Hurford Youth Fellowship

Do you have great ideas about how to promote democracy in your community?  Are you ready to build your leadership skills? Would you like to meet other youth leaders from around the world?

The Hurford Youth Fellowship Program seeks to build the leadership skills and harness the potential of young democracy activists from around the world. Through the Program, young activists spend three months at the World Movement’s Secretariat, during which they expand their global connections, share experiences with other activists from democracy movements around the world, and contribute to the development of the World Movement for Democracy. Hurford Youth Fellows engage in strategic meetings; conduct research; and organize and lead presentations, online discussions, and information-sharing sessions on key democracy issues.
Upon the successful completion of each fellowship, the fellows serve as a regional/country focal point, working with the Hurford Youth Fellowship Alumni Network to remain involved and take the lead in youth-related activities.
For more details about the fellowship, click HERE.


Patricia Zanella, Brazil (2021) 

Patricia Zanella is the co-founder of EcoCiclo, an initiative aimed at promoting women’s reproductive justice, including increasing the accessibility of sanitary pads to women in marginalized communities.  As a women’s rights advocate and proponent for social justice and sustainability, at the age of 22, Zanella ran for congress and received almost 10,000 votes. Using online tools and low-cost strategies to mobilize support for her platform, Zanella hopes to use her firsthand experience to encourage more young women to run for office.

During her fellowship, Patricia’s project focused on young women’s political participation and the barriers to their political leadership in Latin America. Her online discussions with young female leaders from around the globe explored innovative ways, both online and within political party systems, to increase the participation of young women in politics.

Read Patricia’s article “Reflections on Young Women Running for Office: A Guide the Future” HERE.


Nishchhal Kharal, Nepal (2021) 

Nishchhal Kharal is the Co-Founder and Secretary of Centre for Social Change, a social think tank that is committed to changing the socio-political dynamics of Nepalese society via research, education, and advocacy. Kharal is a member of IRI’s Generation Democracy and a former Leadership Board Member of the World Youth Movement for Democracy, where he demonstrated his passion for empowering the next generation of youth leaders and defending civic space.

During his fellowship, Nishchhal researched how civic space for youth can be protected amidst the covid-19 pandemic and beyond in Nepal. He also started a podcast series in which he interviewed young artists and activists about effective strategies to strengthen civic engagement among young people.

Read Nishchhal’s paper, “The Status of Youth Civic Space in Nepal” HERE.


Stefani Spirovska, North Macedonia (2021) 

Stefani Spirovska is the President of the Youth Education Forum, a civil society organization that provides civic education and capacity building for youth in North Macedonia. To promote active citizenship among youth, Spirovska hosts an online youth radio program called RadioMOF, which invites youth to talk with government officials about policies and the benefits of democracy.

During her fellowship, Stefani examined systematic approaches to building democratic values among youth. Stefani’s online discussions focused on the effectiveness of youth policies, youth caucuses, and how civic organizations can empower youth to become interested in participating in formal democratic institutions.

Read Stefani’s article, “Youth Participation and Better Connections: How to Improve the Effectiveness of Youth Democratic Representation” HERE.



Marr Nyang, The Gambia (2021) 

Marr Nyang is the Founder and Executive Director of Gambia Participates, a civil society organization that engages communities on constitutional reforms, participatory budgeting, and transitional justice. Given Nyang’s diverse experience across various thematic areas and his organization’s presence in over 118 villages, he co-led the nation’s efforts in obtaining citizen input for The Gambia’s constitutional review process.

During his fellowship, Marr explored the intersection of truth and reconciliation processes and its role in advancing constitutional reform. His online discussions highlighted case studies of transitional justice from around the world and explored strategies for youth engagement in such processes.

Read Marr’s paper, “Transitional Justice: A Pathway To a Progressive Society and Democracy” HERE.





Annouchka Wijesinghe, Sri Lanka (2020) 

Annouchka Wijesinghe is an activist and the Research Coordinator at Alliance Development Trust, a civil society and development organization that promotes social justice and empowers vulnerable communities in Sri Lanka. There she worked on several initiatives that foster pluralism and youth political participation.

In 2017, Wijesinghe was awarded the UN Advocacy Training and Study Fellowship for Asian Human Rights Defenders. She is committed to advocating for the rights of religious and ethno-religious minorities, and has contributed to national efforts to establish transitional justice mechanisms which would provide redress to victims of Sri Lanka’s civil war and victims of structural violence. In 2016 she developed recommendations to the Consultations Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms and was involved in civil society consultations on drafting legislation for a reparations’ regime in 2018.

During her fellowship, Annouchka Wijesinghe will examine the influences of populism on civic and political space. She will develop a series of discussions and resources to explore how youth leaders can curb the spread of disinformation, advocate for the right to information, and form coalitions to address the rise of populism.

Nevena Todorovic, Serbia (2020) 

Nevena Todorovic is a Program Coordinator at the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, an organization dedicated to promoting peace and reconciliation in the Balkans. The initiatives she works on promote post-conflict reconciliation, peacebuilding and youth human rights education on a local and international level. The Youth Initiative recently became the secretariat of the World Youth Movement for Democracy (WYMD), where Todorovic leads its solidarity initiatives on youth political participation and gender justice.

Her previous experience includes working with legal aid and humanitarian organizations that support refugees, as well as projects that bolster regional cooperation and peacebuilding through the arts. Todorovic attained her Masters in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law and has a special interest in Middle East Studies.

During her fellowship, Nevena Todorovic will host a series of discussions to examine unifying thematic interests and priorities for civic youth leaders and will develop strategies and systems to enhance the sustainability of the WYMD.

Irene Ikomu, Uganda (2019) 

Irene Ikomu is a Ugandan lawyer based in Nairobi, Kenya. Prior to becoming a Hurford fellow, she was a consultant on civic spaces in the East and Horn of Africa, with the Heinrich Boell Foundation. Previously, she managed the Aga Khan Development Network’s East Africa Civil Society Initiative, supporting resilient civil society in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania; and co-founded and managed Parliament Watch Uganda, a civic tech parliament monitoring initiative. Additionally, Ikomu was a Mandela Washington civic engagement fellow in 2014 and received the Young Female Lawyer of the Year Award by the Uganda Law Society in recognition of her contribution to Uganda’s democratic development.

During her fellowship, Ms. Ikomu focused on how young people are opening up new models of political participation outside of traditional political channels. Her discussions examined what it means to challenge the political status quo in the digital age, and explored this generation’s emerging voices and new ideas, harnessing lessons learned from their unique approaches to creating democratic space within their countries.                                                                                                                  

Anthony Q. Esguerra, Philippines (2018)

Anthony Q. Esguerra is a reporter and social media specialist for, the most-read news website in the Philippines. Having engaged in various regional youth forums, Esguerra is committed to promoting media literacy, independent journalism and freedom of the press in Asia. In 2011, Esguerra was elected president of the Philippine League of Development Communication, and in 2012 he was a fellow at the Institute on New Media and Journalism at Ball State University, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

During his fellowship, Anthony Esguerra explored strategies that can promote media and information literacy to counter disinformation and fake news. He developed a series of online discussions and tools that examined how to constructively deal with trolls and propagandists, explored the role of journalists in preventing disinformation, and proposed solutions that challenge attempts to ‘weaponize’ social media.


Margarita Maira, Chile (2018)

Margarita Maira is a Project Coordinator at Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente, a civil society organization that seeks to strengthen democracy in Latin America. Maira is committed to strengthening governance in Latin America and has led campaigns to engage youth in dialogue with decision makers and political candidates. Additionally, she has worked with emerging leaders in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, training them on how to develop advocacy strategies and engage in public policy. Her experiences include working with former Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet’s digital communications team and with Chile’s Ministry General Secretariat of the Government.

During her fellowship, Maira focused on how to create effective spaces where youth can relate to public policies and government issues. She explored practical ways to make governance a topic of interest for younger generations and opportunities to connect youth to democratic institutions.


Risham Waseem, Pakistan (2018)

Risham Waseem (Pakistan) is the Creative Director at Maati TV, a web TV channel that promotes peace and democracy in Pakistan. She also serves as the Media Officer at the Interactive Resource Center, a non-profit organization striving to build consciousness among marginalized populations using interactive art forms such as theatre and film. Waseem’s passion for art and activism inspired her to direct and produce several documentaries on countering violent extremism and addressing sexual harassment in Pakistan. Additionally, her commitment to civic participation led to her involvement in forum theatre, where she has performed in plays on issues related to human rights and democracy all over Pakistan.

During her fellowship, Waseem examined global media trends that promote populist and nationalistic narratives that discredit democracy, shrink civic space, and threaten youth political participation. Additionally, Waseem worked to develop short digital stories in the form of mini web series, to counter the misconceptions associated with democracy.


Najmin Kamilsoy, Azerbaijan (2017)

Najmin Kamilsoy is a human rights activist and international relations coordinator for the NIDA Civic Movement, a pro-democracy youth organization that defends constitutional and human rights and promotes democratic values in Azerbaijan.  Most notably, he has led international advocacy campaigns for the release of political prisoners and has been successful in supporting the release of fellow activists, including his father, prominent human rights defender, Intigam Aliyev.

During his fellowship, Kamilsoy focused on how to confront obstacles to emerging democracy youth movements and conducted global discussions on youth activism in restrictive environments; academic freedom and institutional autonomy; and the impact of unemployment on youth participation.

News & Alerts

August 12, 2019

Challenging The Narrative: Youth movements are defining what democracy looks like for young people

Hurford Youth Fellow Irene Ikomu challenges the idea that youth are apathetic by highlighting the transformative ways in which youth engage in politics outside of traditional structures. Read “Challenging The Narrative: Youth movements are defining what democracy looks like for young people” here.

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March 15, 2019

World Youth Movement for Democracy Launches Podcast

The World Youth Movement for Democracy (WYMD) continues to provide new ways for young activists to share information and build solidarity among global youth movements on its website. Through its new podcast series, “WYMD Talks,” Youth Movement participants offer personal insight on a diverse range of democracy-related issues. Primarily, young leaders discuss how youth can […]

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