HUMAN RIGHTS AND Women's Empowerment

Women, youth, and marginalized groups are taking on a greater role in civil society, the political realm, and the economy than ever before, but significant work remains to ensure that all are empowered to be truly equal players in African societies and globally. How can women's empowerment efforts collaborate across gender and work with men as partners, or across physical boundaries to share best practices? How can technology and communication developments be leveraged for the advancement of human rights? How can increasing globalization and a burgeoning youth population be a catalyst for promoting human rights across the Continent?


Human Rights Advocate


Martine Tchitchihe is from Tokombéré, a town in the Far North Region of Cameroon. Her region is one of the poorest and most remote regions in Cameroon and has the misfortune of being sandwiched between hostile neighboring countries whose problems often spill across the border. Martine engaged in many charitable and development activities while in Cameroon,  often in cooperation with the U.S. Peace Corps. Sometimes she was a leader; sometimes a foot soldier, speaking to business associations, women’s groups, and youth groups, and more to further the cause of girl’s education.

Martine holds the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in French and master's degrees from the École normale supérieure de Maroua and the Université de Maroua. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory. Only a handful of women from her town have ever attained such an advanced level of education.

Martine is passionate about development, education, and gender equality. She envisions herself working with an NGO to empower the most vulnerable members of society in a developing country. She believes that the best way to truly effect positive change in the world is to make oneself an integral part of a community. Martine has been recognized by the Malala Fund and has spoken at the United Nations, advocating for human rights and girl's education.


Rise Networks: Founder, Chief Executive Officer


Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji, Social Entrepreneur named by Forbes as one of the 20 most Powerful Young Women in Africa is the Founder / CEO of RISE NETWORKS, Africa’s leading Social Enterprise whose mandate focuses on using Technology & Innovation to create access to education and learning opportunities for the inclusive growth of Young People with the core objective of preparing them for Value Based Leadership at all levels. Rise Networks’ annual National Youth Forum is arguably the largest gathering of young people for Empowerment Programs at different locations in Nigeria. Their flagship project, is Nigeria’s most sought after social based Learning community providing easy access to simplified, text based curriculum cum syllabus based education content, standardized tests and exam review questions via web and mobile FREE for millions of underserved high School Students. In addition to that, she is a Serial Entrepreneur with vested interests in other successful Business Endeavors.

Perhaps, one of the most respected emerging leaders of Africa’s new generation, Toyosi is a 2017 Mason Fellow and Mid-Career Master in Public Administration Candidate at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government where she is also Vice President for International Student Affairs and Chair of the International Student Affairs Committee.

She studied Strategic Management at Executive Level at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School, obtained a Certificate in Youth Inclusive Financial Services from University of New Hampshire, Durham, USA, holds a Certificate in Media Enterprise from the School of Media and Communication, Pan African University and an Executive Masters’ Certificate in Project Management from The Project Management College, UK. She has also studied Digital Marketing Strategy at the UK Institute of Digital Marketing and she received a 2nd Class Upper Bachelors’ degree in Civil Law from the University of Jos.

Toyosi is an Alumni of the Prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program of the United States Government, a recipient of numerous awards including Recognition by Crans Montana Forum in Europe as a New Leader of Tomorrow, This Day Awards for Nigeria’s Women of Distinction, Young Entrepreneur of the Year of Success Digest Entrepreneurial Awards, the Excellence Awards of the School of Media and Communication, Pan African University, The Future Africa Awards for Best Use of Advocacy and the Nigerian Youth Leadership Awards jointly organized by Leap Africa, International Youth Foundation and NOKIA.

She is also one of the honorees of the Top 100 Young Leaders’ Recognition by the Federal Government of Nigeria and is a Nigeria Leadership Initiative's Future Leaders Fellow. NLI is a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. 

Toyosi sits on the Board of The Right to Know Initiative, a Nonprofit focused on Government Transparency and the Rule of Law and the Victims Support Fund Foundation. She was a Judge of the Get Started Africa Entrepreneurship Challenge initiated by NESCAFÉ to empower Youth across the Continent and a Mentor for the African Entrepreneurship Awards.

Karen Sherman.jpg


Akilah Institute: President



●  Women and girls’ education around the world

●  Women's economic empowerment and entrepreneurship

●  Women in conflict-affected countries

Karen Sherman brings more than 30 years of experience as an entrepreneur, strategist, and executive level manager to her role as President of the Akilah Institute. Throughout her career, Karen has combined her expertise, passion, and transformative leadership skills to affect lasting change for women in conflict-affected countries and those in transition.

Prior to joining Akilah, Karen served as Chief Operating Officer,Executive Director for Global Programs, and, from Kigali, Rwanda, as Africa Regional Director at Women for Women International (WfWi), an organization that enables women war survivors to restart their lives. Under her leadership, WfWi tripled the number of women served,expanded field office staff to over 600 employees across eight countries, and grew from $5 million to over $20 million in total revenue in four years.

Previously, Karen served as the Executive Vice President at Counterpart International , a $130 million global development organization, where she was responsible for increasing the depth, scale, and impact of programs. Over her ten-year tenure, Karen worked to promote and strengthen small businesses, micro-enterprises, and women’s entrepreneurship globally. Additionally, she launched Counterpart’s for-profit subsidiary making equity investments in environmentally sustainable enterprises.

Across her different roles, Karen has worked with stakeholders at all levels, from community groups to corporate leaders and heads of state, to take programs from concept to scale. Most importantly, her work has resulted in measurable impacts on women’s income, health, decision-making, and social networks.

Karen has served as a thought leader and spokesperson on global women’s issues through the media, public appearances, and diverse social media platforms. She has been featured in multiple publications and was Executive Producer of The Other Side of War: Wome n’s Stories of Survival and Hope, published by National Geographic.

Karen holds a Master’s Degree in Russian and East European Studies from The George Washington University and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Oregon. She serves as the Board Chair for Everywoman Everywhere , and sits on the Board of Trustees of Mary Baldwin College. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband and three sons. 



Change SA: Executive Director, Founder

Tshidiso Ramogale is a human rights lawyer and social entrepreneur from Johannesburg, South Africa. He holds a law degree from the University of the Witwatersrand and he is currently completing his Masters of Law at Harvard Law School.  Prior to Harvard, Tshidiso was a legal officer at the South African Human Rights Commission and a law clerk to the Honourable Justice Sisi Khampepe of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.  His expansive human rights work spans from securing the release of persons unlawfully arrested and detained by the police, to preventing unlawful evictions, and protecting the rights of the elderly and disabled.

 Outside of the law, Tshidiso runs a non-profit organization, Change SA, whose mission it is to turn as many young South Africans into social entrepreneurs. Tshidiso is also an Allan Gray Fellow—a community of high impact social entrepreneurs from sub-Saharan Africa.

Tshidiso’s work has been highlighted on various national platform—amongst others, he has been named Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African and a future ‘mover and shaker’ to look out for by various publications.



High Court of South Africa: Attorney

Alexandra (Alex) is a qualified attorney of the High Court of South Africa who holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of the Witwatersrand. While studying for her law degree, Alex served as an inaugural editor of ‘Inkundla’ a student law journal of the University of the Witwatersrand, currently in its 4th edition, which encourages scholarly legal writing amongst law students.

Alex commenced her term as a candidate attorney at Norton Rose Fulbright South Africa in 2012 and was appointed as an Associate in the Norton Rose Fulbright Corporate, Mergers and Acquisitions practice group in 2014. In that capacity she has acted for listed and unlisted companies in transactions related to infrastructure, mining and commodities, transport and telecommunications. Alex has also acted for both sponsors and lenders in renewable energy projects in various rounds of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program, including the Ilanga 1 CSP Project which won the 2015 Project Finance International Solar Deal of the Year.

Alex also served as a Law Research Clerk to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng at the Constitutional Court of South Africa. This led to a professional interest in the tensions that arise at the intersection of human rights and commercial interests. In 2015 she was named as one of the Mail & Guardian’s top 200 Young South Africans (in the ‘Business and Law’ category). 

The focus of her Masters of Law at Harvard is business and human rights. She is the co-President and co-founder of the Human Rights and Business Harvard Law Students Association (HuB), the LLM representative of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and a board member of the Women's Law Association (WLA).