Montgomery County Hosting Washington Mandela Fellows

The Montgomery County Commissioners are pleased to announce that two County departments, Environmental Services and Human Services Planning and Development, are each hosting Washington Mandela Fellows participating in the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in August and September 2016.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship began in 2014 and is a flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).  President Obama launched YALI in 2010 to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.

This summer, the Fellowship brought 1,000 young African professionals, ages 25 to 35, to the United States for academic study, leadership training, and a Presidential Summit in Washington, DC. 100 of these Fellows were selected to complete six-week professional development experience. The Fellows are a very diverse group and represent some of the brightest young leaders in the 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Joanna Doorghen, who will be working with Environmental Services, is a female officer at the male-dominated Ministry of Environment. Joanna serves as a voice for change in her organization, advocating for more communication with locals when pushing environmental initiatives. When she managed a UNDP-funded project on biodiversity in coastal areas, she led focus groups with local fishermen, listening to their concerns about their livelihood and coming up with reasonable solutions. Advancing environmental protection, especially regarding the ocean, is a major priority for Embassy Mauritius and Joanna is well-positioned within the Ministry to move the organization forward.

Jocelyne Salama, who will be working with Human Services Planning and Development, is a dedicated activist for the rights of girls and women. In the face of considerable hardship, she has formed an organization and reached out to judges and community workers to bring meaningful child protection to eastern Congo. Her goals are both important and realistic, seeking to provide a home for girls who have suffered sexual abuse, where they can receive support and therapy.

“As soon as I heard about these extraordinary women and men coming to the U.S., I wanted to participate right away,” said County Commissioner Debbie Lieberman, who helped bring the Mandela Fellows to Montgomery County.  “Ms. Doorghen and Ms. Salama are extremely professional and knowledgeable in their fields and we will be learning as much from them as they will from us.”

The Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. government and supported in its implementation by IREX, an international non-governmental organization with more than 45 years’ experience delivering exceptional education and training programs. To learn more about the Washington Fellowship, please visit