Ford Foundation announces its 2021 Global Fellows Network with representation from West Africa

The Ford Foundation has today announced its 2021 Ford Global Fellows, the foundation’s flagship global fellowship program, with a $50 million investment supporting emerging leaders around the world. The announcement doubles the number of fellows slated for its second year and with representation from West Africa. This in an effort to provide more leaders the critical support they need in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 48 new fellows will join the inaugural cohort launched in 2020 and include one Fellow from Togo and Sierra Leone, and two from Nigeria. Together, the three cohorts will comprise 72 (of what will eventually be 240 Fellows over ten years) promising global leaders.

“We are scaling the Ford Global Fellows faster because this crisis requires bolder commitments to creating a more just and equitable future,” says Adria Goodson, director of the Ford Global Fellowship. “People who are most proximate to injustice are stepping up and surfacing solutions to local challenges driven by global structures of inequality.”

Compounded by vaccine inequity, job precarity, climate change, rising authoritarianism, and racial and gender inequity, COVID-19 has laid bare the crisis of inequality with a renewed urgency to combat it. Ford Foundation has responded by scaling up the Ford Global Fellowship to support leaders from communities who face injustice head-on, and help them cultivate their ideas and energy in solving long-standing inequalities exposed or exacerbated by the pandemic.

The fellowships will provide these emerging leaders with the tools, networks, and solidarity they need to work better, smarter, and more sustainably in the long haul.
“Inequality and injustice defy borders. The Ford Global Fellows are bringing their local experiences to learn from each other’s work and design and reimagine solutions to global systems of inequality. We are excited to welcome Adebukola (Bukky) Shonibare and Ekaete Umoh from Nigeria, Farida Nabourema from Togo and Joseph Kaifala from Sierra Leone,” announced Dabesaki Mac-Ikemenjima, Ford Foundation program officer, West Africa.

About the Fellows
The cohorts are selected by FGF on the basis that each represents a broad range of backgrounds, fields, and approaches to addressing inequality.
Adebukola (Bukky) Shonibare is the founder and executive director of Invictus Africa, an organisation addressing gender inequalities through rights-based advocacies, legal reviews, and capacity development.
Accepting the accolade, Shonibare says: “We must promote wide and in-depth understanding of gender issues, while collaborating with relevant state and non-state actors on effective strategies. All girls in Nigeria should have the right to education and opportunity with safety and freedom.”
Ekaete Umoh is country director at CBM Global Disability Inclusion, fighting to end the cycle of poverty and disability in Nigeria. As national president of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, she has been involved in the passing of a national law protecting the rights of people with disabilities.

Umoh envisions a just society with equal opportunities for all where people with disabilities can access their rights and achieve their full potential. “We can’t address the world’s injustices without ensuring rights and opportunities for people with disabilities.”
Farida Nabourema is a Togolese social activist, a pan-Africanist and a writer, where she has regularly denounced corruption, dictatorship and inequality.
Nabourema is working towards a world in which dignity is not a privilege that only a few people are entitled to, but lived by all vulnerable and marginalized communities that today are oppressed, exploited and dominated. She adds, “We must ensure the human rights of marginalized communities and stop exploitative practices that perpetuate oppression.”
Joseph Kaifala is the founder and principal of the Center for Memory and Reparations, facilitating healing from the Sierra Leonean civil war. He founded the Jeneba Project providing girls access to quality high school education and paving a way for them to forge a brighter future.
“We must create a world with inclusive and equitable education for all and eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls. I want to see a world where women and girls have equal access to education and are free from discrimination,” said Kaifala.

Their role in the Ford Global Fellowship (FGF) program
Each cohort will undertake an 18-month program. The goal of the 10-year program is to identify and connect emerging leaders from across the globe who are advancing innovative ideas and solutions to combat inequality. Each Fellow receives funding and resources to develop and pursue both group and individualised learning plans to advance their own leadership development. They will each receive a no-strings-attached US$25,000 stipend.
“Ford entered the Fellowship space as a learning partner. We work with emerging leaders in surfacing insights, identifying and investing in tools, and building networks they need now in the face of today’s crises,” added Goodson.
The program focuses on supporting each individual and on building a strong Fellowship community. All of the cohorts will work together to co-create their Fellowship experience so that it supports both individual growth and collective learning. FGF supports them in the development of deliberate, trusting, and generative relationships so the Fellows and Ford can strengthen their practices to challenge and change inequality together.
Goodson concluded by saying the urgency of the need to fight inequality is growing rather than receding: “One year into our program and as global crises deepen, we are called to accelerate our support for emerging leaders globally and move to scale faster. The Covid-19 pandemic, compounded by the effects of climate change, the rise of authoritarianism, and racial and gender injustice, have laid bare the crisis of inequality and created new urgency to combat it.”
Learn more about the Ford Global Fellowship here.

Distributed by African Media Agency for The Ford Foundation.

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