Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere is nurturing the next generation of young women innovators and Social Entrepreneurs.

By Bernard Buteera

In 2013, Makerere University partnered with Mastercard Foundation to implement the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program—an initiative designed to provide talented young people who have a demonstrated commitment to service, with access to quality higher education and leadership development opportunities. The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere set out to deliver 1000, need-based scholarships to this end – with a particular focus on supporting young women. It has since exceeded this target.  To date the program has supported 1,032 Scholars—80 percent of whom are young women. Of these, 788 Scholars have graduated and are in the world serving in different sectors. As the world commemorates International Women’s Day 2023, under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere University is celebrating the young women innovators and social entrepreneurs who have achieved considerable milestones in their lives and their communities. Here are some of the young women the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere has nurtured to become great Innovators and Social Entrepreneurs, who are transforming their communities, and creating employment opportunities for other young people.

Clare Akinyi Muga, Mastercard Foundation Scholar at Makerere University, (2014-2018)

Clare joined the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere in 2014 as a first Cohort Scholar. She graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree (First Class honors) in Community Psychology from Makerere University. Upon graduation, she did not wait to be employed; she straight away mobilized her fellow youth and established Evimero Leadership Academy, an initiative that equips young people with practical leadership skills to transform their lives, communities and Uganda as a whole. With a deep-seated passion to raise and equip the next generation of leaders, Clare is changing and shaping the leadership narrative in Uganda. It is at the core of her life’s mission for every young person to discover and live out the greatness they were created to be. Her efforts to transform the lives of young people have not gone unnoticed. In 2021, Clare was nominated in New Vision’s Top 40 under 40 young people. Envisioning a world where every young person attains self-actualization and is skilled to step out and create the future of their dreams, Clare, through her Evimero Leadership Academy, has equipped over 1,000 young people with soft and practical transferable skills. With a mission to harness self-actualization for every young person by providing them with practical leadership skills to enable them to thrive beyond the challenges of young adulthood, Evimero aims at equipping 25,000 young people with leadership skills by 2030, thus creating a formidable generation of transformative leaders in Uganda.

 Frances Aanyu, Mastercard Foundation Scholar at Makerere University, (2014-2018)

Frances is a development economist by profession and a passionate sexual and reproductive health advocate. Inspired by personal circumstances growing up in the Katakwi district in Eastern Uganda, the desire to create enabling environments for young people took the better of her. Frances co-founded Dash 4 Girls Uganda, a social venture working to increase age-appropriate information to enable young people to make informed choices.

The venture has various programs targeting young people, including adolescent girls and young women in Eastern and North Eastern Uganda. To date, the venture has worked with over five schools and disseminated information on sexual and reproductive health to over 1,900 young women, focusing on teenage pregnancy and menstrual health. In addition, the venture has distributed reusable sanitary pads and offered hands-on skills training on pad making to over 1,000 young women in Eastern and Northern Uganda regions. In the next ten years, the venture is looking to strengthen and expand its programs to impact more young people and include a key focus on skilling for teenage mothers.

As a youth advocate, Frances has engaged in advocacy with different stakeholders at the National and District level to create enabling policy environments for adolescent sexual and reproductive health and contributed to the development of national and regional strategies and guidelines to influence and enhance meaningful youth engagement and participation in youth programs.

Frances was a Ugandan delegate at the 2nd Youth Pan African forum at the African Union headquarters and contributed to the AU’s youth one million initiative. In her previous role as Head of Youth Engagement at Reach A Hand Uganda, a non-profit youth-led and serving organization, she mentored and supported youth advocates to disseminate SRHR information and impact their communities nationwide. She also focused on capacity building and skills enhancements for young people under the organization’s peer educator academy. Frances is a fellow under the Resolution Project and was named an emerging leader by the Skoll World Forum; she believes that young people can meaningfully create better societies.

Sandra Nabulega, Mastercard Foundation Scholar at Makerere University, (2014-2018)

Sandra is an alumna of the Mastercard Foundation.; she graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Statistics from Makerere University. Her life journey is an inspiration to many young people in Uganda. At only two years, Sandra lost both her parents, leaving her in the hands of her teenage siblings. This predicament did not deter her life dreams of becoming an academic scholar. Through the support of good Samaritans and organizations like the Mastercard Foundation, Sandra was able to pursue her academics. She became the first person in her family to go to university and later the only graduate in her family. Currently, she is completing her master’s degree at Arizona State University in the USA and immediately enrolled in a Ph.D. Currently, she is working as an instructional designer with EdPlus at Arizona State University. She is the founder of ‘Beyond the Classroom,’ an organization that creates activities to build a culture of learning beyond the classroom among students, graduates, and entrepreneurs.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from; put yourself out there and compete for those opportunities. You are talented. You are smart. You just experienced life differently.” Sandra advises her fellow young people.

Rebecca Nabbosa Mastercard Foundation Scholar at Makerere University, (2015-2019)

Rebecca graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition from Makerere University. Her love for people’s well-being and beauty inspired her and her team to develop a computer application; Zen App, to simplify the lives of beauty industry practitioners. The Zen App is a social enterprise that seeks to provide opportunities for beauticians and home-based beauty product manufacturers who cannot set up their own salons or workshops to access customers and offer services and products.

Rebecca observed that the beauty industry had little support because it was continuously looked at as a luxurious sector and yet it has constantly created jobs for many people in the working population, especially young women. Many young people in Uganda and Africa who are unskilled, and fail to complete school or find employment as well as graduate youths acquire hands-on skills to sustain a livelihood. They have an option of self-employment in the beauty industry. For this reason, Rebecca and her Zen App team developed a mobile application that offers a marketplace where beauty stylists and beauty product manufacturers can connect with clients to showcase their products and services. The initiative offers a platform for beauticians who cannot afford to set up physical locations (salons) to connect with customers and offer mobile services. On the other hand, the Zen App offers an e-commerce platform for home-based beauty product manufacturers to connect with customers and sell their products.

With the biggest percentage of the workforce in salon and hair management being women, Zen App is enabling them to access customers, generate income and achieve financial independence. Rebecca and her team aspire to create 1,000 employment opportunities every year, especially for young women through using the Zen App platform.


Joan Emily Bayega, Mastercard Foundation Scholar at Makerere University, (2017-2021)

Joan is a co-founder and Project Manager at DMB Translation Services Ltd – a Social Enterprise whose mission is to promote socio-economic inclusion for differently abled young people by developing modern, convenient, and low-cost assistive technologies. Founded in September 2020, DMB is on its way to launching its flagship product – the Digital Sign Language Interpreter, which is a web and mobile Application that interprets Sign Language to text and Speech and vice versa, all in real-time. It is also integrable with other digital communication platforms like YouTube and Zoom, ensuring greater accessibility on these platforms. With this Application, DMB Translation Services Ltd aims to provide affordable, convenient, and portable sign language interpretation Services, first to the approximately One million Ugandans living with disabling speech and hearing impairments and communities in Africa that use.

As the project manager, Joan has overseen the successful prototyping of the Digital sign language Interpreter and supported the enterprise in raising a total of 25,000 USD in seed funding, including a 10,000 CAD branding prize from BM dodo Designs. She provides thought leadership to her social enterprise and is currently orchestrating the activities leading up to the official launch of the inaugural version of the Digital Sign Language Interpreter. Alongside running her social Enterprise, Joan is also helping other young entrepreneurs learn about building and sustaining successful enterprises through her role as a mentor in the Jim Leech-Mastercard Foundation Fellowship on Entrepreneurship.

Joan graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from the College of Engineering, Design, Art, and Technology and is a proud alumna of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere University. From representing the school of Engineering in the Guild Representative Council to representing Uganda in the 2019 Study United States Institute on women’s leadership and participating as a youth delegate at the Wilton Park dialogue on making tertiary Education safe to learn, Joan has maintained an excellent track record of leadership and service to her community from the time she was at the University.

Her vision of success entails building a self-sustaining multi-million-dollar enterprise that impacts millions of differently-abled people on the African Continent, becoming a thought leader in the assistive technologies industry, and revolutionizing inclusion in the global community. Joan also aspires to use her platform to inspire African entrepreneurs, especially young women entrepreneurs into realizing their full potential, steer positive societal transformation, and build groundbreaking enterprises.

Marion Apio, Mastercard Foundation Scholar at Makerere University, (2016-2021)

Marion is a Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program Alumni with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Communication from Makerere University.  She is the Founder of a non-profit organization empowering girls through mentorship, menstrual hygiene management education, and making of reusable sanitary towels.  Girls Alive Uganda won the Resolution Project Award in 2018 for its outstanding dedication to making positive change and helping underprivileged girls stay in school. Marion is empowering fellow youths to continue their education since for many girls, lack of sanitary materials means no school. She is leading a team of 40 fellow youths who are university students and recent graduates to volunteer, mentor, train, and give back to communities through Sexual and Reproductive Health Education. Over the past three years, Girls Alive Uganda has conducted over 10 outreaches in various schools and communities in Tororo, Kampala, Butaleja, and Luweero and has impacted over 1000 girls in various schools across Uganda. The organization has engaged various stakeholders like parents, teachers, and local area leaders through community dialogues to fight against the high rate of menstrual-related absenteeism among vulnerable girls.  Marion is also leading a team of fact-checkers at Debunk Media Initiative, the first-ever fact-checking organization in Uganda that is demystifying false news, myths, misconception, biases, and misinformation in the media and in communities. Marion’s desire and aspiration is to enable every girl child to get access to information so that they make better life choices and achieve their goals.

Alicia Namakula Mbalire Mastercard Foundation Scholar at Makerere University, (2017—2021)

Alicia graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology from Makerere University. Upon graduation, Alicia embarked on finding opportunities, which she could tap into, which could offer her peers a living but also create an impact on her community. In 2018, when she attended the Baobab Summit that was organized by the Mastercard Foundation in Rwanda where she was inspired by the thirst of young people to drive impactful change in their own communities. Upon returning home to Uganda, she rallied like-minded peers under the Millennium Fellowship, to contribute towards the disruption of some of the social injustices such as gender-based economic disparities and poor waste management. Through the initiative “Fuel the World” Alicia, together with her colleagues, was able to skill over 30 young women from the urban slums of Kazo and Nambole in making cooking briquettes from biodegradable waste. To date, most of these women continue to make briquettes as both a cooking fuel and an economic product. This initiative was the beginning of Alicia’s journey to being a social entrepreneur. She is passionate and motivated by initiatives and activities that drive communities into financial inclusion, selflessness, unity, and the provision of equal opportunities for every citizen.

Alicia is a co-founder of Women Income Network, a Community-Based Organisation in Luweero district that economically empowers rural women, to contribute to the production of sustainable animal feeds and development, an eco-friendly bio-waste remediation system all achieved through promoting maggot farming. The initiative has, through its community outreach programs created awareness on maggot farming as a business venture across Kalungu village in Luweero district.

Alicia established a maggot demonstration farm, has trained over 45 rural women in maggot farming-practices and supported five farmers to establish their own maggot farm facilities. Through her initiatives, she has attracted multilateral partnerships with organizations such as the Resolution Project, Bugema University, Echoing Green and Open Data Institute in collaboration with Microsoft, through their peer learning network program.

Akello Sandra, Mastercard Foundation Scholar at Makerere University, (2017-2021)

Economic hardships and the societal belief that a girl is ready for marriage at the age of 15 pushed her mother out of school at an early age. Grief struck when Sandra lost her father at the age of 3 years old. Her mother who was a school drop out with no stable job was now the sole provider for the family. This brought two major problems that left the whole family in agony. First, there was no breadwinner in the family, and there was an ongoing war Northern Uganda (Pader) at the time “I remember a day when my mother had to hide me in the pile of beans just so that if the rebels broke in to the house, I could survive.” She remembers.

Against all odds, she managed to pursue her education. Her success at both Ordinary and Advanced Levels was mainly attributed to her dedication, which enabled her to acquire partial scholarships through school. This was her stepping stone to a higher education, which enabled her to pursue and graduate with a degree in Bachelor of Commerce, Accounting major from Makerere University. Sandra was supported by the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere University.

She has two years of experience in accounting in the health, public, and most recently the Banking sector. Sandra has also worked on a number of short and long-term projects with teams from different countries.  Notable among these is the Mastercard Foundation Baobab ambassadorship which earned her a role has an Assistant Community Influencer for a year, Corporate and Accounts Officer at Pan Dental Surgery where she was in charge of the Tanzanian branch, among others. This experience has enabled her to enhance her interpersonal skills, appreciate the value of teamwork and obtain leadership skills.

She has a passion for community engagement inspired by her belief that changing the world starts with each of us. Sandra has volunteered with different organizations such as the Uganda Red Cross society, Reproductive health Uganda and currently actively volunteering with Girls Alive Uganda. The Girls Alive Uganda initiative strives to empower young women in rural communities by visiting schools to teach simple but empowering lessons and skills: menstrual hygiene and making reusable, sustainable sanitary pads with basic materials.

She thrives on the notion that every person that comes into our lives is for a reason thus she loves to network and interact with different people from the diverse walks of life.

Message to women:

“I urge all ladies to be themselves and believe in their abilities. Stay positive, and strong and do not let your past or background define what you are or will be in the future. You are stronger than you think, so boldly wake up every day ready to conquer the world.” Sandra asserts.

Aisha Nalumansi Mastercard Foundation Scholar at Makerere University, 2019-2022

Aisha is a fresh graduate from Makerere University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Community Psychology and an Alumna of the Scholars Program at Makerere University.

She is a transformative leader, who is very passionate about mental health. She is doing her best to create awareness about mental health disorders in order to fight Stigma. Mental health clients face a lot of stigma which deters from seeking help, which drastically affects their overall Health.

In her second year at University Aisha, formed a team of mental health ambassadors at Makerere University. Aisha and her team worked with organizations like Makerere University Counseling and Guidance Center, Tukule Foundation, and Butabika National Referral Mental Hospital to create awareness about mental health in different parts of the country. In October 2022, with her team, Aisha organized the first-ever mental health summit at Makerere University that enabled students to understand the different mental health issues and how best they can navigate them and seek support where possible. This is an initiative she looks forward to taking on and building her professional journey as well as impacting her community and her country at large.

Aisha aspires to advocate for more funding for mental in hospitals from the government, through the Ministry of Health, which will solve the high rates of mental health issues that are affecting especially the young people in Uganda.

Faiza Alli Mastercard Foundation Scholar at Makerere University, 2019-2022

Faiza graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Development Economics from Makerere University. She hails from Zombo district in Northern Uganda. Over the years, Zombo district has been referred to as a food basket for northern Uganda, because of the favorable climate, fertile soils, readily available labor, that favors agricultural production in the area.

However, because of limitations in transport and markets, a lot of the farmers’ agricultural produce is wasted. This need got Faiza thinking of an initiative that can save the farmers’ produce and also increase their income through increased production with zero wastage. She quickly rallied her like-minded peers and they established Alengukuma Farmers’ Production Foods Ltd, (ALEPRO) a social enterprise that promotes the overall socio-economic transformation of rural farmers in Zombo district through Smart Climate Agriculture, Value Addition, and Increased Productivity.

ALEPRO Foods produces the quality highly nutritious gluten-free flour from cassava, maize, Soya, Amaranth, and millet for home consumption and for baking. The product is available in supermarkets delivered to customers. Faiza has also embarked on training farmers to practice climate-smart agriculture to achieve high yields. She purchases produce from the farmers, and adds value to it by milling, branding and packaging to supply to urban markets, thus solving food security problems, creating jobs, and increasing the productivity of famers. Currently, Faiza and her team are working with two farmer groups and she employs two fellow young people.

Bernard Buteera is the Communications and Public Relations Officer for the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at Makerere University.

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