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When Worlds Collide: Obama Foundation Scholar and African Leader Team Up to Help African Women

A woman with a medium-deep skin tone and short blonde hair stands holding and showing a menstral cup to a man with a deep skin tone under a white tent.

We have a theory at the Obama Foundation: that if you connect young leaders together—even if they work in different countries, toward different ends—they can accomplish more together than they can alone.

That's exactly what happened when Robert Katende from the Leaders: Africa program—whose work leading a chess academy in Uganda was celebrated in the Disney film, Queen of Katwe—met Vanessa Paranjothy, an Obama Scholar at Columbia University, at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago last November.

After hearing Vanessa speak at the Summit about her work providing underprivileged women with menstrual cups throughout Southeast Asia, Robert immediately knew he had to bring Vanessa to Uganda to help the young women in his community who often have to miss school during their periods.

That's how this unlikely partnership started. Hear Vanessa and Robert tell their story about what happened next in this video:

Obama Foundation Scholar and African Leader Join Forces to Create Change

Vanessa and Robert serve as a reminder that by sharing stories and building bridges, we can discover unlikely pairings that accelerate change—even across continents.

Bringing people together has far-reaching effects. You can see them first-hand in Vanessa and Robert’s story.