Program Information

Are you committed to inclusive civic engagement? Apply for the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Civic Engagement to discuss and plan inclusive civic engagement projects with other emerging leaders from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, and the US. Learn more on this page about what the program involves, the eligibility, and selection process, key program activities, and available funding.

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 to exchange and implement best practices for inclusive civic engagement. The program will support approximately 19 disability rights professionals (Fellows) from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia to participate in a 5-week Fellowship program in the US.

What is Inclusive Civic Engagement?

Inclusive civic engagement means that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities to participate in civic life and society as people without disabilities. Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) requires states to “guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others” (UN, n.d.). Yet, many people with disabilities still have no or limited opportunities to make self-directed decisions and participate in civic life (Harris et al., 2012).

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. It calls for people with disabilities to be involved in decisions that impact them.


Harris, P.S., Owen, R., & De Ruiter, C. (2012). “Civic Engagement and People with Disabilities: The Role of Advocacy and Technology.” Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship: Vol. 5: Iss. 1, Article 8.


What does this Fellowship Program involve?

As a Fellow, you can learn approaches to inform your efforts to build and strengthen fully inclusive civic societies for people with disabilities in your home countries. The core of the program is an individual Fellowship with a university-based research and education center for disabilities or similar host site organization in the US. As a Fellow, you will select a key policy or practice issue related to disability and civic engagement in your home countries. This policy or practice issue will provide a focus for your individual Fellowship placement training and will inform the project that you will design and implement upon returning home. The Fellowship training will also include weekly leadership seminars, mentorship, and community service.

  • Begin your US Fellowship: Work with US host site organizations, such as university-based research and education centers, during your customized Fellowship placement.
  • Develop a plan: Collaborate with colleagues from US host site organizations to design an individual project action plan that you will implement upon returning home (this is called the follow-on project).
  • Sustain your project: After your Fellowship in the US, your US host might visit your organizations in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, or Ethiopia to facilitate project sustainability and long-term collaboration.
The Fall 2019 cohort of the Professional Fellows Program.

The Fall 2019 cohort of the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Disability Employment at the Professional Fellows Congress.


Am I eligible for this Fellowship Program?

This is a merit-based competition open to candidates in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia.

To apply, you must meet the following eligibility criteria. You must:

  • Be between the ages of 25 and 40
  • Be a citizen and resident of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, or Ethiopia
  • Be eligible to receive a US J-1 visa (Visit the US Department of State website for information about J-1 visas.)
  • Be proficient in spoken English
  • Be proficient in reading and writing English*
  • Have at least 2 or more years of professional work experience
  • Not currently participate in an academic, training, or research program in the US
  • Be able to travel to the US for a 5-week Fellowship beginning in September 2022 or May 2023 (Please see the program dates below.)
  • Commit to return to your home country for a period of 2 cumulative years after completing the Fellowship Program

*Please let us know if you use American, Kenyan, Tanzanian, Ugandan, or Ethiopian Sign Language. We will provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation or cover the cost for arranging interpretation in any of the other sign languages.

For more information and to check if you are eligible to apply, please review our Fellowship Eligibility Checklist [PDF].

We encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds, including individuals with disabilities, to apply. If you need an alternative format (e.g., Braille, electronic, large print) of the application form, please contact PFPInclusion@umb.edu


Charlie Kellett speaks with Professional Fellows.

Charlie Kellett, Foreign Affairs Officer and member of the US Department of State Disability Rights Team in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), speaks with Professional Fellows.

How can I be selected for this Fellowship Program?

A panel of program staff and professionals working in the disability field in the US and in Africa will review all eligible applications and select and interview semi-finalists. Interviews will include an English language proficiency test.

The panel will evaluate your application based on the following criteria:

  • Demonstrated past leadership and collaborative skills broadly related to disability inclusion
  • Demonstrated ability as a leader to overcome obstacles and learn from failures 
  • Professional interest and/or experience and motivation to work on disability and civic engagement in your countries 
  • Knowledge and understanding of issues in disability and civic engagement in your countries
  • Quality of the proposed individual inclusive civic engagement project to be implemented in your countries upon completion of the US-based Fellowship placement (this is called the follow-on project) 
  • Capacity to plan, implement, and sustain this follow-on project 
  • English language oral and written proficiency*

* Please let us know if you use American, Kenyan, Tanzanian, Ugandan, or Ethiopian Sign Language. We will provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation or cover the cost for arranging interpretation in any of the other sign languages.

For more information, please review our Fellow Selection Criteria.


When does the Fellowship Program begin?

We will have two Fellowship exchanges, each with approximately 9-10 Fellows:

  • Fall (September 30, 2022 – November 3, 2022) plus travel time
    (Ethiopian calendar:  Meskerem 20, 2015  –  Tikimit 24, 2015, plus travel)
  • Spring (May 5, 2023 – June 8, 2023) plus travel time
    (Ethiopian calendar:   Miyaziya 27, 2015 –  Sene 1, 2015, plus travel)

Note that Fellowship start and end dates may be subject to change.

The Fellowship training will be in-person in the US, unless otherwise specified. If COVID-19 or related travel restrictions occur, we will conduct the program virtually.

The Spring 2019 cohort at the Professional Fellows Congress.

The Spring 2019 cohort of the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Disability Employment on stage at the Professional Fellows Congress.


Key Program Activities

Submit your Fellowship application

  • Program staff screen and interview candidates
    • Fellows are selected for the program
  • Program staff match you with a US host site organization whose expertise aligns with your individual professional goals
    • Fellows are assigned a host site mentor for the duration of the Fellowship
    • Host site mentors draft a Fellowship placement training schedule for Fellows
  • Program staff arrange living accommodations and homestays for you in the US
    • Program staff will arrange your accommodations to meet any disability access needs

Participate in a Virtual Pre-Departure Orientation

  • Learn about the Fellowship Program and life in the US
  • Prepare for your departure to the US
  • Learn from past Fellows about their Fellowship placement experiences and tips

Learn about your US Host Site Organization

  • Meet and get to know your host site mentor via videoconference
  • Collaboratively review and refine the Fellowship placement training schedule

Travel to Boston and begin the Fellowship Program

Attend a Program Orientation in Boston

  • Meet program staff and get to know your peer Fellows
  • Learn about the US disability movement and disability rights with a focus on inclusive civic engagement
  • Present your ideas for an individual project on inclusive civic engagement to implement in your home countries after completing the Fellowship Program (this is called the follow-on project)
The Spring 2019 cohort at Dulles Airport in Washington, DC.

The Spring 2019 cohort of the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Disability Employment arriving at Dulles Airport in Washington, DC.

Travel to your US Host Sites and begin your Individual Fellowship Placement

Bijal Lal at her US host site organization.

Bijal Lal of the Fall 2019 cohort of the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Disability Employment at her US host site organization.

  • Spend 4 weeks at your designated US host site organization
  • Work alongside your host and study policies and practices in inclusive civic engagement
  • Design an action plan with support from your host site mentor to implement upon returning home
  • Participate in community service, volunteering, or similar activity
  • Meet and spend time with American families, including home hospitality and homestay

Attend Weekly Leadership Seminars

  • Participate in video conferences with other Fellows facilitated by program staff
  • Share experiences and lessons learned from Fellowship training and activities
  • Engage in peer mentoring and give and receive peer support
  • Hear from guest speakers who will address different aspects of inclusive civic engagement
Victoria Lihiru asks question during the Professional Fellows Congress

Victoria Lihiru of the Spring 2018 cohort of the Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Disability Employment asks question during the Professional Fellows Congress.

Submit your application for a Host Technical Assistance Trip to your home country

  • Collaboratively draft an application with your host site mentor for a 2-week trip by your mentor to your home country to provide training and technical assistance. Note that Fellows and their host site mentors are encouraged but not required to apply.

Program staff screen and evaluate candidates

  • US host site mentors are selected for the technical assistance trip

Attend a Half-Day Program Closing Workshop & Awards Ceremony in Washington DC

  • Present your action plans for your individual follow-on project and give and receive feedback from US and African experts in inclusive civic engagement, US host site mentors, peers, and program staff.
The Fall 2017 cohort at the 2017 Professional Fellows Congress

The Fall 2017 cohort of the ADA International Fellowship Program holding their certificates of program completion at the 2017 Professional Fellows Congress.

Attend a US Department of State-sponsored Professional Fellows Congress in Washington DC

  • Meet with hundreds of other Professional Fellows from different countries who are participating in other exchange programs
  • Participate in professional trainings and discussions and learn more about how to carry out your project in your home countries

Travel to your home countries and begin implementing your Action Plans

Get connected to alumni from other US Department of State-sponsored Professional Fellowship Programs

  • Participate in alumni activities including peer mentoring and support
  • Participate in communities of practice

Is there funding available?

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

  • Passport application fees (if applicable)
  • Visa expenses
  • Round-trip travel between home country and the US
  • Fellowship-related travel within the US
  • Accident and health insurance for the duration of the Fellowship in the US
  • Living accommodations in the US
  • Living allowance to cover costs of meals, housing, and incidental expenses
  • Cultural allowance to spend on books and attending cultural events
  • Disability-related arrangements, if needed

The application period for the 2022 – 2023 Fellowship Program is now closed.

We hope that you will consider applying for this remarkable Fellowship opportunity in the future.