DEMOCRACY DREAMERS: Draper Hills Summer Fellows Class 2017

Stanford CDDRL
14 min readNov 8, 2017

By: Paula McCloud

As we prepare for the final round of applications for Draper Hills 18', let’s take a look back into the happenings of the Draper Hills Summer Fellowship of 2017.

Draper Hills Class of 2017 pictured with Former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt (Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

The theme for this year’s Draper Hills Summer Fellowship Program was #disrUPt. Disruption can often take a negative connotation, but because all change is disruptive to some degree, we wanted to reclaim the positive attributes of the word and highlight the impactful and transformative work that the fellows are doing to disrupt the status quo.

WATCH our very first Draper Hills Summer Fellows promotional video! Our 2017 fellows Hadeel Al-Qaq of Jordan (far left) and Elsa Marie D’Silva of India (far left) pose with CDDRL Associate Director Sarina Beges (middle left) and Ingrid Hills (center right), a generous donor to our Program
Our 2017 Draper Hills Summer Fellows power with Ingrid Hills (center) one of the generous donors to our Program during a lovely dinner at her home (Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)
Our 2017 Draper Hills Summer Fellows pose with Bill Draper (center) one of the generous donors to our Program (Photo Cred: Djurdja Padejski)

27 fellows from 22 countries around the world, selected for their outstanding civic records and commitment to advancing democratic practices across the developing world, joined us for the 3-week program held from July 16-August 4, 2017 on the Stanford campus.

We are eternally grateful to our generous donors — Bill Draper and Ingrid Hills — who without their support this program would not be possible!

And they came, they saw, and they disrUPted!

Francis Fukuyama, Mosbacher Director of the CDDRL, kicks off the program session with a lecture on Dimensions of Development. (Photo Cred: Djurdja Padejski)
Elsa Marie D’Silva, fellow from India, offers her opinion on economic development. (Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

Fellows participated in class sessions, discussions and case studies led by faculty and staff and a number of guest speakers. Topics ranged from Global Populism to the Current State of American Democracy, sending our fellows back home with the knowledge necessary to spread the ideals of democracy to their countries.

As a way to share their work and stories of disruption with their peers, each fellow gave a TED-style talk:

Four of our female fellows, whose work focuses on gender-based violence and the development of women in their countries, kicked off the first day of TED-style talks.

Ruth Kissam, fellow from Papua New Guinea 🇵🇬, was the epitome of disrUPtion. You may also remember her as the infamous Village Woman who left the village and who took over Stanford University and #DraperHills17. According to Ruth, “the hashtag #VillageWomanGoesToStanford represents the message I want to give to our women. I want them to know that you can do things. You can leave your village. You can get out there and disrupt the norm of how women are seen in PNG.” In that same regard, Ruth shares the objectives of her foundation, The PNG Tribal Foundation. She says, “The PNG Tribal Foundation disrupts the norm of how women are viewed. Instead of our women being taken for granted, we are fighting for their appreciation. The Tribal Foundation is a catalyst for change. We have a cultural campaign called Senisim Pasin, or Change Your Ways, which takes an innovative approach to the dark subject of gender-based violence. The campaign pushes forth efforts to improve and uplift how women in Papua New Guinea are viewed and valued by our men.”

Elsa Marie D’Silva, fellow from India 🇮🇳, reminded us that women’s rights are human rights and that we have work to do in making the world safe for women and girls all around the world. When we asked Elsa to explain disrUPtion in the context of her work at Safecity, here’s what she told us: “Disruption to me is finding new solutions to age old problems. For example, at Safecity we are addressing sexual violence in public spaces through crowdsourced data and community engagement.” And because of her commitment to fighting gendered violence, D’Silva was named one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women.

Hadeel AlQaq, our #DraperHills17 fellow from Jordan 🇯🇴, is the executive director of the Business and Professional Women Association (BPWA), a Jordanian non-profit organization that works to expand women’s economic empowerment by creating platforms for women in business to grow personally and professionally. According to Hadeel, she is “an activist for women’s economic empowerment in Jordan, and she believes in the significant role that women and youth can play in disrupting the Jordanian economy which, in turn, would benefit its society as a whole.”

Alanoud speaking with President Emeritus of Stanford, Gerhard Casper (Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

Alanoud Al-Sharekh is our FIRST fellow from Kuwait 🇰🇼 and she also happens to be a powerful gender advocate in a conservative monarchy!!! Alanoud founded Abolish 153 (winner of the 2016 EU Chaillot Prize for Human Rights), Friends Who Care and Eithar, organizations that all seek to improve legal and social conditions for women and girls in Kuwait. She says, “Disruption can be a force for good in traditional societies where women and young people are often marginalized. I am a positive disruptor by using soft anger; respectful but insistent demands for social justice, as a way to confront discrimination. Empowering women means challenging the insidious and obvious systems that disempower them and that takes both advocacy and awareness. I work to promote both in my consultancy, my academic output and my activism.”

Draper Hills was also lucky to have many fellows come from the same country this year!

Egypt 🇪🇬:

Sabah Hamamou has worked in media for more than 20 years, representing publications such as Al-Ahram, Al-Jazeera, Huffpost, Al-Fanar Media. Her most recent position was as the associate managing editor of Al-Fanar Media, which provides independent coverage of academia in the Arab world. Hamamou is also a well-known advocate for freedom of speech and media reform in Egypt, and has been featured in several international media publications. She is also the queen of the selfie!

Yasmine Farouk is an assistant professor of political science at Cairo University. She is also the director of research at the Cairo Center for Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping in Africa (CCCPA), a think tank affiliated with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. At CCCPA, Farouk contributes to the development and implementation of the Preventing Violent Extremism training program for African communities affected by conflict.

Mohamed Elfayoumy is an Egyptian diplomat and expert on the Middle East with a long-term focus on conflicts and transitions in the region. His most recent position was as the political advisor to the United Nations Special Envoy to Syria, where he worked to launch negotiations between warring parties aiming at a peaceful solution to the crisis. He is currently interested in conflict prevention through supporting good governance initiatives at senior government levels.

Ukraine 🇺🇦:

When describing his understanding of this year’s theme disrUPt , fellow Victor Liakh says, “Disruption brings new opportunities for society; with active involvement of civil society and media, disruption makes these opportunities work for advancing democracy.” In his work in e-democracy, Victor “disrupts by bridging on-line democracy with off-line participation tools which reinforce one another in uplifting democracy in Ukraine.”

Olena Sotnyk is a Ukrainian lawyer and politician. She is a member of the Parliament of Ukraine, the secretary of the Parliamentary Committee on Issues of European Integration and Vice President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe. As she mentions in her TED-style talk, Olena provided pro-bono legal services for the Heavenly Hundred, the victims of Maidan who were part of the civil protests that led to the Ukrainian revolution in 2014.

Both Liakh and Sotnyk took initiative during #DraperHills17 and organized an informational session, in which they brought members of the Ukrainian community to Stanford and talked about their work.

Russia 🇷🇺:

Zhanna Nemtsova, the daughter of the late Boris Nemtsov, who is based in Germany, shared with us her hopeful yet skeptical views of disrUPtion.

Zhanna with CDDRL Communications Manager, Djurdja Padejski. (Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

She said, “Disruption means not following the mainstream trend. It actually might be positive and it might still be negative. And while I don’t regard myself as a disruptive person, I am sure that the current Russian political leadership shares a different view. As a journalist and a founder of The Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, that was established in honor of my father, a liberal opposition politician killed in Moscow on February 27 2015, I act in accordance with my vision, principles and moral norms. My vision is that Russia should and could be a dynamically developing democratic country. My principles mean to be honest with myself and do only things in which I truly believe. My moral standards say that I must not be indifferent to the poorly conducted investigation into my father’s assassination and to what is going on in my country where people are prosecuted for their politician persuasion.”

(Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

Arseny Bobrovosky, is a Russian blogger and journalist. In 2010, Bobrovsky started the satirical Twitter account @KermlinRussia, which provides commentary on issues in Russias social and political life. The account rapidly gained followers and has become a very popular Twitter feed in Russia with nearly two million followers. After gaining attention with @KermlinRussia, he launched his journalism career as an interviewer for GQ Russia. In this role he has profiled prominent politicians, academics and entrepreneurs.

The 2017 Draper Hills cohort was also full of risk-takers, motivators, journalists, innovators, and lawmakers upholding the principles of the rule of law!

Udo Jude Ilo, our fellow from Nigeria 🇳🇬, who serves as the Nigerian representative for the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), powerfully described his understanding of disrUPt with us. He said, “Disruption is good for society. We should never be complacent. We need to be reminded that we can do better! That inequality still exist and that no one should be left behind. Disruption- letting society to be aware of the need to improve for all.” When thinking back on how disrUPtion has inspired his work, Jude told us, “I wake up every day thinking of ways to make government accountable. Ways to amplify citizens’ voices and put them at the center of governance. My work is about promoting the ability of citizens to push for responsive governance. I work to address issues of accountability and transparency and helping my society be awake to the reality of inequality and pains of vulnerable groups.”

Mustafa speaking with Larry Diamond, former Director of the CDDRL. (Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

Mustafa Haid is a Syrian human rights and accountability advocate who has organized several campaigns for justice in Syria. At present, Haid is a chairperson of the Dawlaty Foundation, a Syrian nonprofit foundation that works with nonviolent activists on capacity building, democratic transition and transitional justice in Syria.

(Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

Marites Filomena B. Rana-Bernales is a judge at the Regional Trial Court under the Supreme Court. She serves in Cagayan de Oro City on the Island of Mindanao, Philippines 🇵🇭. Assigned to a court of general jurisdiction, she is on the frontlines of maintaining the rule of law through adjudication of both civil and criminal cases, including cases related to drugs and the environment. Rana-Bernales has served as a judge for over 12 years and prior to joining the judiciary she worked in private practice.

Maureen Oduori, fellow from Kenya 🇰🇪, has over 12 years of experience working in Kenyan and international civil society organizations that seek to strengthen institutions, governance and economic development. She is presently the country representative for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in Kenya. Currently, Oduori provides guidance on development within Kenya’s democracy, working with policy makers on matters of devolution, legislative frameworks for civil society and womens voice in leadership.

Photo Cred: Rod Searcey

Abdel-Rahman El Mahdi, fellow from Sudan 🇸🇩, has over 20 years of experience in international development. He specializes in organizational management and programming, and his thematic expertise is in peacebuilding and human security, civic engagement and democratic transformation. El Mahdi founded and currently serves as the president of the Sudanese Development Initiative (SUDIA), a nongovernmental organization that works to achieve greater stability, development and good governance in Sudan.

(Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

Ivana Djuric, fellow from Serbia 🇷🇸, has over 18 years of experience in planning and managing government strategic communications and professional development within public administration. She works as the Head of communications, Ministry for European Integration, a government body responsible for the implementation of the Serbian National Strategy for EU accession. As a civil servant, she promotes transparency and accountability in the Serbian administration.

(Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

Anoop Ratnaker Rao, fellow from India 🇮🇳, has created and led community initiatives as COO of the Naandi Foundation and CEO of Naandi Community Water Services, an Indian social enterprise seeking to provide safe drinking water to underserved communities. Through this work, he discovered how the agriculture water crisis has led to large-scale farmer suicides in India. So, Rao is working to create ReLife, an organization seeking to end the tragedy of farmer suicides and improve public and global health through sustainable solutions.

(Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

Astrid Escobedo, #DraperHills17 fellow and our first from Guatemala 🇬🇹, has been practicing law for 16 years with experience litigating cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. For eight years, Escobedo has served as a legal officer for Guatemala’s International Commission against Impunity. She has worked on cases of corruption, organized crime, illegal drug trafficking, and is actively involved in cases involving prominent public officials in Guatemala’s government.

(Photo Cred: Paula McCloud)

Omar Balafrej, Draper Hills fellow from Morocco 🇲🇦, is an elected member of the Parliament of Morocco and has served as a councilman in Rabat since 2015. As a member of the opposition, Balafrej advocates for true democracy and alternative economic and social policies for Morocco. He is also the president of Clarity, Ambition, Courage, a political movement that joined the Moroccan Democratic Left Federation in 2015 to develop a political alternative for Morocco.

(Photo Cred: Paula McCloud)

Isabel Amorim is our #DraperHills17 fellow from Brazil 🇧🇷! When we asked Isabel to relay her understanding of disrUPtion she said, “Disruption is being brave and having the courage to make circumstances different. Start from zero every day, be very positive and optimistic about the future. In my work with media and journalism disruption means everything. The current model is not working so the only truth we have is that we must change, we must go for new experiences and ideas.”

(Photo Cred: Paula McCloud)

Miguel Bronfman, from Argentina 🇦🇷, is an Argentinian lawyer based in Buenos Aires, specializing in criminal and international law and human rights. Bronfman leads the legal team that represents Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), the Argentinian Jewish community center, on the criminal proceedings for the July 1994 terrorist attack that killed 85 people. He is very passionate about the impactful power of the courts. We sat down and had an informative chat with Miguel, and here are some of his thoughts on disrUPt: “Disruption to me means producing changes. Being a lawyer, I do believe in the power of courts to pioneer these changes and to pave the way for a broader acceptance of those changes in the society at large. Within the tension of state power and individual freedom, I firmly and adamantly believe in the crucial importance of courts.”

(Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

Marryam Khan, #DraperHills17 fellow from Pakistan 🇵🇰, is a Pakistani civil servant with over 18 years of experience advocating for and promoting democracy, development and rule of law. As the director general of the National Counter Terrorism Authority, Khan is responsible for coordinating and reviewing the implementation status of the National Action Plan, covering policy interventions in sectors including education, extremism and the criminal justice system.

Zaceu Lian, from Burma 🇲🇲, is a long-time advocate for democracy, federalism, human rights and peace in the Union of Burma (Myanmar).

After living in exile in India and Canada for 14 years, he returned to his native country in 2012. Lian works full-time for peace and national reconciliation programs currently being undertaken by the government of Burma, political parties and armed ethnic groups.

(Photo Cred: Paula McCloud)

Trinh Hoi, fellow from Vietnam, is an Australian lawyer of Vietnamese origin. He is most notably the founder and executive director of the Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment (VOICE), a non-profit registered in the US and the Philippines.

Trinh is currently based in the Philippines managing VOICE programs that provide capacity building training for Vietnamese activists, as well as providing support for civil society back in his homeland where he is unable to return due to the nature of his work and activism.

(Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

Last, but certainly not least, Eka Gigauri, #DraperHills17 fellow from Georgia 🇬🇪, is the executive director of the Georgia chapter of Transparency International, a global anti-corruption network that aims to combat corruption through the promotion of transparency and accountability. Gigauri served as the deputy head of the border police of Georgia, supervising anti-corruption reform in the agency. She was also a member of the state commission on negotiations for the European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan.

So what did #DraperHills17 do for fun?

Fellows participated in numerous workshops and even got to experience a exclusive tour of the campus, led by former Stanford University President, Gerhard Casper.

Fellows getting into the creative spirit during the workshop (Photo Cred: Paula McCloud) workshop- The fellows were given the opportunity to participate in an interactive workshop on creative and innovative thinking led by Nadia Roumani and Thomas Both at Stanford

Benetech Visit- Fellows were given the opportunity to visit the headquarters of Benetech where they learned the most effective and securest digital tools for human rights advocates and activists and how software can be used especially for social good.

(Photo Cred: Rod Searcey)

Campus Tour- On their first day at Stanford, fellows were guided on an exclusive and informative tour of the campus by President Emeritus at Stanford University, Gerhard Casper.

Draper Hills 17 also took over San Francisco while they were here!

(Photo Cred: Paula McCloud)
(Photo Cred: Paula McCloud)

SF Tour- Fellows took a guided tour through the city of San Francisco, visiting top spots like the Golden Gate Bridge and Twin Peaks.

(Photo Cred: Paula McCloud)

Twitter and City Hall Visit- The fellows spent the day in San Francisco visiting with the public policy team at Twitter and meeting with the Chief Innovation Officer at City Hall.

(Photo Cred: Paula McCloud)

Finally, #DraperHills17 disrUPted the selfie like none other! Here are some photos of our fellows in selfie action:

(Photo Cred: Paula McCloud)
(Photo Cred: Paula McCloud and #DraperHills17)

Don’t forget to submit your applications for Draper Hills 2018! Apply here:

Paula McCloud, third-year student at Stanford double majoring in Communication and African and African-American Studies, was the Communications Intern for the Draper Hills Program this summer.



Stanford CDDRL

The Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law produces policy-relevant research to advance political development.