Akina Dada wa Africa-AkiDwA (Swahili for sisterhood) is a national network of migrant women living in Ireland. AkiDwA’s vision is a just society where there is equal opportunity and equal access to resources in all aspects of society – social, cultural, economic, civic and political. Our Mission is to promote equality and justice for all migrant women living in Ireland.
Over two decades, AkiDwA has gained recognition as a leading NGO for highlighting the issues faced by migrant women in Ireland. The organisation has developed the capacity of thousands of migrant women and communities living in Ireland through our network, outreach, psychosocial support and training programmes.
All of our projects aim to build the capacity of migrant women and promote their participation in their local communities; in civic and political structures, government consultations and decision-making processes.
AkiDwA consults with migrant women and other key stakeholders, identifies discriminatory practices and develops evidence-based and representative solutions that address key issues like health, sexual and gender-based violence, and discrimination.
AkiDwA emerged as an organisation between 1999 and 2001, after a series of regular meetings between migrant women were initiated by Salome Mbugua, who came to Ireland from Kenya in 1994. The very first meeting was in 1999 in Dublin city centre’s Temple Bar. By 2001, with the support of the Catherine McAuley Centre, Salome had mobilised a group of African women who met regularly to share their experiences of living in Ireland.
In 2002 AkiDwA obtained funding from the then Combat Poverty Agency to carry out a pilot needs assessment of African women living in Ireland. The survey elicited responses from over two hundred females from seventeen counties. What emerged from these meetings were feelings of exclusion, isolation, racial abuse and discrimination and issues related to gender-based violence. The group went on to meet regularly with external facilitator
By 2003 some more formal structures were in place. AkiDwA was registered as a company with guarantee but without capital share. However, limited funding meant that most of our work continued to be carried out on a voluntary basis until 2005 when Salome received financial support from Social Entrepreneur Ireland to develop and AkiDwA. By 2007 AkiDwA had achieved tremendous support in terms of funding resources, the organisation also acquired charitable status during this period and developed their first strategic plan.
Evaluation and review undertaken by the organisation in 2018 showed AkiDwA remains highly respected, credible, relevant organisation recognised for unique expertise and longevity in the field. Unique migrant led, national women’s representative organisation.
& Organisational Structure
AkiDwA is a registered charity in Ireland (CHY 17227) and also registered with the Charities Regulator as Akina Dada wa Africa (Charity Number 2006341). AkiDwA also operate as a company limited by guarantee without capital share (370089).
The organisation is governed by a board of Directors from diverse backgrounds and professions. The board meets six times a year. The Annual General assembly is held every year where annual report which include narrative of activities and financial report are shared and discussed with stakeholders. The work of the organisations is also supported by an advisory committee made up of both migrants and indigenous from different backgrounds and expertise.
AkiDwA fully Complies with The Governance Code for the Community, Voluntary and Charitable Sector in Ireland having completed the journey in April 2019.
Evaluation carried out by the AkiDwA in 2018 indicated the organisation has highly qualified board members and is embedded with resilience governance policies and compliance, has skilful and knowledgeable motivated staff that take pride in their work with members, volunteers and target group loyalty to the important work of the organisation.
AkiDwA is committed to transparency and good governance. Our Annual Reports and Financial Statements can be viewed below, and are archived in our Publications section.
2019: Strategic Plan 2019-2021
Ashimedua Okwonko (also known as Meddy) is the Chairperson of AkiDwA. She is an international advocate, adviser, trainer and researcher on Human Rights and Civil Society issues pertaining to refugees, Gender Based Violence, and harmful traditional practices. Ashimedua is a member of the American Bar Association, the New York State Bar Association and the Law Society of Ireland. In 2012 Ashimedua established her own law firm in Dublin
Meddy serves on the board of the National Women’s Council of Ireland and she is also on the board of Louth and Meath Education and Training Board. She is highly experienced on the Immigration laws of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States. She is also knowledgeable in areas such as family law, employment law and landlord and tenant law. She has worked on a pro bono basis for clients on Immigration Appeals Tribunals, Employment Tribunals and Labour Courts in Ireland.
She has an LLB (Hons) degree in Law from London Guildhall University and a Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice (LPC) from the same University. She has a Master’s degree in Law (LLM) from Trinity College Dublin and a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Assessment from Dublin Institute of Technology. Ashimedua recently completed her doctorate research at Trinity College, Dublin on the Inequality in Law.
Board member Paola Maggiorotto is a Technical Support Manager at Microsoft. Paola has corporate experience in people management, project and program management, stakeholder engagement, marketing and communications. She is focused on guaranteeing a gender and culturally balanced recruiting pipeline/workforce and she advocates for more inclusion of women in technology. Paola is involved with Microsoft’s Diversity and Inclusion programs globally. Paola is Italian and she has been living in Ireland for more than eight years. Paola has a Master’s Degree in International Communication and a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Languages for International, Institutional and Business Relations. She has a Diploma in Managing Charities in the Voluntary and Community Sector, a Diploma in Latin American Development Studies and a Diploma in Understanding and Addressing Gender Based Violence in Development Contexts
Jules Buckley helped AkiDwA to develop Brain Gain Ireland, our network for migrant entrepreneurs and professionals
Jules Buckley is AkidwA’s Treasurer. Jules was born in Zimbabwe and she has been living in Ireland since 2000. In 2009 Jules helped AkiDwA to develop Brain Gain Ireland, a network for migrant entrepreneurs and professionals which has been running for 10 years. Jules represents AkiDwA at forums in Europe. She has experience in office management, public relations and human resources management and currently works as a Marketing Executive. Jules has a keen interest in volunteering for NGOs who work with disadvantaged groups, particularly with migrants on issues like discrimination, racism, domestic violence and FGM. She has volunteered with SARI (Sports Against Racism Ireland). Jules is a qualified and practicing hypnotherapist and life coach with a focus on Pranic Psychotherapy and personal training. She previously worked with Pobal as an administrator.
Board Member Aradhana (Kuxi) Ghai is a producer, journalist, media consultant and Human Rights Activist from Nairobi, Kenya. Kuxi has worked on award winning films, documentaries and events all around Africa. Kuxi is the former Head of Media for the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR). Prior to joining the KNCHR, Kuxi worked as a media consultant developing media strategies for some of Kenya’s biggest companies and NGOs. As a producer, Kuxi helped to organise international sports and music events in Kenya, including the ICC Cricket World Cup.
Kuxi produced podcasts hosted by former Newstalk presenter, Dil Wrickremasinghe called ‘Sparking Change with Dil”, which focused on social justice and mental health issues. Kuxi volunteers with charities in Dublin that working with homeless people, lone parents, asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. Kuxi’s values have strong roots in the ethics of social justice and equality for all. She is inherently driven by the principles outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She works to uplift humanity to a space where we all have an equal seat at the table.
Salome Mbugua has been Head of Operations and Strategy with AkiDwA since September 2018. She is a researcher, gender equality activist and human rights advocate with over 20 years’ experience of working with under-represented groups, in particular with women, children, and young people, in Europe, Africa and internationally.
In June 2018 Salome was appointed by the Tánaiste to chair the working group on Ireland’s Third National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security .
In September 2018 Salome was appointed to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission by the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins.
Salome has extensive expertise and experience in areas such as organizational management, policy development, strategic planning, human resources management, project development, conflict resolution, gender and migration, Gender Based Violence, civic engagement, health and Economic Empowerment and Feminist approach to research and analysis.
Her strong believe in equality and justice has shaped her career, leading to engagement with policy makers at National, European and International level. Salome has been involved with various Irish Government Departments in the development of several policies and strategies focusing on economic, social and political development.
She is the chairperson of European Network of Migrant Women and she has a seat on the EU Expert group on Economic Migration. She also sits on the Observatory Experts Group on Violence against Women with European Women Lobby. She is 2015 OHCHR-UN Fellows on People of African Descent and 2010 Eisenhower Fellow on Women Leadership.
Salome’ has a Master’s Degree in Equality Studies from University College Dublin and she is currently on her final year of undertaking Doctorate research on conflict, peace building and reconciliation at Trinity College Dublin. Her research focuses on integrating women into peacebuilding, a case study on North Kivu, DRC.
As Migrant Women’s Health Coordinator, Caroline has responsibility for ensuring that health issues affecting migrant women in Ireland are addressed effectively and efficiently and in a culturally appropriate manner.
Caroline has more than 15 years experience of working on Integrated health programs for women in rural Kenya and Uganda.
She has worked with AkiDwA since 2009 on a variety of health related projects.
Caroline’s has a Masters Degree in Philosophy and a Ph.D in International Peace Studies from Trinity College, Dublin.
She has a BA in Development Studies from Kimmage Development Studies Centre, which is now part of Maynooth University.
Shamsun Nahar Chowdhury
Shamsun Nahar Chowdhury currently works as AkiDwA Development Officer. She recently completed her Masters in International Development Studies at Maynooth University. Prior to this she gained work experience as an intern with the Development Studies Association Ireland (DSAI) in Trinity College. She has a Bachelor of Law (LLB Hons) Degree from Northumbria University, UK and a Master of Laws (LLM) Degree from Durham University. She also has a Postgraduate Certificate in Law Practice and training in Mediation. She aspires to use her educational background and skills to promote a just and equal society.
Shamsun Nahar was born in Kenya where she spent much of her childhood, before moving to Bangladesh where she lived for 15 years. In 2013 she moved to the UK to pursue further studies. She moved to Ireland in 2016. She is open-minded and copes in new environments immediately. Shamsun Nahar is very passionate about life and her work. She enjoys meeting new people and has a keen curiosity about other cultures, and this motivates her to travel. She loves the Irish language and the traditional Irish music.
Nenette Bouithy O’Mhaoinigh
Nenette O’Mhaoinigh Bouithy is a psychologist with 12 years experience in psychosocial and clinical care. Nenette has worked on humanitarian missions with Médecins Sans Frontières in Haiti, Colombia, DRC and Malawi. She has experience of working with children who have been affected by HIV/AIDS and sexual violence and she has worked in war zones and natural disaster contexts.
Nenette has been working with Akidwa since 2018. She delivers training on health issues to migrant women living in Direct Provision Centres across Ireland and she is involved in a range of AkidwA’s outreach activities.
Nenette organizes Akidwa’s group talks and the Let’s Talk stress management project for migrant women. She also provides psychosocial support to migrant women. Nenette is researching the psychological consequences of Female Genital Mutilation in adolescent girls for her Masters Degree.
Katie joined AkiDwA as Policy & Research Officer in April 2019. Katie has a BCL in Law and French and an LLM in international human rights law and public policy from University College Cork. She has worked with Irish and international rights organisations including Amnesty International, FLAC, Ireland’s Free Legal Advice Centre and with the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in Vienna. Katie is committed to social justice. Her personal areas of interest include climate justice, gender equality and economic, social & cultural rights. Her current research focus is on female genital mutilation, domestic violence and the mental health of migrant women.
Shan Kelly joined AkiDwA as Communications Officer in April 2019. She is responsible for managing AkiDwA’s digital content and social media presence, as well as for the AkiDwA newsletter.
Shan has a Degree in Politics and History from the London School of Economics & Political Science and a Postgraduate Diploma in Business in Cultural Event Management from Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design & Technology (IADT).
She began her career as a local newspaper journalist, and she has worked for business magazines and news media in Ireland and the UK. As Careers Editor at Computing in 1997, she organised the newspaper’s first Women in IT Forum. Shan was elected Branch Equality Officer in 1994 by NUJ journalists at Reed Business Publishing.
Shan has worked as a Communications Manager for community groups and not for profit organisations such as the Development Studies Association of Ireland since 2008. She loves dancing and she is interested in arts, science and music. She set up her own communications business www.pen4hire.ie in 2017.
2014: The first family planning clinic for FGM survivors opens in May
- AkiDwa’s pioneering work on research into FGM led to the opening of Ireland’s first specialised family planning clinic for women who have undergone FGM. Following meetings with stakeholders throughout 2013, the Irish Family Planning Associationand the HSE open the clinic in May
- In March AkiDwA CEO Salome Mbugua made a presentation to Members of the European Parliament in Brussels on Bringing Life to Plural Europe, at the invitation of Younous OMARJEE and Jean-Jacob BICEP. Her talk led to the EU parliament discussing xenophobia and racism as causes of inequalities and injustice
- AkiDwA’s campaigning and lobbying and working in collaboration with other stakeholders produced positive results when the Reception and Integration Agency developed and published a policy on sexual and gender based violence for managers, staff and residents of all accommodation centres for asylum seekers in Ireland
- Following a feasibility study for AkiDwA, a new strategic plan was developed for the organisation
2013: AkiDwA publishes Between Two Cultures, a book of inspirational stories based on the experiences of young migrant women
- AkiDwA CEO delivered a presentation to the European Parliament in Brussels on the impact of the financial and economic crisis on women. She contributed to a policy paper on the role of migrant women in diaspora for international development that was published by Friends of Europe a European organisation
- Akidwa undertook a survey of Young migrant women
- Between Two Cultures, A book featuring inspirational stories of the experiences of young migrant women in Ireland was launched by AkiDwA to celebrate International Women’s Day
2012: FGM is outlawed in Ireland
- After more than a decade of campaigning by AkiDwA in Ireland, the Criminal Justice Act 2012 (Female Genital Mutilation) was signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins on 2nd April, making FGM illegal.
- The law became effective on 20th September, making it a criminal offence for anyone resident in Ireland to perform FGM. The maximum penalty under the new law is a fine, imprisonment for up to 14 years or both
- AkiDwA launched the No Place to Call Home Report which highlighted Issues of Safety and Security for Women Seeking Asylum in Ireland
- After years of campaigning we saw progress in the area of domestic violence for migrant women, when The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) published Guidelines for Immigrants experiencing Domestic Violence
- AkiDwA’s new strategic plan was launched.
2011: AkiDwA makes a Dáil presentation on behalf of women living in direct provision
- AkiDwA partnered with the Equality Authority to produce a report on The Multiple Discrimination against Migrant Women in Education and Employment in Ireland
- In July AkiDwA and Amnesty International met with the Commissioner of Refugee Applications and a senior member of their policy unit to discuss a European initiative called Engendering the European Asylum Support Office (EASO)
- AkiDwA gave a presentation at the Dáil to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality which focused on the barriers faced by women who are living in direct provision when they seek remedies for domestic violence
- AkiDwA celebrated a decade of work with migrant women and key stakeholders across Ireland
- AkiDwA completed a ten year organisational review and evaluation
- AkiDwA launched the publication, ‘Home and Away: Migrant Women Transforming Ireland’. An exhibition based on the report was shown in libraries and local authorities across Ireland.
2010: AkiDwA CEO Salome Mbugua is elected to the National Women’s Council of Ireland
- AkiDwA published Am Only Saying it Now, research into the Experiences of Women Seeking Asylum in Ireland
- AkiDwA was invited to the Dáil twice to give presentations to the Committee on Health and Children and to the Committee on Women, Equality and Justice
- AkiDwA Launched an Information Booklet on Access to Employment and Education for Migrants
- AkiDwA CEO Salome Mbugua was elected as Deputy Chair of the National Women’s Council of Ireland.
- AkiDwA CEO is selected to represent Ireland on the Eisenhower Women’s Leadership Programme in the USA
2009: Handbook on FGM: Information for Health Care Professionals Working in Ireland
- AkiDwA and the Royal College of Surgeons launch the first Irish Handbook on FGM: Female Genital Mutilation: Information for Health Care Professionals Working in Ireland
- first data on FGM in Ireland
- One migrant woman was elected as a Councillor in County Monaghan after AkiDwA organized a national conference entitled African and Migrant Women: Creating and Shaping Changes in support of migrant women running in local elections
- AkiDwA gave a presentation on FGM to the Joint Oireachteas Committee on Health and Children
- The Minister for Health Mary Harney announced her intention to prohibit FGM in Ireland
- AkiDwA established the Brain Gain Project, a networking platform for migrant professionals and business people operating in Ireland
2008: AkiDwA establishes National Steering Committee to end Female Genital Mutilation
- AkiDwA and IFPA establish the National Steering Committee to work together to end Female Genital Mutilation.
- AkiDwA developed and launched the Irish National Action Plan to address FGM in the country
- AkiDwA organised a Conference and exhibition on Integration and Embracing Diversity
- AkiDwA provided support to theWomen’s Enterprise Association of Rakai, Uganda
- Implemented the women health project on Ending FGM
2007: AkiDwA helps HSE to develop National Intercultural Strategy
- AkiDwA CEO is appointed to the Board of Ireland’s Equality Authority in order to represent the interests of migrants
- AkiDwA makes a presentation on migrant issues to the Anti-Poverty Network in Brussels
- AkiDwA published our research on Black Irish Women in the Labour Market
- AkiDwA gave a presentation on Race and Immigration in the New Ireland at the University of Notre Dame, USA, alongside former President Mary Robinson
- AkiDwA makes a Submission to the Health Services Executive to help it develop Ireland’s National Intercultural Strategy
- An AkiDwA project on domestic violence is funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (DJELR) resulting in a workshop, and the publication of our research
2006: AkiDwA becomes a registered charity
- AkiDwA publishes a short book entitled Her Story: Migration Stories of African Women
- AkiDwA organises a Conference entitled: Challenging the Invisibility of Black and Ethnic Minority Women in Ireland
- AkiDwA partners with Business in the Community (BiTC) and SPIRASI, to organise the Employment for the Parents of Irish Citizens (EPIC) project
2005: working on the National Action Plan against Racism
- AkiDwA receives its first substantial funding from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland
- AkiDwA’s first organisational structures, and policiesand strategic plan are developed
- AkiDwA secures its very first office at the Dublin Central Mission
- AkiDwA National Director Salome Mbugua presented a key note speech on Racism in the 21st Century: Implementing the National Action Plan against Racism at the landmark Croke Park Conference, which was organised by the NCCRI and many other groups
- Focus group discussions are held in Athlone with migrant women from FGM practising communities in order to gauge their understanding of FGM and to begin assessing the prevalence of Female Genital Mutilation in Ireland
2004: AkiDwA lobbies against deportation of migrant parents of Irish Children
- AkiDwA visits women in Mountjoy Prison on International Women’s Day
- AkiDwA initiates the ‘Coalition against the Deportation of Irish Children’ (CADIC) with Dr Ronit Lentin.
- AkiDwA delivered training on capacity building to300 women in six counties
- AkiDwA makes a submission to the NGO alliance against racism
- AkiDwA contributes to the Second report of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racism
2003: AkiDwA is officially launched by Minister of State Tom Kitt
- AkiDwA delivered training on the representation and participation to 374 migrant women.
- AkiDwA begins Outreach to migrant women in seventeen counties and conducts needs assessments with them
- AkiDwA makes a presentation to the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights on the Immigration Bill 2002 and on the implications of the Supreme Court judgement concerning the residency rights of migrant parents of Irish Citizens
2002: AkiDwA develops our first training package on racism
- AkiDwA’s first training package Understanding Racism and its Effect in Society was developed and delivered to community groups and schools
- AkiDwA makes a submission to the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform (DJELR) asking for a National Action Plan for Women
- AkiDwA contributed to the National Women’s Council of Ireland’s anti-racism and women’s project, In from the Margin and delivered the keynote address at the NWCI conference
- AkiDwA produced our second training package on Race, Women and Cultural Diversity and delivered it to indigenous and migrant women, in association with the Catherine McAuley Centre
- AkiDwA makes a submission to the DJELR on the need for Ireland to develop a National Action Plan against Racism together with the Catherine McAuley Centre and the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland.
2001: AkiDwA helps to establish a networking platform for African Women in Dublin
- Three open door meetings were held at Catherine McAuley Centre to develop support networks for migrant women
- AkiDwA’s First social intercultural event was held at the Irish Film Centre