Advisory Board

Smart Libraries Advisory Board

Karim Ajania

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Karim is the Founder of Pencils for Africa.

He is a former school principal of a Massachusetts state charter middle school. Karim was born and schooled in Kenya and holds advanced degrees from MIT and from Harvard University.

To read an interview with Karim for the African Peace Journal click here.

Dr. Dapo Tomori

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Dapo is the Chairman of the Pencils for Africa Executive Board.

Dapo’s career integrates broad experiences across clinical medicine, academia, biopharma and health care systems and services. He currently works at Genentech, where he leads strategic innovation initiatives in product development.

He has worked in leadership roles in strategy, product development, and innovation at Eli Lilly and Company, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Anthem. He previously held faculty appointments at the University of Michigan School of Medicine and the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.

He trained in psychiatry at the University of Michigan and obtained his medical degree from the University of Ibadan, in Nigeria.

He received an MBA degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, and studied International Health Policy at the London School of Economics.

He currently serves on the National Advisory Board of the University of Michigan Depression Center.

Rutendo Urenje

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Rutendo is the Vice Chair of the Pencils for Africa Executive Board.

Rutendo was born in, grew up in, and attended high school in Harare, Zimbabwe.

She recently completed a Masters in International Human Rights Law degree at Lund University in Sweden. Prior to this, Rutendo spent five years at Rhodes University, South Africa, studying for a Social Sciences degree and a Law degree. During her studies she worked for the Rhodes University’s Community Engagement office as a student liaison officer. In her own words:

I earnestly have a passion to serve people, especially children who may not have developed the capacities to help themselves.

In Sweden, she actively volunteered at both Save the Children Gotland and Save the Children Lund and was a project leader for the Kids in Transit Project in Lund. She is fluent in both English and Shona, and has working knowledge of French, Afrikaans and Ndebele.

Rutendo is the Managing Editor of African Peace Journal for which she completed a field journalism assignment as well as taught in a village school in South Sudan, Africa’s newest country. She is based in Geneva, Switzerland, where African Peace Journal is headquartered.

Rutendo has recently chronicled a series on refugees and she blogs at Rutendo’s Corner.

Rutendo co-founded African Youth Mentorship Network of which Karim is a Village Elder.

To read the Pencils for Africa Team’s reflections on interviewing Rutendo, kindly click here.

To watch Rutendo’s recent video greeting to the Pencils for Africa Team, kindly click here.

Yema Khalif

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Yema Khalif, the founder and CEO of YEMA, grew up in the Kibera slums in Nairobi, Kenya.

He knows what it is like to live without clean running water, good schools and job opportunities, much less TV or online shopping. Born in a family of 8, his parents could barely afford school fees, so Yema had to drop out of high school two times even though he was getting good grades.

“I thank my mom for forcing me back to school because I had given up,” he recalls. “She was able to pay for me to finish school by selling off my dad’s cool stereo and gas cooker.”

Through a scholarship from Road to Freedom (RFS), an organization that empowers and educates children living in extreme poverty, Yema came to the US to study Communications and Media at Dominican University of California, where he recently graduated summa cum laude with an MBA.

Knowing what a difference his family and the scholarship made in his life, Yema’s mission is to support the education of vulnerable girls in Kibera slums. To combine his passion for design, athletics and helping other kids back home in Kibera, Yema created the sportswear company YEMA, LLC. He founded the company in the San Francisco Bay Area with his friend and Dominican University classmate Rawad Abou Hassan. YEMA, LLC designs and sells high quality and fashionable sportswear and donates US$5 of every purchase to RFS. Each US$5 donated to RFS is enough to buy a textbook, three meals or a school sweater. RFS is sending kids from the slum to school, where many of the kids’ problems are addressed in one place, holistically.

The kids gain a family in each other, a bed, a uniform to wear, medical care, three meals a day, clean water to drink, safety from violence and assault, and an elite education. Through receiving an education, as well as the opportunity to live in a supportive environment, RFS students are able to break free of the cycle of being “stuck” in the Kibera slum, the largest slum in Africa.

Yema is a member of the Pencils for Africa Executive Board.

Paola Gianturco

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Paola Gianturco is an author and photographer who has documented women’s lives in 60 countries.

She has had six books published and is a grandmother. (Click here for Paola’s website).

Her involvement with women’s issues is long standing.

She has lectured about them in the US, Canada, France and Spain. She spoke at UNESCO International Headquarters in Paris on International Women’ s Day 2008; her photographs were exhibited there in 2009 and 2011. Paola co-developed and taught Executive Institutes on Women and Leadership at Stanford University, and served on the Board of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). She was a principal in the first women-owned advertising agency in the United States and is a current member of International Women’s Forum.

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Paola presented a TED TALK in Dubai in May of 2014.

In 2013, Paola was named one of “40 Women to Watch over 40” – and in 2014, she was named one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s eNews. She serves on the Leadership Council of Let Girls Lead and on the Advisory Board of Global Grandmothers.

In 2017, Paola was inducted into the YWCA’s Marin Women’s Hall of Fame.

Paola is a member of the Pencils for Africa Executive Board.