2018 Mandela Fellows at UW-Madison

Odry Fifonsi Agbessi (Benin) is the first plastic surgeon of her country. She is currently working with national teaching hospital where she is in charge of burned patients, patients with physical disabilities, and others with deformities or injuries. She chose this specialty because she was affected by a report of a young girl who was forced to seek care for burns on both her face and neck in Europe due to the lack of specialists in Benin. Since that moment, Odry has vowed to work hard in order to offer such specialization in her country.



Bemnet Zegeve Ashenafi (Ethiopia) was inspired by the death of her grandmother who may have lived longer had she reached the hospital earlier. Since then, Bemnet has had a burning desire to save lives and became a doctor. She has worked in different hospitals in Addis Ababa as well as in rural areas as an intern. It was during her internship while working in Nedjo Hospital that she began to realize the unique needs of rural communities. Currently, she works as a head of in-patient department and actively participates in raising awareness about maternal and child health.


Francis Ifeanyu Ayomoh (Nigeria) is a medical doctor who has worked for over five years in clinical practice. He has worked as a resident doctor in Internal Medicine with an interest in infectious diseases and worked closely with patients with diseases like HIV/AIDS, Lassa fever, Cholera, and Meningitis. However, his experiences in curative medicine motivated him to switch to preventive medicine, as he realized that it was cheaper and better to prevent diseases than to cure them. Having worked as a clinician for several years, he now understands the inadequacies within the Nigerian hospital environment and resolves to make things better. He currently works in the Federal Ministry of Health where he formulates and implements policies to improve Primary Healthcare in Nigeria, making hospitals more efficient and reducing the prevalence of diseases by creating nationwide awareness about hygiene and healthy lifestyle choices.

Iliassa Ayouba (Comoros) has worked as a nurse in the Comorian government health system, specifically in rural areas, for five years. He is the National Malaria Control Program supervisor in his community and is the president and founder of the first health care association in Comoros. He is the national vice president of the Insular Peace Network office. He has created an association to build confidence in the Comorian healthcare system and encourage those who need medical assistance to go to the hospital.




Kalkidan Lakew Belayneh (Ethiopia) is a medical doctor and an advocator with over 6 years of experience in advocacy of public health issues, specifically focusing on reproductive health. Currently, she is working as a Medical Director of a government hospital located in a rural setup where she oversees all the clinical activities and has helped establish various departments within the hospital. She has an active volunteering experience in different organizations including her service as the Director of Public Health in Ethiopian Medical Students’ Association. Dr. Kalkidan earned her medical degree from Addis Ababa University, School of Medicine. She is a leader with a commitment to empower women across her country by addressing issues regarding their sexual and reproductive health and rights and she hopes to see all women exercise their right to the fullest. She chose this work because of her all-time dream of helping the less fortunate and finding solutions to their problems. Being a physician with leadership positions gives her the opportunity to live that dream and also to motivate and manage others to do the same.

Baudouine Burhegeya Borah (Democratic Republic of the Congo) works as a security professional, dealing with different scenarios and carrying out a wide range of tasks in the field of safety and security. Throughout her professional experience, she has had the opportunity to confront, support, and develop a personal interest in the international humanitarian field. Her assets also lay in fluent language abilities (including English, French, Kinyarwanda, and Swahili) and a proven capacity to adapt to and work in hard contexts and multicultural environments.


Amadú Djamanca (Guinea-Bissau) had a dream to be an electrical engineer. However, the death of his father made him embrace journalism as a way to continue with his father’s work. For Djamanca, to be a journalist is to be an example in society, to be the inspirer of truth and equality, and finally, to be the one who watches over justice. He is proud to say that the media in his country works without pressure from the authorities and freedom of the press and of expression are observed by law and respected by the government, despite the manipulation and influence of politicians and regimes. Djamanca believes that journalism is a noble profession, regardless of risk.


José Manuel Fortes Eduardo (Angola) is a civil servant, non-governmental organization project manager, and lawyer. He works as a civil servant in the Benguela Province Department of the National Institute of Professional Formation, where his responsibilities include helping unemployed young people search for job opportunities in the labor market. He also works as general director of a non-governmental organization called Environmental Action and Defense of Social Rights Defense that develops environmental education programs. As a law graduate, he practices part-time advocacy in his province court, where he gives legal consultations to people in the community.



Eskedar Awgichew Ergete (Ethiopia) is an Environmental Law Specialist currently leading the Environment and Natural Resources Law Center at Mekelle University, Ethiopia. Prior to obtaining his master’s degree in this field, he was a legal professional in various organizations consecutively. The profession of law was a childhood dream of Eskedar’s, but he was not satisfied with the impact he was having as a general practitioner. He eventually made the decision to go back to law school determined to become an advocate for the environment. He chose this specialization not only because of the importance of protecting the environment but also because he has ideas to guide Ethiopia’s development to be more environmentally conscious. He also has a ten-year plan to become the minister of environment in his country and then another ten-year plan to become the leader of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Magessa Deogratias George (Tanzania) is a teacher by profession, with a Bachelor’s degree of Education and Master of Science in Human Resource Management. Throughout his career, he has worked part time with different institutions that engage in improving quality of education. These include National Youth Information Center (2008-2010), Institute of Development Studies of Mzumbe University (2014- 2015) and Tanzed (2017). He also volunteers with FARAJA Trust Fund which works with young girls who have dropped out of school due to early pregnancy. Since 2007, he has worked as a permanent teacher at Tushikamane Secondary School and is the CEO and founder of Afrikanzuri, a non-profit organization that supports equal access to quality education in primary and secondary schools in Tanzania. He chose this work because he is passionate about creating a society where children can access equal quality education despite differences in financial background.

Marie-Josée Paula Houénou (Côte d’Ivoire) graduated with distinction in International Environmental Law. For six years, she has given legal advice on environmental projects. Focusing on climate change, green entrepreneurship, and sensitization, she coordinates the Youth Initiative to Fight Climate Change Mediaterre, implemented by ASAPSU thanks to IFDD and Green Fund Quebec, helping to promote green projects in francophone countries. Passionate about development issues, she realized that environmental issues provide a wide range of opportunities to fight poverty and reach development in Africa. She has worked on sustainable development projects with UNESCO as intern, the Ivorian Ministry of environment as consultant, and the Institut de la Francophonie pour le Dévelopemment Durable as volunteer. She enjoys linking her jurist background with her project management experience, as she believes in both theoretical and practical approaches to integrate the principles of sustainable development in development sectors.

Edosa Shawn Idada (Nigeria) is a graduate of Political Science and Public Administration from the University of Benin. He was appointed as a special assistant to a Member of House of Representatives in Abuja on April 2016. He hails from a rural area, so he has experienced firsthand the poor living conditions of people living in the rural areas. He interacts with lawmakers to drive motions and policies that affects the lives of the people. For example, he formulated a motion on the need to control an erosion threat, which was presented on the floor of the parliament. Working with lawmakers in Nigeria is an avenue for him to meet his goal of affecting the lives of people especially in the rural areas through proper creation and implementation of viable and sustainable programs and projects.


Patrick Kabwe (Zambia) holds a Bachelor’s degree in Adult Education. He has two years’ experience in community outreach, which involved coordinating community outreach activities for the early infant male circumcision program. In a second position as the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, he was also involved in the creating awareness about male infant circumcision as a way to decrease their risk of contracting HIV. In his current position, a Medical Social Worker at Kasama General Hospital, his role involves coordinating social welfare services in order to facilitate recovery and rehabilitation.



Liswaniso Chisela Kabwela (Zambia) is a Chief Community Development Officer (CCDO) at Kalulushi Municipal Council in Zambia with seven years’ work experience. Her work primarily involves overseeing a team of approximately 20 officers in sports for development programs, vocational skills training for youths, cultural and drama youth groups, library administration, and adult literacy classes in the town of Kalulushi. Growing up, she saw herself gravitating towards community work as his own family upbringing included strong elements of community service. Therefore, studying for a Bachelor’s in Development Studies and Public Administration and joining the local government structure was a natural choice. She chose this work because of the sense of accomplishment he receives when administrative plans translate into the transformation of an individual’s life.

Asmara Kaffer (Namibia) was elected to the Learners Representative Council in high school. At her tertiary institution, during her second year of studies, she was also elected as the Nama Cultural Group convener. After her studies, she began volunteering at the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry in the veterinary department. A few weeks after volunteering, she entered the My Future is My Choice Life Skills program as a facilitator. This was the start of her career in informal education. In March 2011, she was employed by the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service as a Youth Officer. She is responsible for the Environmental Education program and is also involved in gender programs. Most recently, she joined the Milli Project, which focuses on Media and Information Literacy. Through her work, she has the opportunity to both mold and educate young people in her community.

Silomo Clarence Khumalo (South Africa) has spent most of his professional career fighting for the right to education for children with disabilities. He began working at Section 27, a public interest law institution, as a Law and Social Justice Fellow after completing his undergraduate law degree at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. He was later promoted to junior researcher, which led him to focus on the right to access basic education for children with disabilities. He currently works as a law clerk for Justice Froneman in the Constitutional Court of South Africa. Being a person living with a disability himself and having experienced challenges throughout his education, it occurred to him that he could use the law as a vehicle to achieve social justice particularly for people with disabilities.


Maxwell Tii Kumbeni (Ghana) has worked as a trained and licensed Registered General Nurse since 2009 and has been employed by Ghana Health Service from 2009 to date. He started his career in Navrongo Hospital where he was responsible for planning and implementation of patient care, administering medical treatment to patients among other things. After one year, he was reposted to Sakote Health Center in Nabdam District. Here, he was responsible for diagnosing and treating minor ailments, propagating health promotion activities, and assisting in running administrative activities. Three years later, he was appointed the sub-district leader. As a sub-district leader, he is responsible for monitoring and supervision, health promotion and disease prevention, liaising between the sub-district and the district health management team, and implementation of health policies. He chose to work in a rural community to reduce health disparities and oversee effective policy implementation.

Precious Amabel Annette Lebby (Sierra Leone) is a linguist and gender specialist by training and currently employed as a broadcast journalist. She uses her profession to advocate for the welfare of the aged. Through the formation of the Jenama Foundation for the Aged, her radio program called “Moment with the Aged,” and her television program called “Digging Deep,” she gives marginalized populations the opportunity to tell their stories and call on the government to render assistance. She was inspired to do her work by a 17-year-old girl who got pregnant by her father’s best friend and died after drinking native herbs in an abortion attempt in the Kambia District. Through her interventions, twelve girls have been admitted into schools with six that she continues to monitor.

Bertha Kanuth Mbuya (Tanzania) is an occupational therapist who works in various settings, including schools, refugee camps, and special needs schools to empower and advocate for human rights for the vulnerable and most marginalized individuals to engage fully in society for their health and wellbeing. She chose to join this profession to help individuals live meaningful lives. Her own experience with family members with disabilities drove her to study the profession that will challenge power relations, structure inequalities, and entrenched mindsets that facilitate occupational injustices for the most marginalized individuals in her society and Africa in general, with the goal of enhancing equality, promoting human rights, and facilitating equal participation.


Sibonelo Benson Mchunu (South Africa) works as an Associate Compliance Officer at the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), where his work is focused on the promotion and protection of the constitutional right of access to information. His work is split between the access to information and research units, where he focuses on drafting research reports and submissions on legislative developments that may affect the exercise of human rights to national parliament and international bodies such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). His interest is in the law and its impact on the most vulnerable, both socially and economically. Before the SAHRC, he was at the Western Cape Department of Economic Development as a graduate legal and policy researcher, making submissions at the provincial and national levels on the review and development of laws that impact the economy and job creation.

Rose Mary Nakame (Uganda) battled a benign brain tumor at an early age, yet her parents were from a low socio-economic background, which meant poor access to better diagnostic healthcare. In addition, she felt less important to her community, which tends to value boys more than girls. Her story is like many females who make up half of Uganda’s population and 67 percent of Ugandans living in poverty. This inspired her to work towards increasing access to quality healthcare, undertaking health related courses and later on, founding REMI East Africa in November 2015. As an Executive Director of REMI East Africa, she has influenced public health policy and financing through strategic memberships. For example, she lobbied with the Maternal-Child Health Coalition for increment in 2017/2018 National health financing from 1.5 to 1.8 billion Ugandan shillings through the Parliamentary Health Subcommittee.

Bridget Otoo (Ghana) is a trained journalist. She graduated from the Ghana Institute of Journalism, and she is a member of Ghana Journalists Association and the Institute of Public Relations. She spent six years at TV3 and she was the lead reporter at the electoral commission headquarters during the 2016 Ghanaian elections. She has interviewed former and sitting presidents of Ghana and has brought viewers stories from across the country and in dangerous places. She is currently a content developer and producer.




Shaban Senyange (Uganda) studied Wildlife Health. Uganda is known as the Pearl of Africa – a haven of wildlife. However, the high wildlife crime rates, unsustainable environment practices coupled with poor attitudes towards conservation worried Senyange. With a background in wildlife and environmental conservation and a passion for media, he created “ECO-ZONE”, a TV show dedicated to creating more awareness about environment and wildlife conservation through travel.




Lineekela Iyaloo Tabias (Namibia) graduated as a teacher and is currently employed by the Ministry of Education Arts and Culture in Namibia. She has taught Geography at Reverend Juuso Shikongo Senior Secondary School since 2014. Her motivation for pursuing this career is to transform the minds of children with the hope that they will contribute to the development of Namibia. She primarily attracted to this career because she strongly believes that shaping the future of Namibian children from an early stage of educational development is the most important thing to be part of. She believes teaching is a noble profession and one that shapes the future of nations.


Pontso Gloria Tsoeunyane (Lesotho) has always envisioned mentoring and paying school-fees for the vulnerable children in her community. After her part-time job as a lecturer, she worked as an educational bursary administrator, where her role was to pay school-fees for orphans and vulnerable children in schools. She introduced new systems for collecting applications, which increased accessibility to bursary program for communities by 80 percent. She was then promoted to a Senior Child Welfare Officer position where she acted as the Director of Operations and designed policy frameworks and coordinated implementation of programs for people with disabilities, children, and the elderly across 10 districts of Lesotho. Most recently, she was promoted to Manager of Social Development Services where her role is to coordinate, facilitate implementation of, monitor and supervise the provision of social care services in the district.