Echidna Global Scholar Alumni are a diverse group of leaders driving evidence-based change to eliminate gender-based discrimination in policies, practices, and social norms, transform education, and improve learning opportunities and life outcomes for girls and young women across the Global South. They do this as researchers, practitioners, policymakers, and advocates working in nonprofit, civil society, and community-based organizations; government and public institutions; academic and research centers; national and international foundations; and multilateral organizations. Learn more about the Echidna Global Scholars Program.

Meet our alumni scholars by region: East Asia | Latin America and the Caribbean | Middle East and North Africa | South Asia | Sub-Saharan Africa


East Asia

Jin Chi | China

Associate Professor, Beijing Normal University

Jin Chi is an associate professor in the Institute of Teacher Education Research, Faculty of Education at Beijing Normal University. Currently, she works with international research collaborators on gender and early childhood teachers; creative learning and innovative teacher workforce; and teacher policy in education systems. Prior to this role, Jin led the Gender Equality and Women Leadership program at INRULED, and coordinated a team of leading national and international experts from various fields in China for girls’ and women’s development. The projects highlighted integrative sustainable approaches, targeting education, health and protection for girls, and women’s school and community leadership in poor rural areas. Before INRULED, she had more than 10 years teaching and research experience at universities, and several years of international cooperation and management experience. She was also co-director at a Chinese teacher training center for international schools and supported the development of private primary schools and kindergartens. Her current work focuses on quality learning and sustainable development, early childhood development, rural women, and girls’ education and development.

Jin holds a Ph.D. from The University of Hong Kong and has previously held a visiting scholarship at Georgetown University. As a 2018 Echidna Scholar, Jin contributed to the integration of gender perspectives to early childhood teacher policy, an early intervention for the improvement of learning and development of adolescent girls.

Read: Pathways for gender equality through early childhood teacher policy in China


Tran Thi Ngoc Tran | Vietnam

Co-founder and Co-Director of For Good Vietnam Network; Co-founder and Managing Director of ProPath Education Group

Tran Thi Ngoc Tran is co-founder and co-director of For Good Vietnam Network, a not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping disadvantaged people fully participate in society, as well as co-founder and managing director of ProPath Education Group, an education organization that develops the best version of each individual through transformative learning experiences. She is also working as a consultant at the International Finance Corporate of the World Bank Group. Prior to these experiences, Tran was the inaugural Vietnam country manager for Girl Rising to help empower girls and women. Moreover, she worked for nearly two decades in higher education, most recently as an academic affairs manager at Fulbright University Vietnam, where she led the accreditation process for the Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) program and the development of a new MPP in Leadership and Management, and as deputy director of the International Education Institute at Vietnam National University.

Tran holds a master’s degree in Education Leadership and Management from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at Andrews University, with a focus on women’s leadership and entrepreneurship. She was selected for the Humphrey Fellowship by the U.S. Department of State (2012), the Leadership Fellowship by the East West Center (2009), and the NUFFIC Fellowship by the Dutch government (2009 and 2007).

As a 2021 Echidna Global Scholar, Tran explored the experiences and needs of Vietnamese young women participating in entrepreneurial education in the Future for Women Program, funded by the U.S Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.

Learn more about Tran on LinkedIn.

Read: Demand-driven and gender-responsive policies for promoting entrepreneurship among women in Vietnam

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Latin America and the Caribbean

Dasmine Kennedy | Jamaica

Assistant Chief Education Officer, Educational Planning Unit in the Ministry of Education and Youth

Dasmine Kennedy’s work spans approximately 30 years in the field of education, both at the classroom and policy levels. She has been instrumental in several research undertakings to ensure system-wide improvement in educational access, quality, equity, and inclusion. Her latest project focused on gender-based violence among primary school students in select schools and the analysis of the Jamaican policy regarding the reintegration of school-aged mothers in the formal school system. As an advocate for change, she also contributed to providing support for school-aged mothers through mentorship, scholarship to access higher education, and contributed to the establishment of a 21st century day care facility to enable quality care of babies of school-aged mothers in Jamaica.

Currently, Dasmine is the assistant chief education officer for the Planning and Development Division of Ministry of Education and Youth, Jamaica. She has also served as acting regional director, Region 1 Educational Authority, and has overseen 160 educational institutions and over 6,000 educators. Dasmine has a master’s degree in Curriculum Pedagogy and Assessment from the Institute of Education, University College of London, and a master’s degree in Educational Planning and Management from the International Institute for Educational Planning, UNESCO, Paris. She is also a graduate of the Mico University College and the St. Catherine High School in Jamaica.

Follow Dasmine via Twitter @dasmine_kennedy.

Read: Gender-based violence in primary schools: Jamaica


Maria Cristina Osorio Vázquez | Mexico
Professor, Universidad Anáhuac Mayab, School of Economics and Business; Professor of Public Administration, School of Economics at Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán in Mérida

Maria Cristina has led several projects in women’s economic empowerment. She is the author of several research papers focused on the advancement of women’s and indigenous people’s participation in education, business, and politics in Mexico as a way to create equal opportunity for all in Mexico.

Ms. Osorio holds a degree in International Relations, a master’s in Economics and Public Administration at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, and she is a Ph.D. candidate in Innovation and Governance for Sustainable Development at the University of Twente, the Netherlands. As a 2017 Echidna Global Scholar, Ms. Osorio’s research at Brookings sought to fill an important gap in girls’ education research by addressing the challenges and barriers to girls’ education in Mexico, particularly for Mayan girls living in remote areas of the Yucatán peninsula.

Read: Fostering resilience in indigenous Maya girls: The power of education


Eliana Villar Marquez | Peru

Eliana is a Peruvian sociologist and an expert in gender equality analysis. Recently, Eliana prepared the national plan on gender equality for the European Union 2021-2026 in Peru, and the USAID Action Plan on Gender Equality of the Country Strategy for Development Cooperation 2020-2025 to strengthen a sustainable environment and expand social and economic benefits for the indigenous population. In addition, Eliana has been a senior consultant for the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, the Canadian cooperation, GIZ, and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), and has worked as an independent gender and childhood expert for the Overseas Development Institute for several projects in Africa and Central and South America.

As an expert in her field, Eliana served as a gender specialist for UN Women in Peru, as well as for other UN agencies, and prepared the only existing Gender Scorecard of the United Nations agencies in Peru and has also been commissioned by USAID to prepare the first report on gender gaps in the five regions of the Peruvian forest.

Eliana holds an M.A. in Public Policy from Duke University and has extensive experience in the design and implementation of advocacy strategies and on gender analysis of statistical data. As a 2018 Echidna Global Scholar, she developed research on gender equality and the completion of secondary education by Afro-Peruvian adolescent girls.

Follow Eliana on Twitter via @elianavillarm.

Read: Educational gaps among ethnic minorities: The case of Afro-Peruvian girls

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Middle East and North Africa

Mayyada Abu Jaber | Jordan

CEO and Founder, World of Letters

Mayyada Abu Jaber has worked in the Middle East and North Africa region for more than 20 years on women and youth education and economic empowerment projects. She is the founder and CEO of the World of Letters, a social enterprise in the Middle East and North Africa dedicated to bridging the economic, social, and opportunity divide. In addition, Mayyada founded JoWomenomics, an independent nonprofit organization to foster mindset change toward women’s economic participation. To achieve that, Mayyada worked on influencing labor law policies, conducting transformative behavioral change campaigns to reach more than 3,000 community members, and providing job opportunities to more than 600 women in marginalized communities in Jordan. Earlier in her career, Mayyada was the founding CEO of the Jordan Education for Employment and served as an educational consultant at the office of Her Majesty Queen Rania Abdullah II.

Mayyada was recognized by the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) as one of the 15 best practices in the world for education/employment interface, and by the World Bank as an inspirational leader in the Middle East and North Africa in 2017. She serves on the board of trustees for INASP and is the vice-chair of the Center for Environmental Ethics and Law. Mayyada serves as an International Jury member for the UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education.

Mayyada is currently working on her Ph.D. in Integral Development toward a Feminist Economy from the DaVinci Institute and received her master’s degree in Environmental Geology at Duke University.

Read: Breaking through Glass Doors: A Gender Analysis of Womenomics in the Jordanian National Curriculum


Nariman Moustafa | Egypt

Senior Researcher, Edtech Hub; Senior Analyst, Open Development and Education

Nariman Moustafa is a Cairo-based educator, researcher, and community organizer in the broader field of decolonial and social justice-based education. Formally, she holds a master’s degree in Education from Harvard University. Additionally, her education was informed and influenced by a long lineage of non-institutional actors, including the Nile, the desert, her grandmother, and the 2011 Tahrir Square revolution. Nariman’s projects revolve around reclaiming diverse knowledge cosmologies using community art and assembling as a form of social participation for justice.

She has more than 10 years of experience in the fields of international education, social innovation, higher-education teaching, community art, and participatory policy processes, as well as in agile and adaptive leadership practices. Nariman has worked on projects that range from consulting for governments on how to improve education with limited resources to designing and facilitating socially transformative processes with women, youth, and refugees.

Globally, she works as a senior researcher at Edtech Hub, a global consortium of evidence-based research for education policymakers, and as a senior analyst at Open Development and Education. In Egypt, she serves as a curriculum developer and advisor at Dawar for Arts on a project focused on regional sexual and reproductive health and rights, which her Brookings fellowship will focus on.

Previously, she founded several initiatives for re-envisioning justice-centered education, including Mesahat: Liberating Learning Spaces for children (translated to “free spaces” from Arabic) and Tagawor for adults (“collaborative neighborhood learning”). With a belief in local action and transnational solidarity, she is a steering member of the Ecoversities Alliance, a 500+ global alliance of institutions reimagining higher education from a decolonial perspective. She also serves as a teaching assistant for community organizing and adaptive leadership courses at the Harvard Kennedy School, in addition to being a post-growth fellow at the Post Growth Institute.

Follow Nariman on Twitter via @NarimanMoustafa and connect with her on LinkedIn at Nariman Moustafa.

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South Asia

Nangyalai Attal | Afghanistan
Former Senior Policy Specialist at the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVET-A) of Afghanistan; Founder of Hode

Nangyalai Attal was a senior policy specialist at the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVET-A) of Afghanistan. He is the founder of the nonprofit organization Hode—meaning “a resilient decision”— that is dedicated to promoting girls’ education in rural areas. He also briefly served in 2017 as director of the Presidential Decrees and Orders Department in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff in Afghanistan. Nangyalai received international recognition in 2014, when the UN Envoy for Global Education awarded him the UN Youth Courage Award for his work in girls’ education. He also received a Hopes and Challenges Award in 2016 from former Afghan President Hamid Karzai for his commitment to the education of his fellow Afghans. That same year, the Asia Foundation selected Nangyalai for the highly competitive Development Fellows Program. As an educator, he served as a lecturer at the Dunya University of Afghanistan and at the National Institute of Management and Administration (NIMA).

Nangyalai is completing his Ph.D. in International Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He received a Fulbright Fellowship in 2015, which he used to obtain an M.S. in Human Resources from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. Nangyalai’s research as a 2021 Echidna Global Scholar at Brookings focused on policy interventions designed to increase girls’ participation in formal agricultural education in Afghanistan.

Follow Nangyalai on Twitter via @Nangattal.


Musammat Badrunnesha | Bangladesh
Community Coordinator, Toronto South Local Immigration Partnership

Musammat Badrunnesha has over 15 years of experience in girls’ empowerment efforts as a career-oriented administrator, social scientist, and changemaker. She is the founder of Empowerment and Human Development Society, Bangladesh and Canada and the founder of Captain Ibrahim Academy, which is based in Moulvibazar, Bangladesh.

Currently, Badrunnesha is working as a community coordinator at Toronto South Local Immigration Partnership Canada and coordinating two projects (local and national) funded by Immigration Refugee and Citizenship Canada. Through the national project, The Anti-Racist Recovery, Badrunnesha and her team are testing the efficacy of developing, delivering, and assessing anti-racism initiatives under the umbrella of Local Immigration Partnerships.

Badrunnesha has worked with 300 madrasas in Bangladesh, providing workshops and training for teachers, administrators, youth, and women. As a 2015 Echidna Global Scholar, she developed a discussion guide and program plan to improve the quality of girls’ education in madrasas in Bangladesh and has since presented the program at 15 international conferences. In 2018, International Research and Exchange Board awarded her as one of eight of the most influential teacher leaders from around the world.

Badrunnesha is an alumna of the Community Solutions Program and Teaching Excellence and Achievement Program. She holds an M.Ed. in Education from Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology and an M.A. in History from Bangladesh National University. She is a doctoral student at UMass Amherst with an international education concentration.

Follow Musammat via Twitter at @MusammatB.

Read: Improving the quality of girls’ education in madrasas in Bangladesh


Anusha Bharadwaj | India

Executive Director, Voice 4 Girls; Ashoka Fellow; Founder, SoCh for Social Change

Anusha Bharadwaj believes in the power of adolescent and youth leadership to transform communities and nations. With this conviction, she leads a group of passionate individuals at VOICE 4 Girls (VOICE), an NGO that strives to eliminate gender inequality by educating and empowering marginalized adolescent girls and boys. In the last decade, VOICE has impacted more than a quarter of a million adolescents adolescents and around 6,000 young men and women.

Building on her vision of youth leadership, she founded SoCh for Social Change, an organization aimed at honing young women’s leadership skills and becoming agents of change in their communities. Anusha also facilitates leadership programs for social entrepreneurs and leaders on global platforms. She is an Ashoka Fellow, a position recognized as the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.

Anusha has curated unique social impact leadership programs to help women embark on their social impact journeys. VOICE’s work has been recognized as innovative and transformational, providing benefits for adolescent girls but ripple effects that improve the lives of millions of other people. Anusha has spoken at TEDxWomen Hyderabad and TEDxVCE, amplifying the need for feminist education.

Her work has been recognized with various awards, namely Great Indian Women of the Year 2021 by Golden Signatures #GIWA 2021, WEF 2019 Award of “Exceptional Women of Excellence,” Balika Bandhu Award in 2017, and Leader in Volunteer Engagement in 2017. Anusha was also recently recognized in the top 17 SDG Women Changemakers of India by Sayfty and Twitter India.

She is an alumnus of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program (2013-14) at the East-West Center; a member of the first cohort of Harvard-Dasra Social Impact Leadership Program (2014-15); a Cordes Fellow (2017); and a Kalinga Fellow (2020). She is an advisor to Fairshare International, a feminist organization promoting women’s leadership, and an ethics committee member of Fernandez Foundation. At Brookings, Anusha’s research will focus on how a feminist approach to adolescent leadership can cause ripple effects that can transform families and communities.

Follow Anusha on Twitter via @anushabharadwaj.


Thinley Choden | Bhutan

CEO, Centre for Sustainability Studies; Founding Curator, Global Shapers Thimphu Hub; Bhutan Country Advisor, Give2Asia

Thinley Choden is a social entrepreneur and consultant. As the CEO of Centre for Sustainability Studies, a consultancy knowledge firm that she co-founded, Thinley leads a portfolio of initiatives at the nexus of women, climate, youth, and entrepreneurship. She has cross-sectional strategic coalition and leadership building experiences across private and public sectors at local and international levels.

She is also the founding curator of Global Shapers Thimphu Hub. Thinley serves as Bhutan country advisor for Give2Asia, a philanthropic giving platform based in the U.S. In 2008, she founded a successful nonprofit, READ Bhutan, and currently sits on the Board.

Thinley is part of numerous globally competitive professional programs and fellowships such as a Draper Hills Fellow at Stanford University, the Acumen Fellowship Program, Obama Delegate Entrepreneur at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Stanford, Vital Voices GROW and GAP Fellowship at Vital Voices Global Partnership, Leadership and Degree Fellow at the East-West Center, Asian Feminist Fellow at Ewha University, Seoul, SOCAP Fellow, and Cordes Fellow.

She holds an executive certificate in Strategic Decisionmaking from Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, an MPA from University of Hawaii, Manoa, and a BA in Economics from Beloit College, Wisconsin.

Thinley enjoys staying healthy and exploring. She tries to get in as much running, yoga, and outdoor adventures/hiking/trekking. At Brookings, Thinley’s research will focus on the status of climate literacy among Bhutanese girls and women to lead toward empowered agency and skills for climate change adaptation.

Follow Thinley on Twitter via @manoazam.


Ganga Gautam | Nepal

Associate Professor of English Education at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal

Although his focus has been primarily English language instruction and teacher training, his passion for girls’ education motivated him to develop and implement a girls’ empowerment program that reached 75 girls in 15 schools in three remote districts in Nepal. Ganga holds a B.Ed., an M.Ed., and an M.A. of English Language Teaching. He has collaborated with the U.S. Embassy, British Council, the Nepalese Ministry of Education, and the Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA), among others.

As an Echidna Global Scholar, Ganga’s research focused on examining the impacts of his program with the aim to design an evidence-based girls’ empowerment program that can be implemented in some of Nepal’s hardest-to-reach communities.

Follow Ganga on Twitter via @GangaGautam.

Read: Empowering adolescent girls in rural Nepal


Dileni Gunewardena | Sri Lanka

Professor of Economics, University of Peradeniya

Dileni Gunewardena is a professor of Economics at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka and has previous research experience in empirical analyses of poverty, child nutrition, and gender and ethnic wage inequality. She is a Global Development Network Research Award winner, a Fulbright Research Scholar alumna at the University of California-Riverside, and has consulted for the United Nations Development Program, the World Food Program, and the World Bank. Dilensi serves on the scientific committee, the Partnership for Economic Policy research network, and is a regional co-coordinator for South Asia of the academic steering committee of Global Association of master’s in Development Practice Programs. She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in economics from American University and a B.A. economics from the University of Peradeniya.

While at Brookings as an Echidna Global Scholar, Dileni explored why Sri Lanka has been unable to translate its impressive achievements in girls’ education into greater female labor force participation.

Follow Dileni on Twitter via @dilenigun.

Read: Why aren’t Sri Lankan women translating their educational gains into workforce advantages?


Arundhuti Gupta | India

Founder Trustee and CEO of Mentor Together

Arundhuti Gupta is the founder, trustee, and chief executive officer of Mentor Together, India’s first and largest nonprofit organization that provides mentoring relationships and networks to young people from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. Under Arundhuti’s leadership, Mentor Together has established a national partnership of state governments, NGOs, and corporate partners to champion mentorship programs. In 2020, more than 8,000 young people accessed Mentor Together’s unique virtual mentoring platform, “Mentor To Go,” with over 1,000 young people accessing personalized mentorship of their career choice.

She is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper alumna and represented the Global Shapers at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting at Davos in 2014. Arundhuti also served on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for India from 2014 to 2016 and as an International Youth Foundation Laureate Global Fellow in 2011.

Arundhuti completed her MSc in Finance at the Manchester Business School in 2009 as a U.K.-India Commonwealth Scholar. She graduated as the top-rank holder from the Bangalore University’s Bachelor of Commerce program in 2007. Arundhuti’s research as a 2021 Echidna Global Scholar explored the role of mentorship in promoting a quality, gender-transformative education for marginalized girls in India.

Follow her on Twitter via @arundhutigupta.

Read: Unlocking young women’s economic potential through digital mentoring in India


Khadim Hussain | Pakistan

CEO and Founder, GRACE Association Pakistan

Khadim Hussain is an education advocate who has been working for grassroots community empowerment since 1992. He focuses on combatting disability and gender-based stereotypes and works to improve access to quality education for girls and children with disabilities, as well as increase their economic opportunities and equal gender participation in society. He founded the nonprofit, GRACE Association Pakistan, and serves as its CEO. Khadim also serves as an active lead member of several other organizations, such as Waliul Asr Falahi Anjuman, Baltistan NGOs Network’s Gender Equality Resource Center, Karakoram Disability Forum, and Community-Based Inclusive Development Network Pakistan. He represents Pakistan at the Rehabilitation International and the IT Challenge for Youth with Disabilities annual events.

As a 2012 Echidna Global Scholar, Khadim conducted policy research on “Fostering Inclusive Education in Pakistan: Access and Quality Education for All Children through Community School Networking (CSN).” The CSN model is becoming a catalyst to address factors that prevent children with disabilities from attending school. He has presented his research on “Information Communication Technology Strategy for the Implementation of International Framework for Persons with Disabilities in Pakistan” at the IT Forum of Rehabilitation International’s Global IT Challenge for Youth with Disabilities held in China, Vietnam, and Korea.

Khadim holds an M.A. in Economics from the University of Punjab and also holds certificates in Educational Leadership & Management from the Aga Khan University, the IUCN-Northern Areas Conservation Strategy Support Program, the World Bank, the Aga Khan Development Network Institutions, and Childhood Education International. He is currently pursuing his M.Sc. in Sociology from Allama Iqbal Open University Islamabad.

Follow Khadim on Twitter via @Khadim5.

Read: #GirlsEdu: Changing Mindsets and Aiming to Educate All Children in Pakistan


Armene Modi | India

Founder, Ashta No Kai

Armene Modi is the founder of Ashta No Kai (ANK), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate, empower, and improve the quality of life for marginalized women in India’s rural areas. Since its inception, ANK has successfully transformed the lives of thousands of women and girls in the 10 villages in Shirur County of Pune District, where it is based.

Armene has initiated interventions such as a Bicycle Bank, life skills education workshops, scholarships, and karate classes to prevent child marriages, and has encouraged rural girls to pursue higher education while promoting their mobility, agency, and life choices. Young girls in ANK villages today pursue successful careers in medicine, dentistry, IT, engineering, and other fields that would have previously been unavailable to them due to lack of access to a high school education.

Prior to reinventing herself as a social entrepreneur, Armene had a successful 25-year teaching career at several universities in India, the U.S., and Japan where she incorporated peace education into her curriculum.

Armene holds a masters’ degree in International Relations from Tufts University, and an MA in TESOL from Teachers College, Columbia University. She was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Education by J. F. Oberlin University in Tokyo. She is also the recipient of the Albert Schweizer Medal from the World Literacy Foundation, the “Real Heroes” award from CNN-IBN and the Literacy Hero Award from Rotary International.

Armene’s research at Brookings as an Echidna Global Scholar evaluated the impact of ANK’s interventions to empower and improve the educational outcomes of adolescent girls while preventing their early marriages and will also examine changing gender perceptions in the rural communities where ANK works.

Learn more about Armene on LinkedIn here.

Read: Empowering adolescent girls: Promising approaches at key tipping points in their lives


Sumbal Naveed | Pakistan

Founder, Institute of Learning for a Better Tomorrow

Sumbal Naveed has diverse experiences working in the classroom through policy level. She had been involved in designing and implementing a number of educational programs, evaluations, and research studies. She has a keen interest in developing the cognitive and socioemotional skills of children and youth. Sumbal has dedicated her life to improving gender equity in and through education. Her interest in evidence-based education and learning resulted in founding the Institute of Learning for a Better Tomorrow (ILFABET). Through ILFABET, she aims to develop a culture of educational research and development in Pakistan that also paves the path to gender equality in and through education. Before establishing ILFABET, Sumbal worked with international development organizations and donor agencies.

Sumbal holds a master’s degree in Botany from the Islamia University, Bahawalpur and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Management from the University of Management and Technology, Lahore, Pakistan. As a 2018 Echidna Global Scholar, her work contributed much-needed data on the status of girls’ education in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Her research also helped map stakeholder perceptions on reality, and separate girls’ educational myths from facts. It was through her learning and experience at Brookings that broadened Sumbal’s vision and led her to establish ILFABET.

Follow Sumbal on Twitter via @sumbalbaig.

Read: The importance of educating girls in the Newly Merged Districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan


Anil Paudel | Nepal

CEO of Right4Children

Anil Paudel has devoted his career to serving marginalized children and youth in Nepal. He is a founding member of two community-based children and youth development NGOs and currently serves as the CEO of Right4Children (R4C), an education-focused nonprofit that aims to improve the lives of Nepal’s most vulnerable children, youth, and their families. Anil leads R4C’s Child Friendly School (CFS) project, which adapts school environments to enhance girls’ safety. Through CFS, he has spearheaded initiatives to reduce dropout rates and improve quality of learning, including projects to construct sanitary facilities for girls, deliver life skills education, and provide vocational and technical training to increase employability. In his roles at the National Human Rights Commission and Child Welfare Scheme Nepal, he conducted multiple country-wide research studies to show the connection between the status of children’s rights and educational opportunities in Nepal. Anil seeks to create strong, demand-driven educational projects that bridge national policy and individual student experience.

Anil holds an M.A. in Development Studies from the Institute of Social Studies, the Netherlands, as well as a master’s degree in Population, Gender, and Development from Pokhara University, Nepal, and a B.A. in English & Sociology from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. As a 2019 Echidna Global Scholar, Anil investigated girls’ access to technical and vocational educational training (TVET) in Nepal. He identified strategies for government and education practitioners to improve gender inclusion in TVET programs and prepare young women to transition smoothly from school to work.

Follow Anil on Twitter via @paudyalanil.

Read: Girls’ transitions to work through higher-quality TVET programs in Nepal


Jamila Razzaq | Pakistan

Education Adviser, Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan

Jamila Razzaq has extensive professional experience in international development in various countries including Lebanon, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the USA, and with many country teams in Africa and Asia. Her expertise and passions converge in developing evidence-based holistic education programs and effective partnerships for reducing exclusion and vulnerabilities. Her professional work experience comprises leading country education program for the Aga Khan Development Network in Pakistan and the refugee education portfolio for the Norwegian Refugee Council Lebanon; designing and managing projects at the University of Glasgow; developing literacy program at UNESCO; planning, initiating, and developing programs and networks with USAID; and organizing policy dialogues on gender, skills development, girls’ education, early childhood education, refugee education, and youth employment. She has a rich portfolio of published research in renowned journals and blog posts.

Jamila holds a Ph.D. from the University of Glasgow, a M.A. in educational planning and management from Allama Iqbal Open University, an M.A. in English Literature from Bahauddin Zakariya University, and a B.A. in psychology from Government College from Women.

As an Echidna Global Scholar, Jamila Razzaq explored contextualized, flexible, and adaptable community-based education models as possibilities for girls’ education in Pakistan.

Read: Community-supported models for girls’ education in diverse contexts in Pakistan: Key issues for policy and practice


Suman Sachdeva | India

Education Specialist at UNICEF Sierra Leone

Suman Sachdeva is an education development expert with more than 25 years of strategic planning and programming experience with UNICEF, international and national NGOs, and the government in quality elementary and secondary school education, gender, and life skills. Currently, she leads the Quality Education Program and coordinates for the Global Partnership for Education in UNICEF Sierra Leone.

Prior to this, she led the quality education adolescents’ empowerment portfolio in UNICEF India for four years; additionally, Suman was the education lead for the Generation Unlimited partnership, which reached the largest adolescent population in the world. Earlier, she steered the education program of CARE India as director for seven years working with the most vulnerable and “last mile” population. Before this, she led the education and life skills program in Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and India for seven years, working with an Indian NGO. She has also been a senior consultant to the Ministry of Education, India, international and national NGOs, and donor agencies.

Suman has a Ph.D. and double master’s degrees in Education and Philosophy. She is a 2015 Echidna Global Scholar.

Follow Suman via LinkedIn and on Twitter at @sumansachdeva.

Read: Reading solutions for girls: Combating social, pedagogical, and systemic issues for tribal girls’ multilingual education in India


Urvashi Sahni | India

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Study Hall Education Foundation

Urvashi Sahni is a social entrepreneur, women’s rights activist, and educationist who has been a pioneer in the field for more than three decades. She is a leading expert in curriculum design and reform, teacher training, and education governance with a special focus on girls’ education and gender equality. She founded Suraksha (a women’s rights organization), DiDi’s (a social enterprise for sustainable livelihoods for women), and the Study Hall Educational Foundation (SHEF). Currently, she is the president and CEO of SHEF. Over the last 36 years, Urvashi’s work through SHEF has impacted over 100,000 teachers and 50,00,000 children—most of whom are girls from disadvantaged communities. Additionally, Urvashi is an Ashoka fellow and a nonresident fellow at the Center for Universal Education at Brookings.

In 2017, she won the Social Entrepreneur of the Year India award conferred by the Schwab-Jubilant Bhartiya Foundation. In 2020 she co-created Catalyst 2030, a global network of over 800 social entrepreneurs. She is also a former member of the Rajasthan’s chief minister’s advisory council, heading the education sub-group. The Uttar Pradesh government has nominated her to serve on the steering committee for the implementation of the National Education Policy of India 2020, and the National Institute of Open Schooling nominated her to serve on the committee for the revision of their gender policy. Combining her activism with research, Urvashi has also published several papers.

Presenting widely at several influential forums, her insights on girls’ education are regularly sought after and woven into programs by multilaterals like UNICEF, UNESCO, UN Women, and UNGEI; global NGOs like Teach for All; and consulting firms like BCG, Accenture, and Bridgespan.

Follow Dr. Sahni on Twitter via @Urvashi_sahni.

Read: From Learning Outcomes to Life Outcomes – What can you do and who can you be


Hina Muhammad Saleem | Pakistan

Advisor, Literacy and Life Skills Program, The Citizens Foundation

Hina Muhammad Saleem is deeply interested in researching and designing contextualized, gender-responsive education programs that are informed by communities residing in rural districts, which have both the highest proportion in the country of out-of-school children and the lowest literacy rates for women. From 2019 to 2021, Hina spearheaded the development of The Citizens Foundation’s (TCF) first community-led literacy and life skills program for out-of-school children and coordinated its implementation in rural areas of the province of Sindh, Pakistan.

Prior to joining TCF, Hina conducted research on teacher training with the World Bank and Global Partnership for Education and spent two years teaching at a public school as a Teach for Pakistan Fellow. Hina has an M.Ed. in International Education Policy from Harvard Graduate School of Education and an MBA and BBA in Finance from the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, Pakistan. In 2017, she was selected for the Education Pioneers Fellowship in Washington, D.C.

At Brookings, Hina will continue her research engaging out-of-school children—particularly girls—in quality learning opportunities, at the right age and with the objective of informing education policy and programming that responds to the lived realities of children in rural areas.

Follow Hina on Twitter via @hinamesiya.


Bhawana Shrestha | Nepal

Co-Founder, My Emotions Matter

Co-Founder of the organization My Emotions Matter, Bhawana Shrestha is a redemptive storyteller and Nepali educator dedicated to helping individuals and teams develop the mindset and skills for emotional intelligence. Bhawana became an advocate for girls’ education when she herself was still a child after noticing the gender-based differences within her community and the impact of systemic gender barriers on girls like her.

At the age of 18, she began a career as a journalist in pursuit of social change but switched careers in 2013 to spend three years as a Teach for Nepal fellow in rural schools. Her interest in emotional intelligence stems from this experience, as she realized its significance to improving educational and life outcomes, especially for girls and young women. A faculty member at King’s College, Nepal, Bhawana co-founded and leads the Office of Safe and Respectable Learning, working to prevent harassment and discrimination and advance equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice at the college.

Currently pursuing her Ph.D in educational leadership from Kathmandu University, Bhawana holds an M.Phil. and an M.A. in English from Pokhara and Tribhuvan Universities, respectively. She was also selected as a “Living Through Lived Experience” fellow for Teach for All in 2019. Bhawana’s research at Brookings will focus on supporting the emotional literacy of female teachers in Nepal.

Follow Hina on Twitter via @bhawana_sh79.


Nasrin Siddiqa | Bangladesh

Founder, President, and Executive Director of Education & Cultural Society


Nasrin Siddiqa has worked for more than 20 years as an educationist and development practitioner to promote gender equity and access to quality education in Bangladesh, focusing on barriers to girls’ education such as child marriage and gender violence. In 2010, Nasrin founded the NGO Education & Cultural Society (ECS) and currently serves as its president and executive director. She is the recipient of the “Alumni Excellence Award” from the U.S. Department of State and the “Award of Exceptional Leader of Excellence” for working with girls’ STEM education from Women Economic Forum (WEF), 2021. Through different projects, Nasrin’s work has trained more than 2,000 teachers to create gender-sensitive classroom environments.

Nasrin is doing her PhD research on STEM education as a research fellow in Parul University, Gujarat, India. She holds an M.Sc. along with a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Botany from the University of Dhaka. Additionally, she holds an MSS in Japanese Studies from the same university. While at Brookings, Nasrin’s research focused on closing the gendered STEM education gap between rural and urban Bangladeshi students. Her research built on the data she had collected about Bangladesh’s sociocultural landscape from rural schools to produce a detailed picture of barriers to STEM education for rural girls, as well as finding high level policy solutions.

Follow Nasrin on Twitter via @NasrinSiddiqa.

Read: Barriers to STEM education for rural girls


Samyukta Subramanian | India

Program Head at the Pratham Education Foundation

Samyukta Subramanian has extensive experience working with senior government officials, private sector partners, and nonprofit leaders to develop and implement early childhood education (ECE) initiatives. She serves as program head at the Pratham Education Foundation, one of India’s largest nonprofits focused on improving quality of education, and leads the Early Childhood Education partnership with the Delhi government and elementary education initiatives across many Indian states. Recently, she has focused on India’s pre-primary education landscape and improving ECE outcomes at scale.

Samyukta holds a Bachelor of Law, an M.A. in Psychology, and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Delhi. While at Brookings as an Echidna Global Scholar, she analyzed data on the ecosystem surrounding girls’ ECE in India, with a focus on government-run preschools. Her research examined how sociocultural, political, economic, and other factors converge to influence young girls’ learning opportunities, which will inform the development of gender-sensitive pedagogical praxis and ECE policy throughout the state.

Follow Samyukta on Twitter via @Samyukta2307.

Read: India’s policy on early childhood education

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Christine Apiot Okudi | Uganda

Education Programme Manager at Cottonon Foundation, Uganda

Christine Apiot Okudi is a member of the education community in Uganda, serving in education programming for over 20 years. Having worked under several agencies in various capacities in education. Christine has been able to contribute greatly to issues on gender and education in Uganda, one of which was in the regulation of the policy on senior women teachers in schools. She has a passion for inclusive education, and gender equity while maintaining greater attention to gender perspectives, providing the necessary rationales and advice on approaches to support gender mainstreaming in the country.

She continues to work closely with the gender unit of the Ministry of Education and agencies like FAWE Uganda where she is a member where she supports and develops guidelines that mainstream gender issues in education. Through her several publications and presentations, Christine has been able to make her contribution to girls’ education worldwide. She holds a degree in education, a master’s in development studies, and was a 2016 Echidna Global Scholar at Brookings.

Follow Christine on Twitter via @christineapiot.

Read: Policies for senior women teachers to improve girls’ secondary education


Ellen Chigwanda | Zimbabwe

Project Manager for the DFID Girls Education Challenge Fund Project (IGATE: Improving Girls Access through Transforming Education) and Country Office Gender Focal Point with CARE International in Zimbabwe

Ellen Chigwanda has worked as an independent gender and social development advisor/consultant for organizations such as the SADC Parliamentary Forum and UN Women, and has worked in various capacities on girls’ and young women’s empowerment with local NGOs. Ellen holds a master’s degree in Development Studies degree from the University of the Free State (South Africa) and is working toward a Ph.D. in Development and Management with North West University (South Africa).

Ellen’s research as an Echidna Global Scholar focused on examining the relationship between girls’ education and climate change in rural Zimbabwe, more specifically the impact of drought on girls’ education outcomes. Her goal is to develop and make the case for a model for resilience in education programs that will help to keep girls in school during times of extreme climate crisis.

Follow Ellen on Twitter via @EllenChigwanda.

Read: A framework for building resilience to climate change through girls’ education programming


Adefunke Ekine | Nigeria

Lecturer, Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ogun State

Adefunke Ekine is a lecturer at Tai Solarin University of Education in Ijagun, Ogun State, Nigeria and has more than two decades of experience in school administration and teaching. She holds a Ph.D. in early childhood education from the University of Ibadan. Additionally, she has a master’s in early childhood education and a post-graduate diploma in education from the University of Ibadan as well as a B.S. in food science and technology from University of Ife. She serves as the country liaison for the Association of Childhood Education International (ACEI) and is presently the state president of Organisation Mondiale Pour L’Education Prescolaire (OMEP), an international organization that caters for the well-being of children 0-8.

While at Brookings as an Echidna Global Scholar, Adefunke examined gender-sensitive methods of teaching to promote the interest and boost the performance of primary school girls in science. Her research was aimed at informing both her work with student teachers at the classroom level and her advocacy for policies that promote education quality and equity in Nigeria.

Follow Adefunke on Twitter: @adefunkeekine2

Read: Improving Learning Opportunities and Outcomes for Girls in Africa


Halimatou Hima | Niger

Education, Policy and Learning, Global Partnership for Education (GPE)

Halimatou Hima’s interest lies at the intersection of policy, research, and people—with the goal of shifting development paradigms and improving access to quality education, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. As minister counselor at the Permanent Mission of Niger to the United Nations (2020-2021), she worked on security council affairs including children and armed conflict, humanitarian issues, women, peace and security, and multilateral affairs with nongovernmental organizations and U.N. agencies, and was the principal negotiator on the landmark Security Council resolution 2601 (2021) on the protection of education in armed conflict.

Halimatou has worked extensively in the social and economic development sectors in Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Burkina Faso, among other contexts, and was part of the World Bank’s Global Delivery Initiative, where she co-authored multisectoral publications on education, water and sanitation, and agriculture. She has also published on education, socioeconomic inequalities, critical gender analysis, and public sector reforms. As part of the 2018-2020 Next Einstein Forum, she organized the first series of Africa Science Week in Niger, impacting thousands of Nigerien students.

Halimatou holds a Ph.D. in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge, an M.A. in Public Policy from Harvard University, and a B.A. in International Relations, Economics, and Africana Studies from Wellesley College. At Brookings she will study how multidimensional disruptions such as conflicts, climate-induced disasters, and humanitarian crises affect girls’ education and gender equality.

Follow Halimatou on Twitter via @halimahima.


Joyce Kinyanjui | KenyaPersonal Assistant to the Ministry of Education, Chief Administrative Secretary, and former Managing Director of ziziAfrique

Joyce was the lead researcher responsible for the evaluation of one of the Girls’ Education Challenge Projects in Kenya and continues to support girls’ education in Kajiado County. She was a member of the Center for Universal Education’s (CUE) Learning Metrics Task Force, as well as with CUE’s Learning Champion collaborations. Joyce previously worked as a program manager and executive officer at Women Educational Researchers of Kenya.

Joyce has over 30 years experience in the education sector, specifically in developing citizen-led assessments in nine African countries and classroom-based assessment for mainly early grade reading assessments in English, Kiswahili, and Maa and early grade math assessment. Joyce was a 2016 Echidna Global Scholar and has expertise in developing teaching and learning materials for mother tongue instruction and developing curriculum for various intervention programs. Her research interests are in education marginalization, classroom pedagogy, teacher training, mentorship, coaching, and girls’ education. She holds a B.A., PGDE, and M.Ed. from Kenyatta University, and a PhD in Arts from the University of Zululand.

Follow Dr. Joyce Kinyanjui on LinkedIn.

Read: Mentoring for Kenya’s marginalized girls


Anthony Luvanda | Kenya

Co-Founder & Executive Director, Magharibi Innovation Hub; Senior Lecturer, Information Technology department, Defence Forces Technical College at the National Defence University-Kenya

An active player in the western Kenya entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem, Anthony Luvanda is the co-founder and executive director of Magharibi Innovation Hub (MIH), a digital innovation hub based in western Kenya, and a founding member of the Association of Countrywide Innovation Hubs. At MIH, Anthony dedicates himself to empowering youth in entrepreneurship by enhancing their digital literacy and technology skills and reducing gender disparities within digital technology.

Currently a senior lecturer at the Information Technology department, Defence Forces Technical College at the National Defence University-Kenya, Anthony has worked for more than 15 years as a university teacher and researcher. He was previously at Alupe University in Busia Kenya and at the School of Computing and Information Technology at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

Anthony holds a Ph.D. in Information Technology from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, an M.Sc. in Computer-Based Information Systems from the University of Sunderland, and a B.Sc. in International Business Administration from the United States International University-Africa. He is also a graduate of the Africa Innovation Leaders Course at the Politecnico di Milano/Politecnico di Torino in Italy. Anthony’s research at Brookings will focus on developing an education policy response to bridge the gender divide in digital technology careers in Kenya.

Follow Anthony on Twitter via @AnthonyLuvanda.


Pamhidzayi Berejena Mhongera | Zimbabwe

Associate Consultant at BCA (Pvt) Ltd.

Pamhi Mhongera is a Zimbabwean woman, a mother of four, and currently employed as an associate consultant with BCA (Pvt) Ltd. With this consultancy, she is involved in the implementation of quality management systems and research in social development projects. She is also a research associate with the University of Johannesburg, Department of Social Work and Community Development. Prior to this, Pamhi served in the financial services sector, as well as in government, academic, and research institutions. Her education includes a Ph.D. in Social Work, an MSc in Development and Project Planning, and a BSc in Sociology, Gender Development Studies, as well as other leadership and management courses.

As a development practitioner and researcher, she has always been passionate about the empowerment of vulnerable groups and has supported the implementation of innovative social development projects. Pamhi’s doctoral thesis with the University of Pretoria evaluated the outcomes of adolescent girls transitioning from institutional care to employment in Zimbabwe, and her post-doctoral research focused on pathways for sustainable livelihoods for children and families living in adverse circumstances in South Africa. As a 2012 Echidna Global Scholar, she conducted research on coordinating education transitional services for adolescent orphan girls in Zimbabwe. Pamhi is the founding member of Blossoms Children Community and Youth in Transition Trust Zimbabwe. Presently, she is the country’s representative for International Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood from Care and collaborates in research projects for young people aging out of care.

Follow Pamhi’s updates on LinkedIn at Dr. Pamhidzayi Mhongera.

Read: Coordinating education transitional services for adolescent orphan girls in Zimbabwe


Relebohile Moletsane | South Africa

Professor and J.L. Dube Chair in Rural Education, University of KwaZulu–Natal

Professor Moletsane’s work focuses on education and development—specifically on HIV prevention, gender inequality, gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health and rights as barriers to education and development in South African rural schools and communities. Moletsane’s current projects focus on addressing sexual violence with girls and young women in rural communities. She is co-editor (with Claudia Mitchell) of the 2018 book “Disrupting Shameful Legacies: Girls and Young Women Speak Back Through the Arts to Address Sexual Violence,” co-editor (with Lisa Wiebeisek, Astrid Treffry-Goately, and April Mandrona) of the 2021 book “Ethical Practice in Participatory Visual Research with Girls and Young Women in Rural Communities,” and co-editor (with Claudia Mitchell and Katarina Giritlin) of an upcoming book “Where am I in the Picture? Researcher Positionality in Rural Studies.”

As a 2014 Echidna Global Scholar, Professor Moletsane’s work examined the barriers that confront girls in South Africa as they pursue their primary and secondary education. With a central focus on the effects of unplanned pregnancy on girls’ participation and attendance in schools, her research identified possible interventions for rectifying this issue.

Follow Relebohile on Twitter via: @RelebohileMolet.

Read: The Need for Quality Sexual and Reproductive Health Education to Address Barriers to Girls’ Educational Outcomes in South Africa


Hawah Nabbuye | Uganda

Deputy Country Director, Educate! Uganda

Hawah drives Educate!’s gender equity strategy to help ensure an outsized impact on girls and develop young leaders and entrepreneurs in Uganda. Her experience has allowed her to support over 40 widows and 4000 youth to start enterprises in their local communities. Hawah’s vast experience in the education sector including classroom, leadership, mentorship, gender- related initiatives and curriculum reform and policymaking allows her to inform the organization’s program strategy, policy, reforms, and scale.

Hawah is an Acumen fellow and holds an MBA from Edinburgh Business School. As a 2018 Echidna Global Scholar, she explored methods teachers are using to empower girls to improve attendance and participation in co-curricular activities, leadership positions, and academic performance.

Follow Hawah on Twitter via @HawahHawah.

Read: Gender-sensitive pedagogy: The bridge to girls’ quality education in Uganda


Susan Opok | Uganda

Executive Director, FAWE Uganda

Susan Opok is a motivated and strategic female development executive who exudes passion, with the aim to create impact. She is currently the executive director of Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Uganda Chapter and has led three other nongovernmental organizations: country director of Nurture Africa, country director of Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) Uganda, and program manager at Windle Trust Uganda in the Acholi Bursary Scheme focused on providing socio-economic services, education, maternal and HIV/AIDS care, protection, health and institutional systems strengthening, research, and advocacy to enhance gender equality in post-conflict situations.

Susan has worked closely with the government of Uganda and development partners at national, subnational, and international levels, including engaging with technical working groups and networks. In her community efforts, Susan sits on various boards, mentors, and advocates for girls’ education—a cause she believes in passionately and that has heightened her resilience and self-awareness.

She holds an MSc in Natural Resource Management and Sustainable Agriculture from the Agricultural University of Norway, an MSc in Environment Science from Makerere University, and a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Philosophy from Makerere University. At Brookings, Susan’s research will focus on the efficacy of the school re-entry policy for refugees and host communities in Adjumani District in Uganda

Follow Susan on Twitter via @susan_opok.


Edem Dorothy Ossai | Nigeria

Founder and Executive Director of MAYEIN

Edem Dorothy Ossai is a development practitioner who works on implementation issues at the intersections of education, youth, and gender policies. Following several years in active legal practice, she established MAYEIN, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting inclusive education, positive youth development, and gender equity interventions. MAYEIN has since touched the lives of thousands of disadvantaged young people in Nigeria. As a result of her efforts, in 2016 Edem was selected for the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship, a renowned global leadership program for young African leaders. In 2018, she was chosen by the Obama Foundation as an inaugural Obama Scholar.

Edem has a master’s degree in Cultural Communication Studies from the University of Ibadan, and a second master’s degree in International Development and Policy from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. As a 2021 Echidna Global Scholar, Edem explored the impact of remote schooling on the educational trajectories and experiences of girls from low-income families in Oyo State, Nigeria.

Follow her on Twitter via @kokoandah.

Read: Gender-responsive education in emergency in Nigeria: Safeguarding girls’ presents and futures


Mary Otieno | Kenya

Senior Lecturer of Educational Planning and Policy Studies Research at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya

Mary Otieno has made several contributions to girls’ education, which includes founding an early childhood development education center to champion quality education for girls and boys. Mary has led several research projects, including a four-country study on school-related gender-based violence with other Echidna Global Scholars focused on Kenya, Jamaica, Nigeria, and Malawi.

Prior to joining Kenyatta University, Mary worked as a research executive for Research International TNS in addition to her role as an instructor at a government primary teacher training college. Otieno received her Ph.D. in Educational Planning and Economics of Education from Kenyatta University, where she analyzed Kenya’s education policies and factors that inhibit change. She is also currently a member of Women Education Researchers of Kenya and Nyanza Education Women Initiative; both initiatives promote girls’ education through enhanced participation and mentoring. Mary’s principal area of research is on gender education. Mary also won a Comparative and International Education Society travel award for outstanding contributions to African education research.

As a 2012 Echidna Global Scholar, Mary investigated the impact of mentoring girls at the primary-school level and its impact on increased attendance, retention, and improved academic performance over time.

Follow Mary via Twitter at @maotieno.

Read: The Impact of Mentoring on Learning Outcomes Adolescent Girls and the Challenges of Menstruation


Damaris Seleina Parsitau | Kenya

Associate Professor and Researcher, Former Director, the Institute of Women, Gender, and Development Studies, Egerton University

Damaris Parsitau is an associate professor of Religion and Gender Studies at Egerton University of which she is also the former director. She is a 2017 Echidna Global Scholar and a former visiting research associate at Harvard University. In 2021, she was appointed as extra-ordinary professor at both the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice, University of Western Cape, and University of South Africa.

She has conducted numerous research projects and published over 70 book chapters, 30 opinion pieces, policy blogs, and briefs. Damaris sits on a number of international boards, including the World Bicycle Relief and Child and Maternal Health Canada. She has also hosted and moderated many panels related to girls’ education and COVID-19 and given public lecturers and speeches in many international forums.

Damarais has worked as director of the Institute of Women, Gender, and Development Studies at Egerton University in Kenya and as the founder and CEO of two nonprofit organizations: Let Maasai Girls Learn and Osotua Le Maa. She was a visiting research fellow at Wolfson College, University of Cambridge U.K. and Edinburg University.

Follow Damaris via Twitter at @Dparsitau.

Read: How young men can change the gender and social norms of the Maasai people to support girls’ education


Madalo Samati | Malawi

Director of Programs, Creative Center for Community Mobilization

Through her work with the Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM), Madalo Samati has designed and led the implementation of community mobilization efforts to support education access and quality, HIV and AIDS prevention, gender sensitization, and equity and anti-child labor campaigns. She has over 15 years of experience in action research, theatre for social change, participatory rural appraisal/participatory learning and action, capacity building for grassroots structures, gender responsive programming, advocacy, and project monitoring and evaluation. Madalo holds an M.A. in sustainable development from Brandeis University and a B.A. in the humanities from Chancellor College at the University of Malawi.

Madalo’s research centers on the relationship between cultural change and education policy. She has examined girls’ scholarship programs, as well as in-school and out-of-school factors that affect girls’ learning opportunities and outcomes. While at Brookings, Madalo’s research focused on the obstacles to the implementation of key policies, such as readmission policies that allow pregnant girls to stay in and return to school, related to girls’ education in Malawi.

Follow Madalo on Twitter via @SamatiMadalo.

Read: Improving Learning Opportunities and Outcomes for Girls in Africa


Judith-Ann Walker | Nigeria

Managing Director, development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC)

Judith-Ann Walker, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, has over 18 years of experience as a development practitioner in northern Nigeria, where she co-founded the development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC). As the dRPC’s executive director, she has secured competitive grants to implement and research girls’ education and public health interventions from a host of development partners, including the Ford Foundation, USAID Nigeria, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the World Bank, the Bernard Van Leer Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Judith-Ann holds a Ph.D. in development studies with a specialization in gender, education, and industrial policy development, as well as an M.A. in Development Studies and Public Policy and Administration from the Institute of Social Studies at Erasmus University in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Additionally, she holds a post-graduate diploma in decentralization, rural planning, and administration in the developing world from the Department of Development Cooperation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin, Germany, and a B.S. in Government and Public Administration from the University of the West Indies in St. Augustine, Trinidad.

As an Echidna Global Scholar, Judith-Ann’s research focused on the effectiveness of keeping girls in school as a strategy for reducing high rates of early marriage in West Africa. Her research built on her prior research and on data she had collected on the status of education and child marriage in the region, as well as reviews of programs and policies to promote girls’ education and laws related to girls’ rights.

Read: Improving Learning Opportunities and Outcomes for Girls in Africa

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