Program Information

Are you a leader in disability inclusive civic engagement, eager to broaden your knowledge and global experience? Apply for the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Civic Engagement to learn from and collaborate with leaders from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, and the US.

Learn more about the program, its components, eligibility criteria, key activities, and available funding on this page.

What is the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Civic Engagement?

The Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Civic Engagement is a professional program funded by the US Department of State for emerging leaders in Africa. It focuses on exchanging and implementing best practices for inclusive civic engagement. Every year, the program typically supports approximately 12 mid-career disability rights professionals (Fellows) from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia to participate in a five-week Fellowship Program in the US.

What is Inclusive Civic Engagement?

Inclusive civic engagement aims to ensure equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in civic life and society, as outlined in Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

In the United States, civic engagement is a core strategy used by the disability community to advance the rights of people with disabilities. This idea is enshrined in the motto of the US disability rights movement, "Nothing About Us Without Us," which has been adopted by disability rights activists internationally. The motto emphasizes the importance of involving people with disabilities in decisions that affect them.

What does this Fellowship Program involve?

As a Fellow, you will learn effective approaches to enhance your efforts to build and strengthen fully inclusive civic societies for people with disabilities in your country. The core of the program is an individual Fellowship placement with a US host organization.

Prior to the placement, you will select a key policy or practice issue related to disability and civic engagement in your country. This issue becomes the focus for your individual Fellowship placement and informs the Follow-on Project that you will develop and implement within six months of returning home. Please note that your project should be implemented without the need for additional resources or financial support beyond what is available in your current work or volunteer position. The Fellowship will also include weekly seminars, mentorship, and community service.

Here is an overview of the program stages:

  1. Begin Your US Fellowship: Participate in virtual sessions with program staff to prepare for your Fellowship experience and travel to the US. 

  2. Engage in Your Fellowship:  Work with your US host organization, sharing insights and best practices on disability inclusion across different cultures. 

  3. Develop an Action Plan: Collaborate with US colleagues to develop an action plan for a follow-on project that you will implement upon returning home. 

  4. Attend the Professional Fellows Congress: Connect and network with more than one hundred Professional Fellows from around the world during a four-day conference in Washington, D.C. 

  5. Sustain Your Project: After your Fellowship in the US, your US host might visit your country to provide additional support for implementing your follow-on project. 

A group of five individuals, three women and two men, posing for a group photo in front of the White House in Washington DC.

From left to right, Fall 2022 Fellows Emebet G Lema, Alan H Onyango, and Fides P Uiso, sign language interpreter Jalia Namiiro, and Fall 2022 Fellow Harunah Damba in front of the White House in Washington, D.C.

Am I eligible for this Fellowship Program?

This is a merit-based competition open to candidates from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia. To apply, you must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Age: Between 25 and 40 as of the first day of the Fellowship Program.
  • Citizenship: Citizen and resident of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, or Ethiopia.
  • Visa Eligibility: You should be eligible to receive a US J-1 visa. (Visit the US Department of State website  for information about J-1 visas.)
  • Language: Proficiency in spoken and written English*
  • Work Experience: Minimum of two years of professional work experience.
  • Travel: Ability to travel to the US for the five-week program duration.
A group of 13 people are in a conference room with a woman at the front giving a presentation.

The Fall 2022 cohort listens to Fides P Uiso, a Fellow from Tanzania, present her follow-on project proposal at the orientation on September 30, 2022, at the ICI office in Boston.

*If you use American, Kenyan, Tanzanian, Ugandan, or Ethiopian Sign Language, please let us know. We can provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation or cover the cost for interpretation in other sign languages.

For more information and to confirm eligibility, please review our Fellowship Eligibility Checklist [PDF].

We encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds, including individuals with disabilities, to apply.

When does the Fellowship Program begin?

The Fellowship Program is held annually, starting in early to mid-May and ending in early to mid-June. Please note that Fellowship start and end dates might change slightly.

The program is held in-person in the US. However, if there are COVID-19 or related travel restrictions, it will be conducted virtually.

Key Program Activities

Virtual Pre-Departure Orientation and Virtual Sessions

  • Learn about the Fellowship Program and life in the US. 
  • Prepare for your departure. 
  • Gain insights and tips from past Fellows. 
  • Develop your follow-on project proposal. 

Engagement with US Host Organization

  • Meet your host mentor via videoconference. 
  • Familiarize yourself with your host site organization and introduce your work. 
  • Review and refine your Fellowship schedule collaboratively. 

Program Orientation in Boston

  • Meet program staff and your Fellow cohort. 
  • Present and receive feedback on your follow-on project proposal. 
  • Learn about disability and civic engagement in the US through guest speakers. 

Fellowship Placement at US Host Organization

  • Spend four weeks learning and working with US colleagues. 
  • Develop your follow-on project action plan with mentor support. 
  • Engage in community service, volunteering, and social activities. 
Four individuals, one man and three women, posing with a pink sign that reads 'PFP'. They are standing in an airport arrival area. 

From left to right, Fall 2022 Fellow Harunah Damba, sign language interpreter Jalia Namiiro, and Fellows Fides P Uiso and (Tiba) Priscilla Kisakye celebrate arriving at Boston Logan Airport on September 29, 2022.

 Weekly Virtual Seminars during Fellowship Placement

  • Join video conferences with your Fellow cohort, led by program staff. 
  • Share experiences and lessons from your placement. 
  • Provide updates on your follow-on project action planning progress. 
  • Engage in peer mentoring and support. 
  • Learn from guest speakers about various aspects of inclusive civic engagement. 
Two women in wheelchairs, one American and one African, posing in a hallway.

Kristen McCosh, Disability Commissioner for the City of Boston (right), meets with Fall 2022 Fellow Salome N Gitau from Kenya (left).

Program Closing Workshop & Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

  • Present your follow-on project action plan. 
  • Get feedback from US experts, peers, and program staff. 
  • Receive an award for completing the program.  

Professional Fellows Congress in Washington, D.C.

  • Meet and network with 170+ Professional Fellows from various countries. 
  • Enhance your project implementation skills through training and discussions. 

Follow-on Project Action Plan Implementation in Home Country

  • Use the knowledge gained to implement your action plan in your home country. 
  • Periodically report on your progress with implementation.  

Involvement in Exchange Alumni Activities

  • Participate in alumni activities, including peer mentoring and support. 
  • Contribute to Fellowship Program activities, for example, as a guest speaker. 
An African Fellow sitting in a wheelchair receiving a blue certificate of from a US program officer in a black dress. 

Senior Program Officer Melissa Kirschner (right) presents Salome N Gitau (left), a Fall 2022 Fellow from Kenya, with a with a Certificate of Program Completion from the US Department of State.

Is there funding available?

As a Fellow, you will receive funding and support for:

  • Round-trip travel between home country and the US
  • Fellowship-related travel within the US
  • Travel interruption insurance
  • Accident and health insurance for the duration of the Fellowship in the US
  • Living accommodations in the US
  • Living allowance to cover meals, local transportation, and incidental expenses
  • Cultural allowance to spend on books and attending cultural events
  • Disability-related arrangements, if needed
  • An Internet hotspot

The Spring 2025 Fellowship application call is closed.