Jamila Mayanja, the founder of Smart Girls Uganda has won the 2023 Leadership Impact Award a recognition for her efforts towards equipping young women with hands-on vocational and practical skills through the ‘Girls with Tools skilling program’.
The annual Leadership Impact Award recognizes the individual achievements of a member of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Network. Mayanja is a 2015 alumni of the Fellowship, a flagship program of the U.S. government’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
Mayanja was selected from among hundreds of nominations of alumni who have made a significant impact in their communities upon their return from the program. Her organization innovated a water-proof Solar Smart Bag that includes reusable sanitary pads and a solar panel that charges a light bulb to enable girls to stay safe while walking to school, read at night, and in turn enable young girls to stay in school.
To date, the organization has reached more than 30,000 girls with their signature Solar Smart Bag menstrual kits (including 10,000 who have consequently stayed in school), 300 women with skills-based training in male-dominated career trades like electrical and mechanical engineering, and 50 women with career placement opportunities.
According to the U.S. Ambassador to Uganda, Natalie E. Brown, Mayanja scooped the award for being one of the most active, passionate, creative, innovative, and impactful alumni of the Ugandan Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF).
“We are proud of her work with Smart Girls Uganda and the leadership she provides in the alumni community,” says Ambassador Natalie. She adds that the organization’s efforts have had a huge impact on the families and communities of women and girls across Uganda.
The program fosters closer relations between Americans and fellows from 49 Sub-Saharan African countries and empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities, and local community engagement.