Intelligence. Sisterhood. Akili Dada.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIntelligence. Sisterhood. Akili Dada.

The current Foundation Beyond Belief Human Rights beneficiary, Akili Dada, has a meaning deeper than its name.

In Swahili, “akili dada” translates to “intelligent sister,” and that is the goal of Akili Dada – to build an intelligent sisterhood of talented young women and future leaders in Kenya.

The organization was created in 2005 by Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, who herself grew up in Kenya. During her time there, she realized women’s voices were missing in decision making processes. She created Akili Dada not just to groom women for leadership positions, but to help diversify those voices by ensuring underprivileged girls were also brought to the table.

Akili Dada works to bridge the gap for women in leadership by focusing on two main groups of women and girls: those in high school and young women under 35. While programs vary for different age groups, the strategies remain primarily the same.

Program participants learn from other women and each other through mentorship and work to build new skills. Women and girls are also encouraged to develop as leaders and ultimately, some participants are able to gain financial support through scholarships or fellowships.

Youth are served through the Young Changemakers Program. The program is putting up incredible results, for example, 100% of graduating scholar-leaders qualify for university.

The Young Changemakers Program includes many projects including service learning and college prep. However, the goal of the program is to help the girls (the dadas, or sisters) to find their own leadership style by focusing on their own community needs.

Once a dada graduates, she has the potential to join the Innovation in Leadership Program, which is also open to non-alumnae. This program focuses on career preparation and providing a space to grow ideas for social change.

Where this change is truly incubated is through the Fellowship Program. This program brings women directly out of poor, often rural communities, to address challenges in those communities. These are young women with ideas that can help shape their hometowns and their country, they often just need support and training.

This year’s fellowship participants include ideas to promote access to safer drinking water and creating a deaf school mentorship program among many others. Each project itself is worth support and funding, yet through support of Akili Dada, each of these incredible female leaders finds more support through training, education and access – and can help inspire the next generation of dadas.