March 24, 2023


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Twelve Young Rwandan Leaders selected to participate in the 2021 YALI Fellowship


The U.S. Embassy is proud to announce that twelve dynamic and experienced young Rwandans have been selected to participate in the 2021 Young African Leadership Initiative, Mandela Washington Fellowship.

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and with the health, safety, and well-being of Fellows and Partners as the highest priority, the 2021 will be organized virtually. While participating at home, Fellows will participate in virtual Leadership Institute, which will include leadership training, mentoring, and professional development. 

Each Institute will offer insights into U.S. society and will help strengthen connections between the United States and Africa by establishing partnerships between Fellows, local communities, and private businesses.  Fellows will also network with U.S. community members.

After their Leadership Institutes, Fellows will participate in a virtual Summit.  Additionally, up to 100 competitively-selected Fellows will virtually engage in professional development with U.S. organizations in the public, private, or non-profit sector.  Fellows can participate in alumni programming after their Fellowships to further build their professional skills and networks.

Launched in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and embodies the U.S. commitment to invest in the future of Africa. YALI was created in 2010 and supports young Africans as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.  Since 2014, nearly 4,400 young leaders from every country in Sub-Saharan Africa have participated in the Mandela Washington Fellowship.

Since the inaugural of Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Washington Fellowship last held in 2014, there are 66 Rwandans that have been awarded to attend the prestigious Fellowship. This year’s recipients include, Marie Christelle Igihozo, Mary Musoni, Niceson Karungi, Elie Habimana, Jean Claude Mbonigaba, Sheila Uwase, Germaine Umuraza, Shilla Ndegeya, Gisele Kayitasirwa Ituze, Jean Paul Sekarema, Donat Nzigiyimana, and Justin Byiringiro Murengera.

2021 YALI reciepients’s bios

Marie Christelle Igihozo, 25, F, Business & Entrepreneurship

Marie Christelle is the customer demand lead at Zipline International, a U.S.-based start-up that is earning world-wide recognition for its work in Rwanda delivering medical supplies by drone. In her day-to-day duties, Marie Christelle is responsible of supply chain integration and works closely with the 25 district hospitals served by Zipline drones, making sure that emergency blood donations and other medical supplies are delivered safely and securely. Marie Christelle understands the important challenges facing Rwanda in her domain and is determined to offer her best in addressing them. During the interview, for example, she explained how the supply chain of medical product is inefficient and lacks proper forecasting. Marie Christelle is a graduate of the University of Rwanda. She will do her leadership institute in Business track with University of Nevada-Reno.

Mary Musoni, 30, F, Civic Engagement

Mary is a Legal Aid Attorney at Legal Aid Forum, a local non-governmental organization that provides legal aid services to vulnerable populations, mainly refugees and asylum seekers. In 2019 alone, she represented more than 20 refugees before the court, and assisted more than 30 other refugees with their casework. She also coordinates at team of 13 volunteer lawyers. After realizing that access to information related to law and justice is one of the important challenges facing Rwandans, Mary worked with other lawyers to develop a mobile app that helps rural Rwandans access basic information on popular issues such as succession, land, divorce, etc. Mary is a graduate of the University of Rwanda. She will do her leadership institute in Civic Engagement track with Drexel University.  (Note: Mary was an active participant in our Amicus Curiae training series.)

Niceson Karungi, 31, F, Public Management

Niceson is an IT business analyst and software development specialist at the Judiciary of Rwanda. She led the implementation of Integrated Electronic Case Management System that has helped more than 300,000 Rwandans file cases online without going physically to court, significantly reducing the time and cost litigants incurred before. Niceson has been active in mentorship of young women in STEM fields. She has earned a bachelor’s degree from Makerere University in Uganda and a master’s degree from the University of Glasgow. She will do her leadership institute in the Public Management track with Georgia State University

Elie Habimana, 30, M, Business & Entrepreneurship

Elie is the Operations Manager at the African Leadership University (ALU) campus in Kigali, a rapidly-growing pan-African undergraduate university with campuses in Rwanda and Mauritius. In this capacity, Elie manages a budget of more than $3 million annually, and supervises ten permanent employees and 60 student workers. Elie understands that the lack of a skilled workforce capable of leading big and innovation projects in a challenge for Rwanda and hopes his passion and dedication for quality education will help address that. Elie graduated from the Adventist University of Central Africa and earned an online MBA through Oklahoma Christian University. He will do his leadership institute in Business track with Lehigh University.

Jean Claude Mbonigaba, 31, M, Civic Engagement

Jean Claude is an information and communication technology officer at Home de la Vierge des Pauvres (HVP) Gatagara, an orthopedic and rehabilitation hospital for people with disability in Nyanza, southern Rwanda. In addition, Jean Claude is a board member and legal representative of people living with disabilities in the Rwanda Scout Association. As a board member, he encouraged boy scouts to be more inclusive and accept young people with various disability to join the association, something that did not exist before he joined. Jean Claude also volunteers with Uwezo Youth Empowerment, a local NGO advocating for disabled youth. Jean Claude earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rwanda and is working on a master’s degree at the University of Kigali. Jean Claude has a mobility disability, but will not need substantial accommodation to participate. He will do his leadership institute in Civic Leadership track with Appalachian State University (Note: You met Jean Claude at HVP Gatagara in May 2021.)

Sheila Uwase, 31, F, Public Management

Sheila is a public transport officer for the city of Kigali, Rwanda’s beautiful capital city. A graduate of the University of Rwanda in Civil Engineering, Sheila is charged with monitoring public transport services, ensuring smooth service delivery, and following compliance with terms and contracts by transport service providers and transport infrastructure developers. Sheila understands that public transport is a growing challenge as Kigali grows and wants to help forestall the environmental impact of a poorly-managed public transportation policy. Sheilla will do her leadership institute in Public Management track with the University of California – Davis

Germaine Umuraza, 31, F, Civic Engagement

Germaine is the head of programs at the Rwanda Girl Guides Association (GGA). In five years with the organization, Germaine has developed a variety of programs that focus on empowering girls and young women. One of the important changes that Germaine brought to GGA is convincing the board to create a National Youth Committee, a team of the younger girl guides that better understands issues of importance to girl guides and the concerns of their peers. Germaine holds a bachelor’s degree from INES-Ruhengeri and a master’s degree from the University of Lay Adventists of Kigali. She will do her leadership institute in Civic Engagement trach with Rutgers University – New Jersey

Shilla Ndegeya, 28, F, Public Management

Shilla is the National Director for Special Olympics Rwanda, a non-profit organization that promotes sports training and competition opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. In her current role, Shilla is in charge of day-to-day technical operations of the organization and report directly to the Board of Directors. She earned a degree in business administration from Mount Kenya University and has advanced through the business side of the organization. Shilla’s said that her preferred approach toward empowering persons with disabilities is to focus on their ability side — what they are able to do — instead of their disability and what they might not be able to do. Shilla will do her leadership institute in Public Management with Arizona State University. Note tha Sheilla is the only one approved for PDE.

Gisele Kayitasirwa Ituze, 27, F, Business & Entrepreneurship

Gisele owns a fashion design business that makes all types of closes and bag. Gisele partners with the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf (RNUD) to train and empower other deaf women in tailoring and other handicraft skills that result in economic self-reliance. Gisele’s workshop currently trains 20 deaf women and works closely with several deaf women cooperatives. Gisele completed a two-year fashion design course in Uganda. Gisele is deaf and will require accommodation during the pre-departure process and throughout the fellowship. Gisele will do her leadership in Business track with the University of Texas at Austin. (Note: Gisele’s regular sign language interpreter is also named Gisele.)

Jean Paul Sekarema, 31, M, Civic Engagement

Jean Paul is a Grants Officer for the National Union of Disability Organizations of Rwanda (NUDOR), an umbrella organization that brings together many local NGOs that advocate for people living with disabilities. His current grants portfolio includes projects that are being implemented by 27 grant recipient organizations. Jean Paul also serves as an advisor on the National Paralympic Committee of Rwanda as an advisor. He is a graduate of the University of Rwanda. Post highly recommends Jean Paul for a fellowship in the Civic Engagement track. Jean Paul has a cerebral palsy, but will not need substantial accommodation to participate.He will do his leadership institute with Civic Engagement Track with Kansas State University.

Donat Nzigiyimana, 34, M, Public Management

Donat is the Director of Admission and Recruitment at the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA), a new tertiary education institution focusing on conservation agriculture. The institute has been established within the past year by support from the Buffet Foundation, in close collaboration with the University of Nebraska. Donat is a graduate of the University of Rwanda and has worked on post-graduate degrees in law, business administration, and education administration. Donat will do his leadership institute in the Public Management track with University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Justin Byiringiro Murengera, 26, M, Business & Entrepreneurship

Justin is the Founder and CEO of  Ikivi-Link, a social enterprise with a vision to promote peace, eradicate poverty, and empower rural women. His organization is currently working with six women’s cooperatives from Musanze, on assignments including the assembly of cardboard boxes for chocolates. Justin will do his leadership institute in Busines Track with Rutgers University – New Jersey.


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