Vickie Remoe Institute of Digital Communications

Meet Naasu Genevieve Fofanah: Sierra Leone’s First Woman Yale World Fellow 

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1822

Yale University’s Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellows Program has named its 2023 class of World Fellows. These 16 extraordinary individuals consist of global leaders working in the environment, government, technology, conflict resolution, international development, and business, around the world.

The cohort, which received over 3000 applications and was deemed the most competitive in the history of the fellowship, included a Sierra Leonean woman who became the second ever from Sierra Leone to achieve such recognition and the first woman to do so – after Abdul Tejan-Cole Esq.

Naasu Genevieve Fofanah, who is extremely excited, said that she was not surprised because she believes in Oprah Winfrey’s definition of “luck” as the intersection of preparation and opportunity. She proudly told SwitSalone that she believes in this definition because all accomplishments are the product of hard work.

Fofanah, who among many other titles is an entrepreneur and author with extensive gender and global public policy experience, described her latest achievement as “a very big opportunity not just for Sierra Leone.”  She is award-winning women and girls’ rights activist, who has championed controversial issues globally.

As an entrepreneur, she has her footprints in several senior positions in both public and private spaces. Her Susue’s Women’s Financing which was launched during the Covid-19 pandemic influenced government policy on women’s business and access to finance, as it partnered with Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and formed the Women’s Bank Initiative to offer low-interest loans to female entrepreneurs. In 2022, she was elected Co-chair of The Bank of Sierra Leone Financial Literacy Working Group.

As a public policy strategist, she served as Sierra Leone’s first Special Gender Adviser to ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma, where she made Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (GEWE) a priority in the National Strategy Document-Agenda for Prosperity (2013 -2018). GEWE was later expanded into a separate Policy and recently became landmark legislation (GEWE Act 2022).

Fofanah became the first Sierra Leonean to represent West Africa at UNECA’s Women and Development Bureau. She also served as Vice Chairperson and technical advisor on the Common African Position Post-2015 Development Agenda. 

Fofanah holds an EMPA from NYU/UCL (Pentland Scholar 2018), an MA from the Institute of Education-UCL, and a BSc (Hons) from Westminster.

She revealed that she is motivated by an innate force that she inherited from her grandmother, a force that made her believe that anything is achievable.

She acknowledges that her true inner self is still a mystery to others. She stated, “I am the only one who truly knows myself. I say this because I keep discovering new things about myself.” Despite her widely recognized public persona as an outgoing and open-minded individual, Fofanah describes herself as a reserved and spiritual person and believes that her public image has concealed her true essence, which she refers to as her “core” self.

Being the first Sierra Leonean woman to attain the Yale World Fellow height, her goal is to establish a platform that will enable more Sierra Leoneans to achieve the same feat. She urged individuals who aspire to reach such heights to study the profiles of previous fellows and understand the factors that facilitated their success on the global stage.

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