Meet The Class of 2015

We are pleased to announce the 2015 class of the Aspen Institute New Voices Fellowship. The 12 new Fellows are trail-blazers in their fields, which include maternal and child health, urban planning and sanitation, and education. This year, they will be joined by four new Food Security Fellows who bring a special focus on agricultural innovations to reduce poverty and improve nutrition around the world.

The 2015 fellows come from nine countries across Africa and Asia: Bangladesh, Guinea, India, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Uganda. These fellows will undertake a program of intensive media training and mentorship to help them reach a broader global audience through both traditional and new media, as well as speaking engagements.

For more information, or to request an interview, please contact:
Rachael Strecher at or +1 202-721-2335
Andrew Quinn at or +1 202 736 2291
For press materials, visit


Shikoh Gitau MSc, PhD

Senior Consultant, Technology Innovation for Inclusive Growth at AfDB

Citizenship: Kenya

Specialty: Innovation / IT

Dr. Gitau was born to a poor family, but had a talent for math, and was able to get funding to get her MSc in Computer Science, and later her PhD at the University of Capetown. While at UCT, she designed a simple but powerful mobile-phone based system called "Ummeli" to connect skilled workers from the Townships with potential employers. She based the system on extensive ethnographic observation and participation in Khayelitsha, the primary Township in Cape Town. Since its introduction, almost 20% of users have found jobs and an additional 10% have gotten interviews. As of November 2013, the program had over 300,000 users. Furthermore, she is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative on Women Leading Women in ICT, UN-Women, and a recipient of the Anita Borg Change Agent Award in 2013. Dr. Gitau has 10+ years of experience in ICT4D technology design & implementation with her experiences as User Innovation Design lead at Mercy Corps and User Experience Researcher at Google Emerging Market.


ElsaMarie D’Silva, MBA

Managing Director, Safecity

Citizenship: India

Specialty: Entrepreneurship, Sexual Violence and Abuse, Youth

ElsaMarie D’Silva is an experienced aviation professional (20 years) who is interested in bringing about social change to improve the lives of women, youth and senior citizens through awareness, interaction and education. She’s a co- founder of Safecity, an online platform that tracks reports of sexual abuse and harassment. It converts the data into hotspots of unsafe areas on city maps. She is also Vice President of Kingfisher Airlines’ Network Planning & Charters department. Prior to that, she served as Director of Operations at HAIYYA, a citizen empowerment group. She is an alumni of the Swedish Institute, where she did a management program on Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability in Business.


Kopano Matlwa Mabaso, MBChB, Msc

DPhil/PhD candidate, University of Oxford

Citizenship: South Africa

Specialty: Health Systems

Dr. Kopano Mabaso is a South African medical doctor currently undertaking a DPhil (PhD) in Population Health at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. She is the founder & Chairperson for Transitions Foundation an organization that seeks to help South Africa’s youth transition from hopelessness to personal fulfillment. As a medical student, she also co-founded WREMS (Waiting Room Education by Medical Students), a health promotion organization educating patients and their families on common health conditions in the waiting rooms of mobile clinics. Kopano is a published fiction writer of the European Union Literacy and a winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. Her two novels Coconut and Spilt Milk are social commentaries on post-apartheid South Africa. In 2008 and 2009 she was singled out as one of 300 young South Africans ‘you must take to lunch’ by the Mail & Guardian Newspaper. Kopano is passionate about empowering disadvantaged communities around South Africa.


Kusum Thapa, MBBS, MPH

Asia Near East Regional Technical Advisor, JHPIEGO

Citizenship: Nepal

Specialty: Maternal & Child Health

Dr. Thapa has over 25 years of experience as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist both in Nepal and UK as an Asia Near East Regional Technical Advisor for Jhpiego. She has been actively involved in providing technical leadership and guidance to Jhpiego programs in Nepal as well as globally in Asia and Africa in the area of maternal newborn child health, family planning and reproductive health. Dr. Thapa also worked as the chief editor for the Journal of the Nepal Medical Association for four years and has served as a General Secretary and now President-Elect for Nepal Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She is currently helping to draft guidelines on health care response to gender-based violence in Nepal where practices such as early marriage, forced marriage, non-spousal violence and other forms of exploitation still prevail. She continues to dedicate her personal and professional life to reducing preventable deaths of women, advancing the cause of women and children in her country and regionally and finding sustainable and long-term solutions to make a difference in people’s lives.


Misan Rewane, MBA, BA

CEO/Co-Founder, West Africa Vocational Education (WAVE)

Citizenship: Nigeria

Specialty: Education Management

Born and raised in Nigeria, Misan Rewane is no stranger to the challenges of education and social mobility in West Africa. When her parents, unable to ignore the education system’s breakdown, were compelled to send her to the US for college, Misan resolved to play a role in transforming the region’s education and skills development systems. After earning her Economics degree from Stanford University, she worked in management consulting with The Monitor Group on a wide spectrum of projects in both the private and public sector. Post-Monitor, she supported aspiring Ivoirian entrepreneurs through TechnoServe’s Business Plan Competition and developed a scholarship administration model as a consultant with the Center for Public Policy Alternatives in Nigeria. More recently, Misan supported Bridge International Academies’ international expansion strategy. While getting her MBA at the Harvard Business School in 2012, she sought out and connected with fellow socially-minded Africans to discuss ways to tackle youth unemployment in the region, and the seeds that were planted grew to become WAVE. Misan is also a Draper Richards Kaplan Social Entrepreneur.


Relebohile Moletsane, PhD, MSc

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

Citizenship: South Africa

Specialty: Education, women’s issues

As the J.L. Dube Chair in Rural Education at the University of KwaZulu–Natal, Professor Moletsane has extensive experience in educational development, curriculum studies, and other issues at the intersection of gender and education. She acted as the director of the Gender and Development Unit at the Human Sciences Research Council until 2010, and was formerly a senior lecturer at the University of Natal. The author of several articles and book chapters, her publications have concentrated on the applicability of digital technologies to quality education, developmental strategies, and poverty alleviation within rural contexts. In addition, she sits on several editorial committees, including those for the Journal of International Education and Leadership and the International Journal of Girlhood Studies. Professor Moletsane received her Ph.D. and M.S. in Education from Indiana University Bloomington, and her B.Ed. from the University Of Fort Hare.


Abraham Leno, BA

Country Representative, American Refugee Committee (ARC)
Citizenship: Guinea
Specialty: Emergency Response, Health

A former refugee in Guinea, Abraham watched his mother sell her jewelry when there was nothing left to trade just to feed the family. He and his siblings had to sell fuel in bottles on the street corners so that they could have a meal, sometimes making only a dollar a day. He says he felt and lost hope since it was all about survival. Today, Abraham is the Country Representative for the American Refugee Committee (ARC) in Bukavu Congo where he oversees the overall management of ARC programs in the country. He is grateful to have lived beyond survival and now has a family and a home of his own and other people who look up to him. His relief and development work is inspired by memories of this kindness and the generosity of many others. Through his work he is not only reliving his past experiences but most importantly stimulating others not to just survive but develop and thrive.


Serufusa Sekidde, MBBS, MPH

Health and Development Consultant, Oxford Policy Management UK
Citizenship: Uganda
Specialty: Health Systems, HIV/AIDS

Serufusa is the recipient of a 6-year full scholarship awarded by the Ugandan government to study clinical medicine with Mandarin Chinese as language of instruction. He is the Co-founder and Director of Seruphine a media production company keen to make African media content that is relevant to local realities. He was selected as Young Leader in Global Health 2013 and speaker at the 2013 Young Leaders’ Roundtable, as well as the Ministerial Forum for China-Africa Health Development in Beijing. He has worked in Uganda’s main national referral hospital, before running South Sudan’s then largest private medical facility. Fluent in Mandarin, he won a Chinese talent competition as Champion of Guangxi province and then first runner-up nationally in China’s DongGan DiDai Talent Competition.


Henry Nyombi, LL.B

Executive Director, Youth with Disability Development Forum (YPDDF)
Citizenship: Uganda
Specialty: Education/Tech, Youth Disability

Henry Nyombi is the Chairperson for the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU) where he chairs NUDIPU’s procurement and finance committees. He is also a former youth representative at the NUDIPU Board of Directors. A lawyer by training he works as the Director of Youth with Physical Disabilities Empowerment Forum a community based organization established in 2002 to enable youth with physical disabilities enjoy equal rights in society and realize full social and education inclusion. Confined to a wheel chair since the age of 12, Henry passed through Uganda’s educational system with a lot of difficulty; he faced a lot of negative attitude from the teachers and fellow students coupled with an inaccessible environment. Then having no legal frame work in place to protect him from the unkind conditions and the struggles he went through he endeavors to ensure that no one else faces the same harsh setting.


Rubayat Khan, MPA/ID

Co-Founder & Chief Innovation Officer at mPower Social Enterprises
Citizenship: Bangladesh
Specialty: mHealth, Technology, Social Enterprise

Rubayat Khan is a social entrepreneur, development practitioner and data scientist from Bangladesh specialized in the rapidly growing intersection between scalable low-cost technologies and international development challenges. Rubayat co-founded mPower Social Enterprises in 2008, an organization working at the cutting edge of ICT4D and M4D (Mobile for Development), exploring innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing development needs. The organization works very close with BRAC. Prior to that, he worked as a consultant for the Gross National Happiness Commission in Bhutan. He graduated with an MPA/ID from Harvard Kennedy School, and was awarded the Raymond Vernon Award for being the graduating student who best personifies the values of the program.


Samuel Kargbo, MD, MPH

Director, Reproductive and Child Health Programme, Ministry of Health and Sanitation            
Citizenship: Sierra Leone
Specialty: Reproductive Health

Dr. Kargbo oversees the newly established Reproductive & Child Health Directorate in Ministry of Health & Sanitation and is actively involved in the planning, inception and implementation of the free health care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five. Since his inception as the director in 2008, Dr. Kargbo has championed free health care in Sierra Leone, introduced policies and strategies to improve maternal and child health services and by extension, the citizenry of the country. He has also championed the introduction of the Basic Package of Essential Health Services a document that provides the operational dimensions of the Reproductive Newborn and Child Health strategy. His work continues to contribute significantly to processes for maternal, newborn and child health services in Sierra Leone. Dr. Kargbo feels he owes his country a lot for receiving government scholarships to complete his education right from high school and through to medical school. He is what he is today because of what his country has given him.


David Kuria, MBA

Director at Ecotact Group
Citizenship: Kenya
Specialty: Sanitation, Environment

David Kuria is the CEO of Ecotact Limited and the Regional Social Entrepreneur of the Year for Africa, 2009. Ecotact is a social enterprise that invests in innovations to solve the sanitation crisis in Africa and beyond. The company’s award winning flagship project, Ikotoilet (founded by Kuria), is revolutionizing the sanitation industry and transforming it into a dignified and decent service to the public. In addition, Kuria is the Urban Advisor for the Civil Society Urban Development Programme of the Embassy of Sweden and the Cluster Leader of Investment Partnerships of the Further Advancing the Blue Revolution Initiative (FABRI), a USAID funded program. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Langata Nairobi, as well as the current editor of Eco Digest, a regional newsletter on current trends and opportunities in environmental management. Kuria is also a member of the Advisory Team for Ashoka Sanitation in Africa.


Jamila Abass, BCS

CEO, Co-Founder, Software Developer, MFarm Ltd
Citizenship: Kenya
Specialty: Agriculture, IT, mobile tech, small-scale farmers

CEO and Co-Founder of M-Farm, Jamila is helping farmers trapped in subsistence agriculture move into commercial farming by leveraging available mobile technology to provide needed real-time information and incentivise collective action. Using their mobile phones, farmers can send simple inquiries and gain access to real-time price information for specific crops in the regions in which they live. By incentivizing entrepreneurial activity and collective action, M-Farm is helping usher in a wave of commercial farming led by smallholder farmers. Jamila was also an Ashoka fellow in 2013.


Karan Chopra, MBA

Co-Founder & Managing Director, GADCO (Global Agri-Development Company)         
Citizenship: India              
Specialty: Agriculture, Food Security, Economic Development

Karan grew up in Ghana and is now helping the nation’s poorest farmers reap higher profits. GADCO, which he cofounded, is now Ghana’s largest producer of rice; the farm loops in 1,000 impoverished local farmers, providing seeds and fertilizer, buying their crops and selling them in a global supply chain. The efficiencies possible in a large farm allow GADCO to add profit to the farmers’ bottom line. Karan previously worked as a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company where he was awarded the Social Sector Fellowship and focused on market-based and scalable solutions for broad-based economic development. Karan received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School with high distinction graduating as a Baker Scholar. He was also named in the list of 2014 Forbes 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs by Forbes magazine.


Emma Naluyima, MUSPH, BVetMed

Private Veterinarian            
Citizenship: Uganda              
Specialty: Integrated Farming, Veterinary, Smallholder farmer

Dr. Emma Naluyima is a smallholder farmer in Uganda and a private veterinarian focusing on clinical medicine and herd health. She has previously worked for the National Animal Genetic Resources Centre and Data Bank and as an officer in Entebbe in charge of a Livestock Environmental Station. Emma has worked for the President of the Republic of Uganda, H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, on his personal dairy farm to improve the genetics of his herd through artificial insemination. She has also served as the Chairman of Red Cross Mbarara. Emma earned a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Medicine and Masters of Health Services Research from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.


Esther Ngumbi, PhD

Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Auburn, Alabama
Citizenship: Kenya
Specialty: Entomology, Women and Youth

Dr. Esther Ngumbi is a 2007 recipient for the highly competitive American Association of University Women (AAUW) International Fellowship. She has been featured in the AAUW celebrating 125 years of fellowships and grants views and on the cover of AAUW’s highly acclaimed national research report: “Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics”. Dr. Ngumbi is currently a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Auburn University in Alabama. She serves as a 2015 Clinton Global University (CGI U) Mentor for Agriculture. Esther was named by One World Action as one of the 100 powerful women who change the world. She continues to be a global leader, motivational speaker and is passionate about issues related to hunger, gender, education, youth activism and sustainability.