Delaware Public Media

A conversation with young African leaders at UD for Mandela Washington Fellowship - Part 2

Aug 4, 2017

This summer, 25 young African leaders have been attending a summer institute on Civic Leadership at the University of Delaware, part of the U.S. State Department program called the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

The fellows are from various African countries, specializing in different areas - including media, law and healthcare. Last week, we heard from a handful of them.  This week, our Megan Pauly sits down with another group to discuss issues they’re working to address in their home countries - like media censorship and women’s rights

Rita is a teacher and radio host in Ghana, Rahama is a freelance journalist and peacebuilder in Mali, Sephiny is a media professional and works with widows in Nigeria, and Adams is an environmentalist and writer in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Here’s their conversation:


Here's the bios of the participants in this week's roundtable:

Adams Amini Cassinga, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is an environmentalist, social entrepreneur, writer and public speaker. After running a successful mining consultancy business for seven years, he decided to dedicate his time to protecting the Congolese ecosystem. He is currently the founder and CEO for Conserv Congo, a nature conservation-aligned NGO which fights poaching, promotes scientific tourism and environmental conservation through education. Adams was a former investigative reporter with the South African media. He was shot three times while investigating a story in 2006 and was a recipient of the Caxton’s “No guts, no story?” award for showing courage in the face of danger. He is an alumnus of YALI Regional East Africa and a finalist for the Community Solutions program in 2017. He studied at the Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and has education in environmental and project management. Upon his return from the fellowship, he intends to empower park rangers through specialized training and logistic support. He also wants to kick-start community subsistence farming projects to curb poaching and ensure food security.

Rahama Nantoume, from Mali, is a young freelance journalist, blogger and peace builder. She holds a Masters degree in Journalism from the Catholic University of Bamako and a Masters Degree in Language Science from the University of Mascara, Algeria. Rahama has 10+ years of experience in advocacy and peace building. In addition to her commitment to the cause of children with the humanitarian association OPEN-Mali, Rahama is committed to promoting peace and preventing extremism. She is a Project Manager and Researcher at Think Peace Mali, a Malian think tank working on issues of governance, peace and security. Convinced that a better world is possible and that all development is done from the bottom up, Rahama is fighting to make Mali a haven of peace where the young are agents of positive change. After completing the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she will continue her fight in the prevention of violent extremism.

Rita Siaw, from Ghana, is a professional teacher with 8 years’ work experience and a passion for improving rural education. Currently, she is the Assistant Head Teacher, Curriculum Leader and Guidance and Counseling Coordinator at her school. She hosts radio shows to educate the public on health and youth and women related issues. Rita is the Founder of Feminine Star Africa, an organization aimed at impacting rural education and advocating for the rights and empowerment of women and children. After winning the Most Innovative Teacher Award in 2015, she is replicating her innovations in other schools through teacher capacity building workshops on pragmatic reading and writing and positive discipline in place of corporal punishment. She speaks to students at seminars and camps to inspired them to work on their goals and confidence. She supports the re-entry of teen mothers to school and gives skills training to unemployed women. Rita holds a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana. She hopes to raise a generation of global change makers through her initiatives. Upon completion of the fellowship, Rita intends to expand her work on improving rural education and women’s empowerment and to serve as a voice for abused women and girls to help them gain confidence, maturity and independence.

Sephiny Smart Atuonah, from Nigeria, has over 7 years’ experience in Community Development and Gender Empowerment. Currently Sephiny Smart serves as the Director of Programmes for SmartSistas Foundation, an organization she founded that focuses on empowering widows, sponsoring young girls and orphans to schools and enlightening them on life skills beyond the four walls of a school. Sephiny Smart holds a bachelor degree in Theatre Arts and specializes in Media and PR. She is currently Nigeria’s Country Representative for Young and Business and Professional Women.  Sephiny Smart is passionate, committed and fully driven to developing sustainable community programs in Nigeria that will ensure every widow is independently stable, every young female child is educated and every child acquires life skills to prepare them for the rigors of everyday life.  Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Sephiny Smart plans to seek resources to build Activity hubs that will impact on the lives of teenagers in rural communities as well as fulfill her dream of becoming a Motivational Speaker, successful Publicist and owner of a Syndicated Talk Show.

You can learn more about the other 2017 Mandela Washington Fellows at UD here.