Kwaku Akowuah, Chair

Kwaku Akowuah is a partner in Sidley’s Supreme Court and Appellate group. In recognition of Kwaku’s litigation success, he was recently named a “D.C. Rising Star” by the National Law Journal 2015. In addition, Kwaku was recently recognized in the Washington Business Journal‘s 40 Under 40, a list of 40 professionals, under the age of 40, who have “scaled the ranks” in the Washington area. Kwaku maintains an active pro bono practice. He recently argued a Fourth Circuit appeal concerning fast-track immigration removal orders and is handling a habeas challenge to immigration detention in Maryland Federal District Court. For these efforts, he was named to the inaugural pro bono honor roll of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition. Prior to joining Sidley, Kwaku served as a law clerk to Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court. From 2009 to 2012, Kwaku was an Attorney-Adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice. In that role, he provided legal advice to departments and agencies of the executive branch on a variety of matters, including questions relating to the constitutional separation of powers, the interpretation of federal statutes, and international law principles. Prior to his time at the Justice Department, Kwaku was an associate in the appellate litigation practice of a global law firm in New York, where he also gained trial court experience representing clients in commercial, products-liability and securities cases. Kwaku began his legal career by clerking for the Honorable Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the Honorable Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Kwaku earned his law degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School. He received his A.B. from Princeton University where he studied public policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Between college and law school, Kwaku studied at Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, on a fellowship grant from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Ambassador Jeanine Jackson, Vice Chair

Jeanine Jackson is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer and a retired Colonel of the U.S. Army Reserve. She was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to Malawi in 2011 where she led a $250 million development, governance and security assistance program.   As U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso from 2006-2009, she improved military cooperation and increased infrastructure and development assistance.  She is most proud of the $13 million Millennium Challenge Corporation program to improve educational outcomes, particularly for girls, by building 132 elementary schools and implementing complimentary interventions.  Ambassador Jackson has been a key player in activities related to creating, adapting, rebuilding and reopening U.S. Embassies.

Prior to entering the Foreign Service, Ambassador Jackson worked in Saigon as a civil service employee in the Office of the U.S. Defense Attaché and then served 10 years as an active duty Army officer, primarily in Germany and Korea.  She continued her military service for an additional 20 years as a reservist while pursuing her Foreign Service career.

Since 2015 Ambassador Jackson has worked part-time for the U.S. Army’s Mission Command Training Program, training and mentoring thousands of  military leaders on the importance of working with the U.S. Government Interagency and International Organizations during both peace and war situations.

Ambassador Jackson earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Education from Hastings College, Nebraska followed by a Master’s Degree in Business Administration.  She is an accomplished musician.  She met her husband Mark when they were both Army Lieutenants serving in Germany.  He is a retired colonel of the U.S. Army Reserve and is also a retired member of the Senior Foreign Service. Enamored of Africa’s cultures, they have independently traveled more than 30,000 miles overland on the African continent.  She is the recipient of many Superior Honor Awards, Senior Foreign Service Performance Pay commendations, and the Presidential Rank Award.

Zokeseh Labala, Treasurer

Zokeseh Labala is a Senior Business Analyst at WestEd. A finance and accounting professional with over ten years of experience, Zokeseh currently works as an internal consultant analyzing current finance processes and implementing business process improvement initiatives. Prior to his role at WestEd, Zokeseh served in a corporate finance capacity at non-profit American Institutes for Research and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

Passionate about helping under-resourced Washingtonians reach their college-ready and professional goals, Zokeseh has served as an academic mentor for DC middle and high-school students for the last seven years through the College Bound program. Zokeseh received a Master of Science in Finance (MSF) from Loyola University Maryland and will complete his Master of Science in Accountancy (MACCY) from the George Washington University in the fall of 2018.

Marcella Distrutti, Secretary 

Marcella joined the joined the Social Protection and Health Division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in 2014, first as part of the Young Professionals Program, in the Bank’s Dominican Republic Country Office, and later as Health Specialist.

Before joining the IDB, Marcella worked in the Women’s Health Division of the Brazilian Ministry of Health, where she was involved in developing and supporting the implementation of policies related to sexual and reproductive health. Marcella also worked as a consultant for the World Bank and the Clinton Foundation. Her work expanded to states and municipalities across Brazil and in countries such as Guinea Bissau and Rwanda.

Marcella’s current operational and analytical work focuses on topics related to health system strengthening and health financing, as well as sexual and reproductive health and, more recently, malaria. She has an MSc in Health Policy, Planning, and Financing from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the London School of Economics and Political Science and a MA in International Development and Economics from Johns Hopkins (SAIS).

Marcella is interested in joining AGE Africa, as part of the Board, because she identifies with the vision. One of its main goals is girls’ empowerment, which is something Marcella has also been striving for in her career, through the health sector. In Marcella’s own words, “empowering women and girls, increasing their human capital, and preparing them for the future, contributing to ensure that they can reach their full potential, is a vision that resonates deeply with me in my own work. I would like the opportunity to continue working towards this goal, through the education sector.”

Over the years, Marcella has supported the work of different organizations, mostly in the health sector, but is interested in service and contribute more directly to an organization’s mission. “Joining AGE Africa’s Board would be an opportunity for me to realize this intention and to give back. Given my professional background in government and multilateral organizations, and my experience with project design and implementation, I believe I would be able to contribute and add value to your work, including setting the strategic agenda and providing oversight to operations. I believe I would be able to bring a different perspective to discussions and support the group’s work across its projects. Please consider my candidacy”.

H.E. Ambassador Edward Yakobe Sawerengera

Ambassador Sawerengera has just completed a successful tour of duty as Ambassador of Malawi to the Federative Republic of Brazil, during which he facilitated and signed, on behalf of his Government, the Investment Cooperation and Facilitation Agreement between Brazil and Malawi. Prior to this, Ambassador Sawerengera worked as Director General for State Residences (Chief of Staff). While at State House, Ambassador Sawerengera established favorable and constructive working relationships with various sections of the Presidency, including State House, the President´s Advisory Team, and the Office of the President and Cabinet.

Ambassador Edward Yakobe Sawerengera has had a remarkable and distinguished career in public and private sector management in Malawi. For 20 years, Ambassador Sawerengera worked at the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), a state marketing agency, where he rose through the ranks to the position of Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Head of Operations. He worked tirelessly to ensure efficient and reliable markets for smallholder farmer outputs, and provision of adequate farm inputs at all ADMARC depots.

In the past 15 years, Ambassador Sawerengera has held several executive leadership positions including; Deputy Chief Executive Officer of David Whitehead & Sons (DWS), a textile Company; Chief Executive Officer of the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA), a strategic grain reserve for the state; and Executive Director of Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF), a government project designed to finance self-help community projects and transfer cash through safety net activities.

Ambassador Sawerengera holds a Diploma in Agriculture from Bunda College of Agriculture of the University of Malawi (1975), a Post-Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Marketing and Supply from Loughborough Cooperative College-UK (1986), and an MBA in Strategic Management from Strathclyde Graduate Business School-UK (1997). He is a strategic thinker with excellent negotiation skills, and the ability to build partnerships and networks with relevant stakeholders. Throughout his career, Ambassador Sawerengera has achieved productivity improvement and turned non-performing operations around.

His Excellency Edward Y. Sawerengera presented his letters of credence to the United States on 16 September, 2016. He is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Malawi to the United States on a residential basis. He is also accredited on a nonresidential basis to the Bahamans, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Ambassador Sawerengera is happily married.

Aubryn Allyn Sidle

Aubryn is a Doctoral student and Cornell Fellow at Cornell University where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Development Sociology. Aubryn has a technical background in life skills and girls’ education program design with a particular focus on secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa. As a researcher she is focused on understanding the impact of soft-skills and gender rights programming on marginalized and rural girls’ educational and health outcomes. As a practitioner, she works to amplify the voices of small, local and locally focused NGOs in the global policy conversation on girls’ education.

From 2010-2016 Aubryn served as the Executive Director of AGE Africa, where she built an innovative and scalable program model for girls’ retention and achievement in secondary school in Malawi. Under her leadership AGE Africa’s programs and resources expanded at an average of 30% per annum, and the AGE Africa’s signature after school program CHATS, achieved global recognition as a promising practice in girls’ secondary education by the Clinton Global Initiative, the United Nation’s Girls’ Education Initiative and others.

Aubryn has served in an advisory capacity on issues of governance, program design, and fundraising to several startup NGOs and US-based nonprofits, including the Tiba Foundation and the Grace Youth Center, in Tenants Harbor Maine. She has served on the boards of Peachtown School in Aurora, NY, and the program committee of the RYSE Youth Center in Richmond, California. Most recently, she served on the Steering Committee of the Coalition for Adolescent Girls in Washington, D.C. She earned her Master of Science in Development Management at the London School of Economics where she focused her research on organizational design and the barriers to participatory programming for youth service delivery NGOs.  Aubryn obtained her Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University in Anthropology and Africana Studies, magna cum laude.

Clara Brillembourg

Clara is a Partner at Foley Hoag and specializes in advising sovereign States in international disputes with other States, foreign investors and U.S. plaintiffs.

Clara has successfully represented sovereign States before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in disputes involving territorial rights, human rights and environmental harm. She has appeared before the Court in more than seven cases in the last eight years. She also has substantial experience counseling States in boundary disputes before the ICJ, UNCLOS Annex VII arbitral tribunals, and the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

In addition, Clara has extensive experience representing sovereigns in investment arbitrations before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and other prominent arbitral fora. She currently represents Uruguay in an ICSID arbitration brought by Philip Morris challenging the State’s tobacco control regulations.

Margaret Mwanza Gadabu

Margaret Mwanza Gadabu is currently the Head of Chancery at the Malawi Embassy in Washington DC. She has over 9 years of experience in diplomacy and international relations. She works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Republic of Malawi. Her areas of interest include understanding Foreign Policy and its implications on social-economic development, as well as harnessing trade opportunities for development. She is passionate about supporting the girl child to develop to her fullest potential and believes in equity and equality for everyone. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities from the University of Malawi, and a Master of International Relations from the University of Melbourne.

Darren Smith

Darren Smith is a Portfolio Manager at 337 Frontier Capital. He is a finance professional with over 15 years of experience, namely in emerging markets in Africa. A native of Canada, Darren received his Bachelors in finance from Bishop’s University in Quebec.

Dr. Jeni Gamble

Dr. Jeni Gamble has spent more than 20 years working to improve policies, systems, and services for the most marginalized and vulnerable throughout the U.S. and globally, including survivors of gender-based violence, marginalized children and youth, and those experiencing homelessness. Gamble currently serves as Field Education Director and a Clinical Assistant Professor for the School of Social Work at West Virginia University. She holds a BA from the University of Kentucky, and MSSW and PhD degrees from the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville.

Jeni is an active member of the North Central Region Field Directors Consortium. Gamble serves as board secretary for Finn Church Aid Americas, Finland’s largest humanitarian aid and development organization, and board vice-president for WV FREE,  the state’s leading advocacy and education organization focusing on reproductive health, rights and justice. Gamble was also selected as the West Virginia Ambassador for the United State of Women (2019-2021), a national grassroots network creating intersectional gender equity through collective power and community building.

A Kentucky native, Gamble’s early nonprofit work focused on eliminating gender-based violence and improving criminal justice and victim service programs. After moving to Washington, DC, she focused on global and girls’ education policy, practice, and research, and served as the Associate Director of the Center for Universal Education (CUE) at the Brookings Institution. During this time, she accelerated the policy priorities of one of Brookings’ fastest growing research centers, co-chaired the Girls CHARGE collaborative of more than 60 global organizations, and contributed to various public sector safety and education plans, including the United States Global Strategy To Empower Adolescent Girls. She has held leadership positions with both national and local organizations, such as the National Alliance to End Homelessness (DC) and the Center for Women and Families (KY), and often consults to organizations around social entrepreneurship, innovation, and strategic planning and growth. Gamble lives in Morgantown, WV and is an avid runner, crafter, sewist, and craft beer enthusiast.

Emeritus Board of Directors

  • Xanthe Scharff, Founder (2005 – 2015)*
  • Bill Bailey (2009 – 2011)
  • Christine Beggs (2010 – 2015)
  • Johan DeBrujin (2011-2017)
  • Valerie Gilpin (2009 – 2015)
  • Steven Koltai (2013 – 2015)
  • Sebastiaan Kwakkenbos (2017 – 2020)
  • Ambassador Stephen D. Matenje (2013 – 2015)
  • Ambassador Necton D. Mhuru (2015-2016)
  • Jane Nankwenya (2013 – 2017)
  • Roland Pearson (2012 – 2019)
  • Kathleen Kimiko Phillips-Lohrmann (2008-2017)
  • Curt Reintsma (2012 – 2019)
  • Rinn Self (2006 – 2010)*
  • Roger Sullivan (2009 – 2011)
  • Sarah Sullivan (2012-2018)
  • Jessica Turco (2006 – 2009)*
  • Astri Van Dyke (2015 – 2021)

* Indicates Founding Board Member