The Ford Foundation named Akili Dada's founder and executive director Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg ’01 a “Champion of Democracy.”

The prestigious award, which helps to celebrate The Ford Foundation’s 50th anniversary of working in East Africa, includes a $100,000 grant for Akili Dada, an international non-profit organization strategically investing in the empowerment of talented young women from underprivileged backgrounds.

“This is a moment of promise and opportunity for Eastern Africa,” Luis Ubiñas, Ford Foundation President, said when announcing 10 different awards given to “extraordinary individuals and organizations.”

“These champions of democracy are playing an essential role in fulfilling that potential by building a just, equitable and democratic region for everyone.”

Since 1962, the Ford Foundation has invested nearly $300 million in Eastern Africa, supporting the growth of civil society, advancing women’s rights, developing leaders in key sectors and strengthening government. Today, the foundation provides approximately $12 million each year to support organizations in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania that are working for a freer, fairer and more prosperous East Africa.

Kamau-Rutenberg was recognized by the Ford Foundation for her work as a visionary leader who is at the front lines of social change in East Africa. The award affirms the foundation Akili Dada's work as a leadership incubator empowering the next generation of African women leaders who are passionate about social change.

“This award is a treasured recognition of the work that my amazing team of colleagues have done over the years,” Kamau-Rutenberg said.“This award belongs to the many who have worked tirelessly to carry out Akili Dada’s vision of a world where young African women from underprivileged backgrounds can take their place at decision-making tables all across society.

“We are grateful to the Ford Foundation for believing in our work and investing in us so that we can continue spreading the message about women’s roles in bringing about transformative leadership.”

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Ford Foundation President Ubiñas presented the award to Kamau-Rutenberg.