivotal role as decision makers for these children; hence Maina acknowledges the importance of not only incorporating them into solutions but also providing them with safe spaces where they can interact with other parents sharing similar experiences.

By doing so, deaf children will receive necessary tools and resources required for fostering healthy language development, while eliminating any chance of falling behind.

Additional information

These new Ashoka fellows not only get to join Ashoka fellowship for life but also get support to push their initiative forward. Ashoka gives them a stipend for up to three years, if needed, for the Fellow to dedicate themselves full time to the advancement of their idea. They also get to be availed with different opportunities to accelerate their impact, increased visibility and access to a global community of peers among other benefits.

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