Meet the Speakers

View Speaker List
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents
    Amelie Fabian Photo

    Amélie Fabien

    Executive, Development Impact (Investments), British International Investment

    Amelie Fabian is a development impact professional at British International Investment (BII), the UK’s development finance institution. She works primarily on BII’s investments in the technology, telecoms, and industrials sectors with a strategic focus on driving inclusion of low-income individuals and marginalised communities.

    Amelie is passionate about youth education and international development and the role that various stakeholder groups such as the private sector, NGOs, and governments can play to facilitate this. She began her journey with WUSC as part of the 2014 Student Refugee Program cohort. She continued her involvement by volunteering with WUSC on campus and has also represented WUSC at several events including the UN General Assembly in 2018 and on the Refugee Education Council advancing Canada’s #Togetherforlearning campaign. Amelie currently serves on the WUSC Board of Directors as a member at large.

    Amelie holds a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University (2018); a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from SciencesPo Paris École d'Affaires Publiques (2020); and a Master of Global Affairs from the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto (2021).


    Anita Vandenbeld, M.P.

    Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

    Anita Vandenbeld was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Ottawa West—Nepean in 2015. Ms. Vandenbeld is an international expert on democracy and human rights. She has worked in over 20 countries on inclusive governance and women’s leadership, including with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Democratic Governance Group in New York. There, she managed a multi-partner international network that aimed to promote women's political participation. Ms. Vandenbeld was also a senior advisor with the UNDP in Bangladesh, and with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Kosovo. In 2008, she was awarded the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal in recognition of her work in Kosovo.

    In addition, Ms. Vandenbeld served as resident director for the National Democratic Institute in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, worked with OSCE in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and worked with the Canadian Parliamentary Centre on post-conflict democratic development in the Balkans. She also conducted a study on women’s leadership for UNDP in Vietnam and trainings on women’s leadership in Haiti. Born and raised in Alberta, Ms. Vandenbeld obtained her undergraduate degree at the University of Calgary before completing a Master of Arts in History at York University.

    Ariane Ryan Photo

    Ariane Ryan

    Director, Program Design and Social Finance, WUSC

    Ariane currently serves as the director of program design and social finance at WUSC. She has designed, launched and managed innovative pilots as well as large-scale programs funded by foundations and institutional donors in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. She has also been leading the development of WUSC’s social finance portfolio, shepherding research, partnerships, investments and business development. She is a strong advocate for the application of a gender lens throughout WUSC’s program and investment portfolio. Ariane has degrees from McGill University and the University of Ottawa.


    Audrey S Darko Photo

    Audrey S. Darko

    Lead, Sabon Sake

    Audrey S.Darko, is a climate tech entrepreneur, passionate about food security and rural community development. She leads Sabon Sake, an organization at the nexus of regenerative agriculture (restoring soil health and degraded ecosystems) and carbon finance (unlocking non financial/financial resources for farming communities). She is committed to developing and deploying nature and tech-based solutions that restore soil health and biodiversity, improve economic wellbeing and accelerates the transition towards climate resilient farming and food systems for farming communities via Sabon Terra(a locally manufactured regenerative soil solution) and DweeTerra (Regenerative sourcing and financing tool). Her team partners with climate committed organizations to build and scale collective climate impact through high quality project implementation and strategy.

    Shika Hurrydass

    Chooshma Devi Shika Hurrydass Coley (Shika)

    Artist & Communication and Marketing Advisor, Tumaini Letu Malawi

    Shika is a dynamic young adult driven by a genuine desire to make positive change. Shika has cultivated a rich educational background with a degree in Interactive Media Design from Edinburgh Napier University and a master’s in education (Comparative Education and International Development) from the University of Edinburgh. Her professional journey includes pivotal roles at esteemed institutions such as the Scottish Parliament, SSERC (Scottish Schools Education Research Centre), Edinburgh College, and Edinburgh Napier University, where she taught and developed educational materials. For the past two years, she has volunteered in Malawi, collaborating with organisations such as WUSC (World University Service of Canada), Timveni Media and Tumaini Letu, where she leads media initiatives. Beyond her academic and professional pursuits, Shika a versatile artist, proficient in various medium, including illustrations, digital art, watercolours, acrylic and interactive installations.

    Shika's commitment to excellence has earned her several accolades, including the OSMA (Old Spaldonian and Moltonian Award) 2010 for community service. In 2016, she was honoured with the Most Inspiring Student Award at Edinburgh Napier University and was shortlisted for two other awards. In 2018, the University of Edinburgh recognised her with the prestigious Edinburgh Award for her contributions to the university community. Her leadership, community service, and dedication have consistently garnered recognition. Outside her professional endeavours, Shika finds fulfilment in volunteering, mentoring students and advocating for diversity and inclusion within the community. An enthusiastic volleyball player, she often organises tournaments to support various causes.

    Shika’s voracious appetite for knowledge is evident in her love for reading, with an impressive tally of 52 books completed in January alone. Her passion for women’s empowerment fuels her inspiring talks in schools and her initiative, the Interactive Art Expo, which showcases women’s art to support empowering events and causes. Shika remains dedicated to her mission, to effect positive and equitable change.

    Emanuel Lukawiecki Photo

    Emanuel Lukawiecki

    Fairtrade Canada Youth Ambassador

    Emanuel has been involved in the fair trade movement since 2017. First as a student traveling to Costa Rica to support local coffee producers. Then, as the leader of his high school environmental club, where he led the charge to make his school the first fair trade school in Ottawa. Since then, he has been elected the youngest member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Fair Trade Network and has been invited to represent fair trade as a national ambassador. Currently, he defends fair trade mainly at the University of Ottawa, where he is a Master’s student in Public Administration.

    Innocent Kachingwe Photo2

    Innocent Kachingwe

    Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Advisor, WUSC, Sri Lanka

    Innocent is a Social Development professional from Malawi with a vast interest in mainstreaming efforts at the community level. Innocent has six years of experience working in Social Inclusion spaces and is particularly interested in women's empowerment, feminism, and the promotion of gender equality. He is a diversity and inclusion advisor with WUSC Sri Lanka, pursuing his Master’s in Gender and Development.

    Janani Loum Photo

    Janani Loum

    Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Advisor, WUSC, Kenya

    Janani Loum is a dedicated professional from Uganda with over a decade of experience in inclusive development and empowerment. Starting as a volunteer, he quickly advanced to Program Coordinator for Community Engagement, Education, and Development (CEED) from 2008 to 2010, showcasing his ability to connect with communities and design impactful programs. Janani's career includes positions at organizations such as SOS Children's Villages and Global ReGenesis, where he addressed community challenges in Uganda with strategic innovation and a commitment to positive change. He also contributed to resource mobilization for programs supporting refugee girls in the United States at Girlforward in Chicago. In 2018, Janani founded Child Equal Opportunity Uganda, emphasizing his dedication to equitable access to education and healthcare for children. His academic background includes a bachelor's degree in public administration, a Postgraduate Diploma in Project Planning and Management, a Certificate in Gender and Women's Issues, and a master's degree in Governance and Ethics. Throughout his career, Janani has demonstrated a profound belief in the transformative power of education and community engagement, solidifying his reputation as a dynamic change-maker.

    Jean Louis Amani Photo2

    Jean Louis Amani


    An agri-food engineer who graduated from Nangui Abrogoua University in Côte d'Ivoire, Jean Louis AMANI is a dedicated and experienced professional specializing in agri-food and sustainable development. With expertise in management, food biotechnology and agronomy, he has rich years of experience in agricultural production, fertilizers and bio-pesticides formulation, waste recycling, and landscaping.

    Since August 2021, Jean Louis AMANI has been a manager at AJLUS, a company specialising in the recovery of waste into organic fertilizer, rice production and ecological gardening. With the mission of providing a healthy diet, thus realizing its vision of a better world and ensuring the future of upcoming generations, AJLUS currently employs 12 employees. The company’s commitment is based on quality, ecology and food well-being, thus contributing to a sustainable and healthy future.

    Jennifer Slawich Photo

    Jennifer Slawich

    Director, Policy & Stakeholder Engagement, Right To Play International

    Jennifer Slawich leads Right To Play’s global policy influence activities, cultivates strategic relationships, and builds alliances to collectively advance Right To Play’s vision and mission to accelerate development outcomes using the power of play.

    Jennifer also holds the role of Co-Chair of the Canadian International Education Policy Working Group. She has had the honour of serving CIEPWG as Co-Chair since 2017. Having worked in the sector for nearly fifteen years, she has vast experience presenting evidence-based recommendations to inform the policies of donors and multilateral funding mechanisms in support of children’s rights to be protected, educated, and empowered. Most notably, Jennifer co-led a coalition of Canadian and global education partners in the lead up to the 2018 G7 Leaders’ Summit in Charlevoix, which resulted in a high-level political declaration in support of girls’ education in crisis, backed by a CAD$3.8 billion funding commitment from G7 partners and other donors.

    She is a proud feminist and Mama.

    Kate Higgins

    Kate Higgins

    CEO, Cooperation Canada

    Kate Higgins is Chief Executive Officer of Cooperation Canada, a network of more than 100 Canadian international cooperation and humanitarian organizations that work with partners in Canada and globally for a fairer, safer, and more sustainable world.

    Before joining Cooperation Canada, Kate worked as the Deputy Executive Director of Oxfam Canada, in addition to serving as Interim Executive Director in 2020. Kate has also worked in senior strategy and policy roles at CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations, and at the North-South Institute and the Overseas Development Institute.

    Kate started her career at the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). She has degrees in economics and development studies from the University of Sydney and the University of Oxford.

    Katelynne Herchak Photo

    Katelynne Herchak

    Head of Decolonial Policy, Strategy, VIDEA

    Katelynne Herchak (she/her), Kate is of mixed ancestry, she is Inuk from Kuujjuaq QC with ties to Kangiqtiniq NU and Irish. Kate is VIDEA’s Head of Decolonial Policy, Strategy & Kinship. Kate’s background is in Indigenous Family Support Work and Justice Studies from Royal Roads University where she was awarded the Lt. Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy & Reconciliation. Kate has completed her Masters of Geography at the University of Victoria that was a SSHRC funded project centring Maasai Youth in Tanzania on their role within their community and livelihoods. In her spare time she is the Co-Host & Creator of the podcast Spilling Labrador Tea Under Cedar Trees, Kate is passionate about decolonizing education and integrating Indigenous knowledge systems and perspectives into spaces to create meaningful relationships and change.

    Katherine Robitaille Photo

    Katherine Robitaille

    PhD Student, Laval University

    Katherine Robitaille (she/her) is a PhD student in management at Laval University. From a posture critical of the coloniality of management, her PhD focuses on the paradoxes between (eco)feminist climate justice and the organization of international cooperation projects. In addition to her thesis, she has taken on several professional roles, including project manager and research and teaching assistant. Her academic, professional and social involvements have nurtured an insatiable curiosity for collective and alternative social mobilization actions, carried out in a spirit of reciprocity, justice and plurality, in the context of solidarity in Quebec, Canada and internationally.


    Maiwand Rahyab

    Founder & CEO, Resilient Societies
    A civil society leader based in Canada

    Maiwand Rahyab is the founder and CEO of Resilient Societies, a new platform for empowering at-risk democracy and civil society activists from closed civic spaces. Maiwand brings decades of experience and expertise in civil society and development practices. Prior to moving to Canada, Maiwand served as the Resident Country Director for National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Kyrgyzstan, where he led a team of local and international experts implementing programs on electoral integrity, political development, women empowerment, and youth civic engagement. Before that, he served as a member of the Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, the highest constitutionally mandated public administration and governance reform body in the former government of Afghanistan. He also served as the inaugarant Executive Director of the Afghanistan Civil Society Institute, one of the country’s most prominent umbrella organizations, and led Counterpart International’s Afghanistan Programs, supporting and collaborating with over 300 civil society and media organizations.

    Maiwand was a Fulbright Scholar at the Middlebury College where he received a Master of Public Administration and a Democracy and Rule of Law Chevening Fellow at the University of Birmingham, UK, where his research focused on human rights protections in Afghanistan. He is an Asia Society Fellow and has spoken at the UN General Assembly on Education in Emergencies, and other global institutions including the Asia Society, Kings College London, the US Institute of Peace, and the Wilson Center.

    Nina Lantiga Photo

    Nina Lantiga

    Canadian Delegate and Policy Lead, Sustainability, Energy and Climate Action Taskforce

    Nina Lantinga is an award winning entrepreneur, Canadian Delegate at the G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance, and CEO and co-founder of Nets for Net Zero. She is a systems thinker, developing inclusive and collaborative business models that meet the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. As a G20 YEA Canadian delegate and policy lead for the Climate, Energy and Sustainability taskforce, she drives national and global policy, while strengthening Canada's impact on international trade relations and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

    Olga Photo2

    Olga Phionah

    Student, University of Windsor

    Phionah Olga Niyitegeka is a third-year student double majoring in Forensics and Criminology and serving as the President of the WUSC Local Committee at the University of Windsor. With a passion for global change and a strong faith, she brings a versatile background in cross-cultural collaboration and effective problem-solving. From managing bakery operations to supporting individuals with disabilities, her career reflects proficiency in communication, leadership, and project management. Committed to addressing social issues, Olga has conducted research and facilitated international seminars on topics like green resilience and gender equity. Her dedication is underscored by the title of "Student and President, WUSC Windsor Club," and I am enthusiastic about making a positive impact in the World.

    Pranay Samson Photo

    Pranay Samson

    Criterion Institute

    Pranay Samson is passionate about utilizing finance to enable social change. With over 15 years of experience working at the intersection of development and finance, he currently leads the Innovative Finance work at Plan International Canada and its new social enterprise, PlanCatalyst. He also works on intersectional gender-lens investing strategies with the Criterion Institute. Samson previously led the Corporate Finance team at the Impact Investment Exchange (IIX) in Singapore, a pioneer in gender lens investment through exchange tradeable impact investment instruments. Pranay began his career at HSBC in commercial banking but later transitioned to working at the Development Alternatives Group in India, incubating and scaling social enterprise models to reverse migration patterns. He holds a postgraduate diploma from the Management Development Institute in Gurgaon and a bachelor's of Architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi.

    Sarah Semakula Photo

    Sarah Semakula

    Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Advisor, WUSC, Kenya

    Sarah Namanda Kamya Semakula is a social development advocate and a social worker from Uganda. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Social Sciences, a Master's degree in Social Management from Makerere University, and a Master's in International Development and Gender Studies at Rokslide University. She has vast experience in social development, humanitarian response, gender, and development research from multiple exposures in Africa (East, South, West, and the Horn), the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. Over time, she has worked vastly with women-specific related programs in development and humanitarian response, youth programming and development, value chain, program management, fundraising, youth partnership, and strategic development, respectively. Sarah has worked with various international organizations, including Plan International, Actionaid GB, ActionAid Denmark, Progression, AusAid, ChristianAid, VSO, and WUSC. Over the years, international and national organizations have vastly contributed to her career path and built her into a residential person.

    Shania Scotland Photo2

    Shania Scotland

    Climate Smart Agriculture Officer, WUSC

    Shania Scotland is driven to address climate change impacts through data-driven solutions and this stems from her deep-rooted commitment to environmental sustainability. With a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies with a focus on Geography & Environmental Management from the University of Waterloo, her journey has been marked by a relentless pursuit of leveraging data for positive change.

    Her professional repertoire includes roles such as Climate-Smart Agriculture Officer, Geospatial Technology Consultant, and Agroclimate Analyst, showcasing her expertise in utilizing data to tackle climate challenges. Beyond her professional endeavors, Shania's vibrant personality, including her tenacity, innovation, and collaborative spirit, have been instrumental in her volunteer work and consultancies for climate change adaptation.

    Shania's volunteer experiences as an Environment Ambassador, peer mentor, and active participant in community service initiatives display her dedication to environmental causes. Her consultancies and research projects underline her commitment to building resilient communities and shaping effective disaster management strategies.

    Driven by a genuine passion for the environment and innovative, data-centric solutions, Shania is unwavering in her mission to make a meaningful impact in climate action and environmental sustainability.

    Sharon Nyangweso resized

    Sharon Nyangweso

    Founder & CEO, QuakeLab

    The Founder and CEO of QuakeLab, a full-stack equity and justice agency, Sharon Nyangweso specializes in a radical new approach to diversity and inclusion that is measurable, strategic, and based on a strong foundation of design thinking. A leader in empathetic community engagement and moving inclusivity from aspiration to action, Sharon is a regular contributor and panelist on CBC radio and television,, Live 88.5, and CTV. An immigrant from Kenya who has lived and worked in Canada for nine years, Sharon has worked across sectors with organizations in 11 countries.

    Stellah Nikuze Photo

    Stellah Nikuze

    Student, Wilfrid Laurier University

    Stellah is a 25-year-old female refugee from Uganda. She is currently a student at Diversity Miner at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work. She is also a co-founder of the Hodari Foundation, a refugee-led organization in Uganda based in Kyaka II refugee resettlement. Hodari Foundation works with refugee families on livelihoods so that they can earn a living to sustain their families. The organization also works to provide access to education to refugee children, most of whom are girls and youth, as well as working with people with disabilities in the refugee settlement and host community. In the mid 90’s Stellah’s parents fled Rwanda during the genocide. She was born in the refugee settlement; which is the only home she knows. Being born in the refugee camp, Stellah has seen first-hand the challenges refugees face including lack of access to public services such as education, health, and others such as poverty because of unemployment and restrictions to free movement. These issues affect girls more than other groups. She considers herself fortunate to have had the opportunity to access primary, secondary, and now university education. Stellah is committed to addressing these issues affecting mostly girls and women in her community.

    Thi Dao headshot

    Thi Dao

    Director, Strategic Partnerships, Future of Good

    Thi Dao is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Future of Good, a Canadian digital publication and learning media organization that covers social impact for a smarter social purpose world. With over a decade creating impact with large brands, her passion is to help organizations use storytelling to amplify impact and to provide communities the space and voices to tell theirs. Her vision for the social sector is to redefine how we collaborate by creating meaningful partnerships that run deep.

    Thomas Orr Photo

    Thomas Orr

    Senior Manager, Programs, Partnerships, and Results, Aga Khan Foundation Canada

    Thomas (‘Tom’) Orr leads a team at Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) Canada responsible for program management, impact measurement, and business development for North American-funded programs. His experience in international development spans 13 countries across three continents. Prior to his current role, he worked for AKF in Tajikistan, starting as a Youth Fellow and eventually leading AKF’s Tajikistan Partnerships Department. He has also worked in the Evaluation Division of Global Affairs Canada (GAC). Tom has overseen all phases of international development programming, including for education programs, from design, to start-up, to closure. He is passionate about translating evidence and insights from diverse stakeholders into action to improve results.


    Thomas Sithole

    Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Advisor, WUSC, Ghana

    Thomas Sithole is an International Development practitioner, Youth Development expert, and Gender Equality and Social Inclusion specialist from Zimbabwe. He is also an International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) Community Solutions Program alumnus. Through his expertise, Sithole has supported and worked as a Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) collaborative partner and is currently a specialist mentor with the Community Engagement Exchange program. This USA government-sponsored initiative engages and empowers youth around the world.
    Sithole has impacted thousands of youths and marginalized communities in Zimbabwe and other countries on the continent through transformational and innovative media initiatives anchored on Media and Information Literacy principles in an open and civically engaged society. He has leveraged media and storytelling to advocate transformational and positive masculinities.

    Sithole has worked as a Gender Equality and Social Inclusion specialist and Advisor with Crossroads International, Centre for Media Literacy and Community Development (CEMCOD), and FIDA Uganda. He has successfully coached and mentored youth on positive social change and inclusion in growing democracies in many parts of Africa, including Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, and Cameroon.

    Sithole works as a Gender equality and social inclusion advisor with WUSC in Accra, Ghana.

    Valery Bishala Photo

    Valery Bishala Kulondwa

    Refugee Education Council Member

    Valery Bishala Kulondwa (He, Him) is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is a refugee youth ambassador, gender equality activist and member of the Refugee Education Council. A WUSC / SRP fellow, chairperson and founder of the LuQuLuQu Kampala Youth Club, a male survivor, a tech lover and passionate about social actions. Valery is currently enrolled in the Social Sciences program at Cégep de Sherbrooke.

    Vince Morgan Photo

    Vince Morgan

    Young Farmer

    Vince Morgan's journey into agriculture began in his early twenties with a deeply rooted ambition to establish a highly productive farm within a limited land space. Motivated by a visit to the Chinese Facility at One Mile in Portsmouth, Dominica and during his time at the Dominica State College (DSC), where he was introduced to hydroponics, Vince embarked on a self-education journey through extensive research, online courses, and practical investments.

    Despite encountering setbacks, including the impact of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Vince's unwavering dedication led to the gradual realization of his vision. By 2020, with support from the government of Dominica, personal investments, and assistance from peers, he successfully cultivated a greenhouse at 100% capacity, yielding 575 watermelon plants and 2052 heads of lettuce.

    Through continuous learning and persistent improvement, Vince acknowledges that while challenges were plentiful, his commitment to his craft ultimately led to the achievement of his goals. He remains focused on further growth and development, recognizing that his journey is one of ongoing learning and evolution.

    Vongaishe Changamire Headshot

    Vongaishe Changamire

    Education Technical Specialist, World Vision

    Vongaishe is an education, gender, and child protection expert with over 12 years of experience in supporting education programs. In her current role at WVC as the Education Technical Specialist, she provides crucial technical advice and direction for education programming in both development and humanitarian contexts. Her work is primarily focused on increasing access to education and improving functional literacy and life skills for children and youth from marginalized and conflict-affected low-income communities, particularly in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

    She demonstrates a strong commitment to social justice, international development, education financing, education in emergencies, adolescent and youth programming, gender equality, and child protection within education and systems strengthening. Her expertise extends to nexus programming, policy advocacy, private sector engagement, research, and evaluation.

    Vongaishe holds a Master's in International Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is currently a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Candidate in Social Justice Education at OISE, University of Toronto. Her research focuses on the intersection of gender and the development of gender-responsive education and financing policy frameworks.

    Wanjiru Kinyanjui Photo

    Wanjiru Kinyanjui

    Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Advisor, WUSC, Kenya

    Wanjiru Kinyanjui is a GESI Advisor from Canada, currently based in Kenya. She is a Political Science and Labour law graduate and is passionate about Human Rights.

    Teddy Samy Photo

    Yiagadeesen (Teddy) Samy

    NPSIA Director and Professor of International Affairs

    Yiagadeesen (Teddy) Samy is a Professor of international affairs and currently the Director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) at Carleton University. Professor Samy holds a PhD in economics, and his research interests intersect the broad areas of international and development economics. His current research focuses on domestic resource mobilization, fragile states, foreign aid, and trade and women’s empowerment. His work has been published in journals such as Conflict, Security and Development, the Canadian Journal of Development Studies, Third World Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution and Applied Economics. His most recent co-authored book, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2023, is “Trade and Women’s Economic Empowerment: Evidence from Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises”.