Valerie Nkamgang Bemo, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

TITLE: Senior Program Officer, Global Development

FUNDING AREAS: Emergency response—natural disasters, economic crisis and other complex crises.

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PROFILE: Valerie Bemo is wears a couple of hats at the Gates Foundation, drawing on her years of experience to discharges her duties. Her responsibilities in emergency response bring her talents and skills to other parts of the world as well – she is as familiar with the difficulties in Aceh, Indonesia as she is with those in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Cote d'Ivoire. In 2005, she set up an unstaffed clinic after an earthquake devastated Aceh, treating long lines of patients for injuries from the quake as well as for medical problems unrelated to the disaster. That followed her work for the International Rescue Committee in Cote d'Ivoire where she was involved in running a large water and sanitation program serving 250 villages in the western part of the country. 

Her foundation bio shares: 

Valerie Nkamgang Bemo manages the foundation’s investments that support communities affected by natural disasters and complex emergencies.

Vuyiswa Sidzumo, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

TITLE: Director-South Africa, Civil Society Program

FUNDING AREAS: Philanthropy, law, human rights, poverty

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PROFILE: Vuyiswa Sidzumo is a director at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Her foundation bio shares:

Ms. Vuyiswa Sidzumo joined the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation as an associate program officer in 2005. She was promoted to program officer in 2007 before becoming director of the South Africa office in 2009. In addition to her duties as office director, Sidzumo oversees grant-making to support the South African community advice office sector.
Before coming to the Foundation, Sidzumo was a director at the National Department of Provincial and Local Government, now known as the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, where she served as liaison to the donor community in South Africa. Between 1995 and 2002, she worked at the Sedibeng Centre for Organizational Effectiveness and the United Nations Development Program.
Sidzumo currently serves as the Chair of the US based Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group and on the Construction Industry Development Board in South Africa. She holds bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in science from Wits University in South Africa.


Monica Aleman Cunningham, Ford Foundation

TITLE: Senior Program Officer, Building Institutions and Networks (BUILD)

FUNDING AREAS: Economic development and women's issues, Nairobi, Kenya, social justice

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PROFILE: Monica Aleman Cunningham is a senior program officer at the Ford Foundation. Her foundation bio shares:

Monica Aleman Cunningham is a senior program officer on the BUILD team, working to advance the foundation’s efforts to support and develop stronger, sustainable, and more effective social justice organizations and networks across the globe. Her areas of concentration in BUILD are Latin America; Civic Engagement and Government; and Gender, Race, and Ethnic Justice. Previously, she was based in the foundation’s East Africa office, where her grant making focused on increasing the capacity of national, regional, and global groups and supporting national and regional networks to advance a constitutional framework that protects the rights of women and other minorities, increases the participation of women in governance structures, and consolidates the infrastructure of the women’s rights movement. In addition, Monica led grant-making efforts to explore the links between customary laws and customs as they relate to women and sexual expression, using culture and religion as key entry points into understanding social change.  

Before joining the foundation in 2011, Monica was executive director of the International Indigenous Women's Forum, a network of organizations in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. She also served as program and policy director at MADRE, an international women's rights organization and Ford Foundation grantee. In addition, Monica has worked as a coordinator and assistant for the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and has consulted for various organizations, including the Ford Foundation and Nicaragua’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Her extensive background encompasses expertise in community organizing, social movement building, and participatory monitoring and evaluation, all honed through her work over the years with national, regional, and global organizations. She also has written a number of opinion and issue-oriented articles, primarily on women's rights and the rights of indigenous peoples and communities.

Monica received her master's degree from the Intercultural Indigenous University, Popayán, Colombia, and her bachelor's degree in international relations, with a focus on political science and business administration, from the University of Mobile, Latin America Campus at San Marcos, Nicaragua. Her academic experience also includes special studies in diplomacy, women's human rights, human rights, the right to education, ethics, and politics in various institutions of higher learning in Latin America and the United States.