WEI Core Team

Yemisi Akinbobola – Advocacy: The role of the media

Dr Yemisi Akinbobola is an award-winning journalist, academic, and media entrepreneur. A Nigerian living in the UK, her work is Africa focused, covering stories from rape culture in Nigeria, to an investigative and data story on the trafficking of young West African football hopefuls by fake agents. The latter won the CNN African Journalist Award 2016 (Sports Reporting). Yemisi holds a PhD in Media and Cultural Studies from Birmingham City University where she is the Award Leader for MA Global Media Management, and her research interest is in digital journalism and African feminism. She is the founder of Stringers Africa, which connects freelance journalists in African countries with newsrooms worldwide, and she runs the African Women in the Media group. Founder also of IQ4News, a multimedia production company, she has freelanced for publications including the UN Africa Renewal magazine. Yemisi has worked in the charity sector where she has several years’ experience in communication management.




Dinah Bennett – Entrepreneurship

Dinah has been a supporter of women’s economic empowerment for over twenty five years. Twenty years ago she initiated a UK best practice initiative for supporting women’s entrepreneurship based on the concept of developing and growing social capital. As the founder of International Consultants for Enterprise Entrepreneurship (ICE) www.consult-ice.com Dinah designs and delivers business and entrepreneurial development programmes internationally. ICE’s aim, to help institutions and individuals understand the small business community in order to introduce effective enterprise strategies and polices. She is also Co-director of the Societal Innovation and Enterprise Forum (SIEF) at Durham University UK. Dinah is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts and the Higher Education Academy. She is co-founder and Vice-Chair of the UK Women’s Enterprise Policy Group and an Honorary Fellow of the UK Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs. In 2005 Dinah won an individual Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion and in 2011 awarded an OBE for her work supporting women’s entrepreneurship




Noreen Cesareo – WEI Platform Development & Marketing

Noreen Cesareo MA BA is an experienced international specialist in marketing, brand and communications. She has over 30 years’ experience working with global brands and businesses across industries, including financial, technology, travel, supply chain and professional services. In 2007, she set up Market Accents, a WE Connect International Certified woman-owned business. A Masters in Marketing, she channels her knowledge and experience to provide big company expertise to businesses. Together with her team, Noreen helps them achieve sustainable growth using smart marketing strategies and effective branding and integrated communications. Noreen is passionate about new technologies, educating and empowering women in enterprise, collaboration and communities. She works across cultures and speaks a number of languages. She is actively involved in a number of international initiatives, boards and working groups. These include: Trustee, The Commonwealth Girls Education Fund (CGEF); Director, The Malta Business Network (MBN); Ambassador, Pink Shoe and TeamEB Lead, Marketing and Markets (Exports). TeamEB is building the first UK Economic Blueprint for SMEs and women-owned businesses. She also sits on the All Parliamentary Party Group (AAPG) for Women and Enterprise where she is a lead in the International Trade and Connections sub-group.


Gerald Chirinda – Youth

Gerald Chirinda an entrepreneur, is the Founder of Tapiwa Capital, an African focused Investment Holding and Advisory Company with a focus on start-up and early stage companies. Tapiwa Capital focuses on building sustainable enterprises and unlocking real value in Zimbabwe and the African continent. The company takes businesses from concept to market and believes in ideas and concepts that are scalable, impactful, innovative, and will generate good returns. Gerald is also the co-founder of Educate, which is a specialist education finance provider in Zimbabwe that partners with schools at home and abroad. The core goal of Educate is providing financial access through the issuing of loans within the education ecosystem. He recently founded Future Africa Forum, a community of young African thought-leaders and actors from across the world, convening to discuss our continents future, it’s most pressing challenges and offering solutions for the challenges. Gerald has worked in Financial Advisory where his responsibilities were but not limited to, Mergers & Acquisitions, Disposals & Carve outs, Financial Modelling, Valuation and Research. In his spare time, Gerald loves to travel, network and be involved in projects for social good.



Yolanda Gibb – Research

Yolanda has over 30 years experience of working with individuals, educational institutions, MSME, members of the business support ecosystem, policymakers and international institutions. Her work and research interests primarily revolve around fostering entrepreneurship, internationalisation and SME competitiveness; the impact of digitalisation, leveraging intangible assets in companies and regions; and improving the investment climate. Understanding how creativity, social capital and digital inclusion can enhance individual and organisational learning is a key interest. Yolanda has designed and delivered programmes to facilitate women’s paths into enterprise, including start-up, growth and internationalisation; and had an active role in the management of local networks / associations for women entrepreneurs & professionals. Yolanda is co-founder and director of SIEF, a social enterprise spun out of Durham University, which celebrates the contribution of the independently owner managed business to local communities and society and engages with business and the wider community as well as the academic and student body to address some of today’s socio-economic challenges through innovation and enterprise. Yolanda works internationally and in a number of languages, including English, Spanish, German, French and Russian.



Graciela Hijar Santibanez – Rural

Graciela Hijar Santibanez is a human rights lawyer and a women’s advocate. She holds a Bachelor of Law (Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru) and a Master of Public Administration (Syracuse University – De Sardon Glass Fellow). Currently, she works as a Consultant for the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion, where she focuses on improving interventions towards rural women in Peru. She has work experience in Peru and the US, including with UN Women, the Ministry of Women of Peru and the Oil Trade Association. Throughout her career, Graciela has provided technical assistance to develop, coordinate and monitor policies to protect women from violence, empower rural women and promote women’s inclusion in the private sector. Among her academic work is her dissertation on the gender perspective of the Peruvian Reparations Plan for victims of sexual violence during the armed conflict, and the assessment of Conditional Cash Transfers in women’s economic empowerment. She is passionate about feminism, reproductive justice, sustainable development and education.



Dooter Malu – Legal, Regulatory & Policy Frameworks

Dooter Malu is an attorney with many years of experience in law reform, financial institutions, human rights and international humanitarian & criminal law. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he previously worked with the office of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court and the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia where he was involved in the prosecution of suspects responsible for the 2007 post-election violence in Kenya and the Srebrenica massacre in the former Yugoslavia respectively. Dooter also worked as a Principal Legal Officer with the Human Rights Commission in Nigeria and served as Head of the Freedom of Information Department. Dooter previously served as an in-house counsel for Keystone Bank in Lagos where he coordinated the legal work of 35 branches of the bank. He has served as a delegate at the Nigeria-Switzerland Political Dialogue on Human Rights and a reader for the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2015 & 2016. He is currently a Senior Manager with Kings & Goodman where he leads its strategic engagement in North America. He is a licensed attorney in New York and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He currently resides in Washington DC.



Gabriel Nagy – Communities and Sustainable Development

With a background in architecture, urban planning & economics and management, Gabriel is a multifaceted developer and hands-on executive, with global experience in planning, structuring, managing and executing complex and large scale, profitable and successful public and/or private projects. His priorities include designing more attractive, economically and environmentally sustainable communities. He has pioneered alternative service-delivery (public-private partnership) and financing models (value capture) while incorporating project management rigor and best practices to deliver high quality, cost-effective and socially responsible for-profit and donor-funded real estate, infrastructure and community projects focusing on: poverty alleviation, planning, zoning, public housing, economic development, redevelopment, climate change adaptation, post-disaster/conflict aid and recovery assistance, municipal finance, land/property development project in LAC, Asia, Eastern Europe, USA and the Middle East. He is fluent in Spanish (native) and English. He is a member of the International Research Foundation for Development’s (IRFD) advisory council, member of the Colombian Builders Association (CAMACOL), member of Lupien Rosenberg et Associés professional network, certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) and lecturer at the Urban Management Program at Universidad del Rosario. He currently lives in Chicago.


Nicole Pitter Patterson – Trade, Caribbean Programs & WEI Advisory Council

A senior international development advisor with 20+ years of expertise in both the public and private sectors, Nicole has focused her career in the areas of communitybased entrepreneurship, SME growth and social enterprise development. Nicole has successfully designed and managed a combined portfolio of US$20 million, with agencies such as USAID and the United Nations working with public and private sector partners in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. She has undertaken significant work on the development of women-owned businesses and emerging SMEs in the creative industries, and facilitating business development through local, regional and international industry platforms. As an Independent Development Adviser and Co-Founder of SheLeadsIt a social enterprise focused on women’s economic empowerment since 2017, she has launched a Caribbean wide innovative initiative supported by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for young women and girls in tech, as part of a woman led consortium; serves as Adviser to Ghana National Board for Small Scale Industries developing a specialized program for women’s economic empowerment; serves as Speaker at international conferences and is an Advisory Board Member of INDEGO Africa a social enterprise for artisans; she is the Board VP – Partnerships at Overseas Women in International Trade (OWIT), Geneva; and is a Volunteer with Nations Ladies UK – a BAME charity supporting girls. Nicole has worked with international donor agencies – USAID Washington/Caribbean and the UN in Switzerland, with implementation in the Caribbean, Africa and Mongolia. She holds a B.A. in Economics at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica and an M.A. in Regional Economic Development at Northeastern University, U.S.A. with training in Residential Interior Design at the Art Institute, U.S.A.



Ali Matalon – WEI Intern

Ali is a second-year Masters candidate at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. Ali studies Public Administration with a focus on Economic and Political Development in Latin America and the Caribbean. Prior to returning to school, Ali served as an Advocacy Support Specialist with the Secretariat for the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel for Women’s Economic Empowerment.Throughout her undergraduate career, Ali invested her time working in the social enterprise and microfinancing space to understand how business can be recommitted or repurposed to address societal needs more directly. In keeping with this, she strives to connect her work, in all fields, to Jamaica (her home country) and the Caribbean more broadly. She believes strongly in the need to break down barriers impeding women’s advancement in the region and the world. She is committed to serving as a Youth Champion for the Women’s Economic Imperative.






Emily Villalta – WEI Intern

Emily is a college student studying international relations and communications. She is multilingual – fluent in Spanish and English and at an intermediate level in French and American Sign Language. She enjoys travel, reading, and music. She aspires to be a diplomat.







Angela Yang – WEI Intern

Angela Yang is an incoming fourth year student at the University of Toronto, currently pursuing a B.S in Environmental Science and International Development Studies. In previous years she has served in various national parks around the United States with the Student Conservation Association, developing skills in environmental protection and advocacy. Her research interests include hydropolitics in the MENA and South Asia regions, as well as economies of public health in Latin America. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, English, and Spanish, and proficient in Modern Standard Arabic. She also has basic knowledge of Latin and Urdu.










From the blog...