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Our Founding Team

Rakesh Rajani

Founder/Executive Director 2001-2007

Rakesh is the Vice President of Programs at Co-Impact, global philanthropy committed to systems change and gender transformation at scale. From 2001 to 2007, Rakesh served as the founding Executive Director of HakiElimu, from its infancy to becoming Tanzania’s leading citizen engagement and education advocacy organisation. After HakiElimu, Rakesh founded and led TWAWEZA East Africa, which works across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania to promote citizens’ agency, open government and basic education. He is also a founding member and served as one of the first co-Chairs of the Open Government Partnership, which now involves over 75 countries. From 2015 to 2018, Rakesh served as the Director of Democratic Participation and Governance at the Ford Foundation, leading its work on civic engagement, elections and budgets. Rakesh sits on several national and international governance and advisory boards, including the Hewlett Foundation, the International Budget Partnership (IBP), Innovations in Poverty Action (IPA) and Luminate. He is also an active member of HakiElimu, TWAWEZA and the Foundation for Civil Society. Rakesh graduated summa cum laude from Brandeis and Harvard Universities and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was a fellow of Harvard University from 1998 to 2013 and has written and edited over 400 papers, articles, opinion pieces and popular publications in English and Kiswahili languages.

Japhet Makongo


Japhet is a Co- Founder of HakiElimu since its establishment in 2001. Together with a few other co-founders, he joined the secretariat team to develop and implement the first 3-year strategy working at managerial and support supervision positions. Japhet poses exiting background in his social and career life, starting from being a professional livestock management and veterinary expert and gradually moving into social development and human right activist over the years. He holds a Master degree in International Relations and Development Studies and Advanced Diplomas in Livestock Management and Community Program Management respectively. Japhet is a seasoned champion of human rights with a strong passion on education, gender and inclusion as among the fundamental human rights. He is actively engaging in advocating for citizen’s awareness on their rights and promotion of good practices from duty bearers to ensure these rights are adhered to. He has extensive experience working with pastoralist, organizing farmer groups, children and education programs drawn from his career with public (government), and civil society organizations (national and international NGOs) and donor programs for more than 30 years. Japhet (now retired from active employment) is still an active participant in social development and human right dialogues and debates and enjoys learning and playing the coaching and mentorship roles to youth and where needed. He is still passionate to see the dream/vision of HakiElimu prevail.

Elizabeth Missokia

Founding Member/Executive Director 2007-2014

Elizabeth Missokia has over 13 years of experience in organisational and institutional capacity development, programme management, gender and basic girls’ education. Her other capacities include policy analysis, programme design, strategic planning, communication and media. Elizabeth has worked with HakiElimu as the Executive Director for 8 years (2007-2014). Before joining HakiElimu, Elizabeth worked for USAID as the Gender Advisor and Programme Management Specialist for two years. Prior to USAID, Elizabeth worked with CARE International in Tanzania as the Project Coordinator for Basic and Girls’ Education Unit for about nine years. Elizabeth holds a Masters of Science degree in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from the University of Dar Es Salaam.

Richard Mabala

Founding Member

Richard Mabala was born British and after graduating as a teacher came to Tanzania as a volunteer and fell in love with the country. He became a Tanzanian citizen and has taught in secondary schools, teacher colleges and the University of Dar es Salaam. Finally he decided he was more activist than academic and was founder member of several of Tanzania’s most influential NGOs (for gender and education). After an eight-year period with UNICEF where he worked to develop and prioritise adolescent programmes, he decided he wanted to go back to working directly with adolescents and young people. He left UNICEF and joined force with two young people to set up TAMASHA, a youth participatory development centre based in Arusha Tanzania. Mabala, a fluent Swahili speaker, is also a writer of children’s books, training manuals in life skills, gender and youth development and satirical columns in newspapers. He has now handed over leadership of TAMASHA to a younger person, and prefers Twitter to newpapers as his tweets reach a much larger audience. He is co-founder and consultant for HerDignity Consult which specialises in gender, youth and education and is trying to concentrate more on writing the many books that whirl round in his head. He is currently writing two novels, one in English and one in Kiswahili.

Jenerali Ulimwengu

Founding Member

Jenerali attended primary school (elementary and middle school) in Bukoba between 1955 and 1962, after which he joined Nyakato Secondary School (1963-1966) and Tabora Boys (1967-1968). In 1969, Jenerali joined the University of Dar es Salaam where he studied Law, and graduated with Honors Degree in 1972. After his college studies, Jenerali joined the Tanganyika Standard Newspapers, publishers of the Daily News and Sunday News as a trainee reporter, and then became reporter, sub-editor, features editor and columnist. In 1974 Jenerali was posted to a different position. He was appointment a representative of the Afro-Shiraz Youth League and TANU Youth League at the headquarters of the Pan African Youth Movement in Algiers for 11 years. In 1986 he returned to Tanzania and was appointed a District Commissioner for Hai, Ilala and Singida districts. Jenerali, a passionate journalist, moved back to the media house to become a co-founder and Executive Director of the media company, Habari Corporation, which published Rai, Mtanzania, The African and Dimba newspapers. In 2007, he sold his shares of Habari Corporation and co-found a new media power house which publishes Raia Mwema newspaper. Jenerali Left Raia Mwema in 2020 to found Jenerali Online which is available on YouTube. Jenerali is a renowned columnist, publisher, political analyst and entrepreneur.

Marjorie Mbilinyi

Founding Member

Professor Marjorie Mbilinyi is a scholar activist committed to the promotion of gender equity and social justice through policy analysis, writing, organising and mentoring. Marjorie has been actively involved in establishing and leading several civil society organisations and networks, including TGNP Mtandao; Women’s Research and Documentation Project; KIHACHA (Rural Food Security Policy and Development Group); and founder member of HakiElimu; Women Dignity, Tanzania Participatory Research Network and African Participatory Research Networks; and Gender and Economic Reforms in Africa (GERA), Accra. Marjorie has published more than 21 books and reports authored or co-authored and/or edited by herself, 28 journal articles, 36 book chapters, numerous newspaper articles, and papers for public presentation. She taught at University of Dar es Salaam from 1968 to 2003; was the first director of TGNP (1994-96), and later rejoined TGNP as Principal Policy Anayst for ten years. Marjorie studied at Cornell University (BSc Child Development); Stanford University (MA Ed) and University of Dar es Salaam (PhD).

Wilbert Kapinga

Founding Member

Wilbert Kapinga is the managing partner of the Bowmans Law Firm Tanzania office. Wilbert was previously for upwards of twenty years a senior partner in the law firm of Mkono & Co. Advocates in Tanzania. Prior to entering private practice, Wilbert was a Senior Lecturer and Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Dar es Salaam where he was a member of the teaching and research staff for seventeen years. He specialises in corporate law, construction law, finance law, banking, restructurings and competition law. He has significant dispute resolution experience and has over 25 years experience advising domestic and international financial institutions and corporations on corporate, regulatory and transactional matters. Wilbert holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Dar es Salaam. He also has Masters’ degrees in Law from both the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Columbia University in New York, USA, as well as a Doctor of Philosophy Degree from Northeastern University in Boston, USA.

Martha Qorro

Founding Member

Martha Qorro is an Associate Professor, Centre for Communication Studies at the University of Dar es Salaam. She obtained her Doctoral Degree at the University of Dar es Salaam in 1999. She conducted A Survey on Students’ Reading Competence in English in Tanzania Secondary Schools from 1986 – 1987 and later theco-authored a book on Language Crisis in Tanzania: The Myth of English versus Education, published by Mkuki na Nyota in 1997. Martha Qorro was in the EditorialTeam of the LOITASA project and she took part in co-editing several LOITASA booksbetween 2002 and 2012. LOITASA which stands for Language of Instruction in Tanzania and South Africa, is a joint research project between the University of Dar es Salaam, University of Western Cape, South Africa and University of Oslo, Norway. Martha served as a Dean of Students and Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Dar es Salaam between 2013 and 2014. Her research interests are on the Language of instruction in Tanzania schools.

Mary Rusimbi

Founding Member

Mary received her first degree in adult education from the University of Dar es Salaam. In 1983 she went to New Zealand for further studies where she obtained her Masters degree in social education.  She also received a certificate of gender development education from London, UK. From the year 1988 to 1993, she worked with the Embassy of Canada as a gender expert before moving on to the Dutch Embassy for similar responsibilities until1997. Mary was one of the co-founders of Tanzania Gender Network Programme (TGNP) in 1993. She was eventually appointed the second Executive Director of the Network in 1997. Mary Rusimbi is a renowned activist, researcher and consultant for gender and development issues.

Illuminata Tukai

Founding Member

Illuminata received her secondary education certificates from Dodoma Secondary School and then Kilakala Secondary School, (previously Marian Girls High School) in Morogoro Region. Illuminata graduated in Social Development and Administration from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1975, (and later on she graduated from the University of Dar es Salaam with MA in Sociology in 1981). Soon after her graduation, she was employed by the Department of Social Welfare as a Social Welfare Officer Family and Child Welfare Section. She joined the Child Development desk, which led her to work directly with UNICEF and other organisations dealing with child development projects.

As a head of the Child Development section, Illuminata was instrumental in advocating for, and piloting different intervention strategies for pre-school aged children and children living in difficult circumstances at family, community, and national levels. The positive result of the programmes inspired UNICEF to recruit her in 1989 as a Child Development Assistant. She later joined the education sector at UNICEF as a Project Officer in 1996. She worked with UNICEF for 20 years at national and international levels, until her retirement in 2009.

As a retiree, Illuminata became actively involved in her church as a church community leader and a counsellor. At the moment, while she continues to work with her church, she refocused her goals to include a broader community for advice, counselling, moral support and family reconciliation.

Suleiman Sumra

Founding Member

Suleman Sumra holds a PhD from Stanford University, USA. He retired from the University of Dar es Salaam in 2002 after a teaching career spanning over 30 years. At the University of Dar es Salaam, he held several positions, including Associate Dean for Research and Publications, Director of the Bureau of Research and Evaluation (BERE), and the coordinator for the Language of Instruction in Tanzania and South Africa (LOITASA). After retirement, Prof Sumra worked for a short period at HakiElimu. From August 2008 to April 2012, he was the National Coordinator of UWEZO Tanzania.

John Ulanga


Mr. Ulanga is the Country Director of TradeMark East Africa in Tanzania.  Before joining TradeMark East Africa, he was the Vice President, External Affairs and Sustainability for BG East Africa. Before joining BG East Africa, Mr. Ulanga was the Executive Director of the Foundation for Civil Society, and before that he worked with the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF). Previously, Mr. Ulanga worked with the Ministry of Finance and Planning as part of the team that introduced Integrated Financial Management System in the Government.  

Mr. Ulanga is the Chairman of the University Council of the Hubert Kairuki Memorial University, Dar es Salaam; Chairman of the Board of Serengeti Breweries Limited, Member of the Board of East African Breweries Limited, and Member of the Board of Mwananchi Communications Limited.  Mr. Ulanga is the School Board Chairman for Azania Secondary School and a Member of the Africa Policy Advisory Board for ONE Campaign.   He is also a Fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative in East Africa and the Aspen Global Leadership Network of the Aspen Institute, Colorado, USA and a Senior Fellow of the Centre on Philanthropy and Civil Society Studies at the Graduate Centre of the City University of New York.  Mr. Ulanga is a Fellow of the Synergos Institute in New York, an alumnus of both the International Visitors Leadership Programme of the US Department of State and the British Council InterAction Leadership Programme.  

Mr. Ulanga holds a B.Com (Accounting) from the University of Dar es Salaam, an Executive Master in Development Policies and Practices from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, and he is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA Tanzania). Mr. Ulanga is also a Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner and a Certified Compliance Professional. 

Helen Kijo-Bisimba


Dr. Helen Kijo-Bisimba is a distinguished human rights activist, defender, and former Executive Director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC). She is retired and has taken to writing and editing books on human rights. She holds a PhD in Law from the University of Warwick, UK, in 2012. Helen graduated from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1985 with a Bachelor of Law Degree (LLB) and a Master of Law Degree (LLM) in 1994. She obtained a Diploma in Education from the Dar-es-Salaam College of Education in 1977. A mother of four, Helen remains a parent and a teacher to many of her acquaintances in the human rights sector and many other pursuits. She has been part and parcel of the making in many organisations as a board member, researcher, editor, and publisher.

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