The Ford Foundation continued the celebration of its 50th anniversary in East Africa today by honoring ten organizations as Champions of Democracy—a special recognition that includes a $100,000 grant to each organization to advance exemplary efforts that promote democracy and opportunity in the region.

The awards were announced at an event with Rt. Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga, prime minister of the Republic of Kenya; Hon. Justice Dr. Willy Munyoki Mutunga, chief justice and president of the Supreme Court of Kenya; Hon. Kenneth Marende, speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya; Luis A. Ubiñas, president of the Ford Foundation; Maurice Makaloo, representative of the foundation’s East Africa office; and other key leaders.

“This is a moment of promise and opportunity for East Africa,” said Ubiñas. “These champions of democracy are playing an essential role in fulfilling that potential by building a just, equitable and democratic region for everyone.”

The Champions are:

Akili Dada
Building the Next Generation of Women Leaders
Akili Dada provides promising young women from underprivileged economic backgrounds with training and mentorship, equipping them with the tools they need to drive transformative change in their communities. After their participation in the organization’s residential leadership academy, scholarships open the doors to top-tier secondary education in one of Akili Dada’s four partner boarding schools. By providing girls with the education and guidance that prepares them for civic participation and leadership, Akili Dada helps develop the next generation of urgently needed women leaders.

The Performing and Visual Arts Centre (The GoDown Arts Centre)
Championing Change Through Artistic Expression
Since its beginnings in the late 1990s, The GoDown Arts Centre has been a hub of innovation and creativity that has challenged and inspired the East African community. As the host and organizer of acclaimed exhibitions, performances and international exchange programs, it has strengthened connections between artists and audiences. And as a site for bold and open-minded dialogue about local and national issues, it has nurtured new voices and brought together diverse groups of citizens. East Africans gather at GoDown to discuss art and identity, build social movements and foster progressive change¬—crucial ingredients in a democratic society.

Kenya Women Holding
Connecting Economic Opportunity to Women’s Rights
For three decades, Kenya Women Holding has worked to develop financial services that meet the needs of poor and rural women, helping them earn livelihoods and move out of poverty. Today, the organization is Kenya’s largest microfinance provider, with over 450,000 clients—80 percent of them in rural areas. Working together with 17 leading civil rights organizations, Kenya Women Holding also coordinates the Tuvuke Initiative for a Peaceful and Fair Electoral Process, which works to prevent violence and create a safer, healthier environment for Kenyan democracy.

Kenya Human Rights Commission
Protecting the Rights of All Citizens
At stake in Kenya’s upcoming general election is not only the peace and security of the nation, but its transition to the democratic governance set forth in the hard-won 2010 constitution. Amid these challenges, the Kenya Human Rights Commission has sought to protect and promote the civil and political rights of all Kenyans, and to ensure that voting is free and fair. The Commission works with 27 community networks across the country to further human rights and democratic values, and to strengthen connections between human rights issues at the local, national and international levels.

Kenya Land Alliance
Securing Community Land Rights for the Poor
A pioneer in confronting the inequitable distribution of land resources, Kenya Land Alliance is a leading voice advocating for women and marginalized communities. The Alliance works at the state and grassroots levels to engage government, media and the public in dialogue about resource-dependent communities and the inequalities they face. Having spearheaded progressive land reforms that are now part of the Kenyan Constitution, the organization has established a vibrant national land network that works to ensure that Kenya’s resources are accessible to its citizens.

Men for the Equality of Women and Men
Helping Men Stand Up for Women
Men for the Equality of Men and Women (MEW) helps men become champions of women’s rights. With an approach rooted in faith, the organization works to dismantle male dominance and advance true social and political equality for members of both sexes. Under the leadership of Reverend Dr. Timothy Njoya, MEW works with men to promote affirmative action and lasting change for women and girls. The organization provides boys and men with support and counseling to help them rise above sexism and bring an end to gender violence.

Media Development in Africa
Creating Media in the Public Interest
Media Development in Africa (MEDEVA) creates spaces for civic engagement on television and radio. Through popular shows like Be the Judge, a courtroom drama that teaches viewers about legal issues, and Agenda Kenya, a non-partisan political talk show, MEDEVA advances programming in the public interest. Its free training program helps cultivate Easte Africa’s next generation of ethical, critical and creative journalists, who will use their training to expose corruption and human rights abuses. With the creation of the talk show Agenda Uganda, the organization’s democratizing voice now stretches beyond Kenya’s borders.

Empowering Communities to Create Their Own Change
Twaweza (Swahili for “we can make it happen”) is a citizen-centered initiative that works to help millions of East Africans, particularly those who are poor and marginalized, participate in their societies and access quality services. The organization finds innovative ways to reach people through the networks that already shape their lives, bringing together unusual partners to create a larger ecosystem of change. Through its media partnerships, Twaweza ensures that the public has access to reliable information that is free from commercial and political interests, and works to further a national dialogue on ethnic tolerance and reconciliation.

The Youth Agenda
Lifting the Voices of Young People
Youth in Kenya have long been disillusioned about their role in public life and political discourse. A leading advocate for young people, The Youth Agenda (YAA) seeks to change that by harnessing the power of youth for public good. YAA works to raise young people’s consciousness of key issues, increase their numbers in leadership positions and provide them with the tools they need to actively participate in the political life of their country. Working with a range of official bodies and organizations, YAA has become an influential voice in the national dialogue.

Advancing Peace and Participation Through Technology
GO-SHENG uses 21st-century tools to promote civic engagement among low-income urban youth and amplifies their voice as a constituency. Using an interactive digital platform to engage and mobilize young people, it helps ensure young voices are heard on issues of governance, education and economic opportunities. GO-SHENG created the first translation of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution in Sheng—a language spoken by millions in Kenya—and has made it available through social media and other platforms. GO-SHENG also broadens its outreach through the Tuvuke Initiative, teaching at-risk youth about the benefits of civic engagement and peace.

The Ford Foundation began working in East Africa in 1962, just as newly independent states were emerging across the region. In the five decades since, the foundation has played a key role in the region’s development.

The foundation funded the first microfinance organizations in East Africa, for example, which now serve more than 1 million low-income households in Kenya alone. Early foundation support for scholarships trained two generations of government, academic and civil society leaders. Early human rights grantees such as The Uganda Association of Women Lawyers and the Kenya Human Rights Commission are today leading voices in advancing constitutional reform and access to justice for historically excluded voices. And support for innovative, community-based resource management approaches is now widely replicated by government agencies, benefiting rural communities that derive livelihoods from wildlife and forestry—to name just a few areas of impact on a large scale. The foundation has been a leading supporter of the arts, creative expression and new media in the region as well.

The Ford Foundation has invested nearly $300 million in East Africa since 1962, helping to lay a foundation for democracy by supporting the growth of civil society, advancing women’s rights, developing leaders in key sectors, and strengthening government.

Today the foundation provides some $12 million each year to support institutions in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania that are working for a freer, fairer and more prosperous East Africa.

Culminating a Year-long Celebration

Ford kicked off its anniversary in May, announcing a $2 million grant for the Tuvuke Initiative for Peaceful and Fair Electoral Process in Kenya—a national campaign being undertaken by a diverse group of 17 Kenyan NGOs and coordinated by Kenya Women Holding, a longstanding grantee of the foundation.

Tuvuke (Swahili for “Let us cross over”), aims to engage the electorate in a manner that sustains the progress of recent and ongoing constitutional reforms and to promote a new democracy in Kenya through ethnic and religious understanding.

“This is a time of incredible promise for the region,” said Maurice Makoloo, Ford Foundation representative for East Africa. “We see renewed constitutional democracies and civil society organizations that have become stronger.”

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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