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Spotlight a COVID-19 Heroine

EJS Center / COVID-19 Response / Spotlight a COVID-19 Heroine

Our “Spotlight a COVID-19 Heroine” initiative highlights African women who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and dedication to their communities through their COVID-19 response efforts. Join us in recognizing and celebrating these inspiring women. Read more about our featured Heroines below.

Kasese, Uganda | Area Supervisor, The Paper Fig Foundation

Edith Muhindo is the Area Supervisor of the Paper Fig Foundation—an organization that promotes fashion and fine arts as an economic empowerment tool—in Kasese, in the Western region of Uganda. Over the last eight months, Edith has guided the Paper Fig Foundation through the pandemic with resiliency, creativity, and commitment, from spearheading a mask sewing campaign that has gone global, to grassroots, on-the-ground community outreach, educating rural populations about how to stay safe and avoid the spread of COVID-19. She has devoted herself to helping members of her community, especially those that are among the most vulnerable.

Montserrado, Liberia | Founder and Executive Director, Potential Leaders for Sustainable Future

Janet Ricks is the Founder and Executive Director of Potential Leaders for Sustainable Future, a non-governmental organization that works with young people in Liberia to empower, educate, and elevate them, encouraging their inclusion at all levels of society, including in national decision making. Ms. Ricks has demonstrated her dedication to her community and to public service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, leading her organization to deliver essential services and public health announcements to the disabled community, and continuing to advocate and increase visibility for young women and people living with disabilities.

Lagos, Nigeria | Assistant Director for Nursing Services and Matron in Charge of the Isolation Ward, Infectious Diseases Unit of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH)

Over the span of her two-decade career, Mrs. Margaret Mojisola Ayorinde has made meaningful contributions to the field of nursing across West Africa, and has played an important role in helping to treat and stop the spread of diseases including COVID-19, Lassa fever, and Ebola. Currently, Mrs. Ayorinde is the Assistant Director for Nursing Services and Matron in Charge of the Isolation Ward, Infectious Diseases Unit, at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) in Nigeria. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, Mrs. Ayorinde has been on the frontlines, tirelessly working to train health care workers, monitor infectious disease control procedures in the hospital, and care for patients. An accomplished and dedicated health care professional, Mrs. Ayorinde is equally admired for her bedside manner–looking after individual patients, connecting with their families, and providing spiritual and emotional comfort and strength, along with superb nursing care.

Tamale, Ghana | Communication & Gender Officer and Project Lead for the Women-LEAD Development Project at the Savannah Women Integrated Development Agency (SWIDA)

Khadijah Abdul-Samed is a communication practitioner with nearly ten years’ experience in broadcasting, advocacy, and research. Khadjiah currently works as the Communication & Gender Officer at the Savannah Women Integrated Development Agency (SWIDA), an organization working to empower communities and individuals in Northern Ghana through socio-economic opportunities, and she is also the Project Lead for SWIDA’s Women-LEAD development project. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Khadijah was central to her organization’s development of an innovative media sensitization initiative that featured children as the main communicators on issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to communities across Northern Ghana.

Mombasa, Kenya | Clinical Psychologist in Residence, The Aga Khan Hospital, Mombasa

Dr. Winnie Kitetu is the Clinical Psychologist in Residence at the Aga Khan Hospital, Mombasa, Kenya. Dr. Kitetu began her career as a pharmacist, and as her interest in mental health developed, she returned to university to study Clinical Psychology. The COVID-19 pandemic and measures imposed to curb the spread of the disease have had a significant impact on mental health, prompted by bereavement, loneliness, substance abuse, and domestic violence etc. Dr. Kitetu is using her expertise to support women and families during the pandemic with remote counseling via phone or video, providing guidance on dealing with bereavement, parenting through the pandemic, and keeping loneliness at bay during lockdown orders.

Uganda | Founder and CEO, Conservation Through Public Health

Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka is a leading conservationist and scientist working to protect wildlife species, including the endangered mountain gorillas of East Africa. She is the Founder and CEO of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), a non-profit organization that promotes conservation by improving the health and quality of life of people living near protected areas of Africa, so that they can peacefully coexist with the wildlife. Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka is also an expert in zoonotic diseases—infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, and vice-versa. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by a novel coronavirus thought to have originated in bats, global awareness about zoonotic diseases has increased, thanks in part to the efforts of Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka and others who have been working to educate the public about how such diseases spread.

Freetown, Sierra Leone | Programme Manager, AdvocAid

Julie Mariama Sesay is the Freetown Programme Manager at AdvocAid, an organization that provides legal aid and support to detained and incarcerated women and girls in Sierra Leone. Working with some of Sierra Leone’s most vulnerable populations, she fights to make sure that no one is overlooked, and that they are offered opportunities to improve their lives when they are released. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Julie has been unafraid to put her own health at risk in order to serve others. She has engaged with police to secure the release of women who were detained for breaking lockdown orders to fetch clean water for their families, organized a life-saving donation of medical supplies to a correctional center where prisoners were diagnosed with COVID-19, and more.

Lagos, Nigeria | Technical Advisor to the Statistician-General at the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria

Through her role as Technical Advisor to the Statistician-General at the National Bureau of Statistics in Nigeria, Lola Talabi-Oni recognized early on during the COVID-19 pandemic that aggregating data across government organizations could help to dramatically improve public understanding of the virus and aid ongoing response efforts. Working with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, hosted by the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), and 14 other partners, Lola built and launched Nigeria’s National Coronavirus Geospatial Data Hub. The Hub uses cutting-edge data visualizations to improve accessibility to real-time COVID-19 information for government agencies and the general public. A central resource for data related to COVID-19 and response efforts, the National Coronavirus Geospatial Data Hub has been an indispensable tool in Nigeria’s fight against the virus.

Curriculum Associate, Rising Academy Network | Sierra Leone

As a Curriculum Associate at the Rising Academy Network (Rising Academies), an innovative network of schools in West Africa, Elsiemae Melanie Buckle has worked tirelessly during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that students in Sierra Leone continue to have access to education despite the closure of schools due to lockdown measures. Working closely with the Teaching Service Commission in the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education of Sierra Leone on the planning and delivery of the country's national distance learning response, Melanie personally recorded hundreds of hours of audio instruction and educational content to be broadcast over the radio, helping to enable more children across Sierra Leone to continue their education through distance learning. The success of Melanie’s work with the Teaching Service Commission contributed to the creation of Rising Academies’ Rising On Air distance learning solution, an initiative to provide open-source radio scripts, making them available online for free. Since its implementation, Rising On Air lessons have been adapted for use in over 25 countries in Africa and Asia and have reached more than 10 million students.