Katie Carlson, Founder & Director

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Katie Carlson is the Founder and Director of Paper Crown Institute. She is an energetic and vocal advocate for the rights of women and girls around the world, and has been participating in feminist study and activism across different contexts for over 16 years. As a specialist in gender and development with a particular focus on the African context and concentrated experience in Rwanda, her areas of expertise include social norms, gender-based violence, gender transformative approaches to equality, community leadership, feminist activism, engaging men and boys, and gender mainstreaming.

Katie graduated from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, with a Masters degree in international development specializing in gender, focusing on civil society groups and quality of life for women living in democratic developing countries. She first visited Rwanda when conducting field research in the country for her graduate thesis in 2011, working with top women leaders and grassroots organizations in both Rwanda and South Africa; Katie has been a full-time long term resident of Kigali since early 2012.

In recent years, she has presented her work at various international conferences and has been academically published for her research regarding the importance of engaging men and boys in dialogues about gender-based violence, using Rwanda as a case study and co-authored with Dr Shirley Randell, a world-renowned gender expert and resident of Rwanda for nearly 10 years. Katie presented her published work at the 31st Triennial Conference of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW) in Istanbul, Turkey in August 2013. In March 2014, she attended the United Nations 58th Annual Commission on the Status of Women in New York, as a member of the IFUW panel of delegates. In 2017, Katie was named Special Technical Advisor to the Community of Practice for Girls, a nationwide practitioners’ forum for all those working with and for adolescent girls in Rwanda, an initiative she led and helped build from the ground up during her time consulting with Girl Effect, an international NGO.

At the grassroots level, Katie hosts community dialogue sessions around Rwanda’s most pressing gender issues, involving participants from civil society and Rwandan gender activists. She has also conducted pro bono site visits for project evaluations in the East African region on behalf of the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund, which provides project grants to organizations that benefit women and girls, and actively mentors young Rwandan women in the early stages of their career development.

Clementine Nyirarukundo, Project Coordinator & Junior Trainer

Clementine is a Rwandan national who grew up in Kigali. She has worked with Paper Crown Institute since 2015, and is responsible for coordinating our projects on the ground with adolescent boys and girls around the country. Since 2015, Clementine has been mentored by our Founder and Director, Katie Carlson, to develop her skills as a trainer and to increase the depth and richness of her knowledge and understanding around gender issues in Rwanda and beyond. Clementine strongly believes in investing in youth for social change as a way of breaking the cycle of poverty, and as a means to creating a better future for themselves, their families, their communities and the world.

Board of Directors

Dr Shirley Randell was the Founding Director of the Centre for Gender, Culture and Development at Rwanda University's College of Education (formerly the Kigali Institute of Education), and a resident of Rwanda for 10 years. She is currently a gender consultant in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda with the Commonwealth Secretariat, NELSAP and ICCO Uganda. Following a distinguished career in education and in commonwealth, state and local governments in Australia, she has provided advisory services in education, governance for empowerment, gender mainstreaming and public sector reform for governments in the Pacific, Asia and Africa since 1997. Dr Randell was World Vice President of the International Federation of University Women from 2007-2010 and Founder and first Secretary General of the Rwandan Association of University Women, where she is now Convener for International Relations.

Among many professional affiliations, she is Patron of the Australian Centre of Leadership for Women and Sunshine Foundation Inc., and Board member of the Virginia Gildersleeve International Fund. She is also the Founder and Managing Director of Shirley Randell International and Associates, a global gender consultancy firm, comprising SRIA Rwanda Ltd and SRI Public Sector Reform Pty Ltd. In 2010, Dr Randell was decorated as an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to international relations, particularly through the promotion of human rights of women and through public sector reform in developing countries. She was also one of Australia’s 100 Inaugural Women of Influence in 2012 and one of the International Alliance for Women’s 100 World of Difference Awardees in 2013. Dr Randell continues to advocate for women’s rights and empowerment on a global scale, speaking regularly at international conferences and events around the world, as well as researching and publishing academically in the field of gender, education and development.

Marie Odette Kansanga Ndahiro

Marie Odette Kansanga Ndahiro is the former Vice Chairperson of the Rwanda National Electoral Commission in charge of national election processes, activities and policies. In addition to her current work as a consultant for a variety of sectors, she has undertaken extensive research on governance, politics, and gender equality. Marie Odette holds a Masters of Social Science in Gender and Development, and is also a certified accountant. She has extensive experience in feminist qualitative research methodologies, which strive to investigate socially constructed paradigms that perpetuate gender inequality. As a positive female role model, Marie Odette has been working to support women’s empowerment through trainings, conferences and personal mentorship initiatives for over 10 years. She has been an Akilah Institute women’s mentor since 2010, and has over 15 years of experience in ethnographic research and consultancy covering a wide variety of topics, including Rwandan genocide rape survivors, girls education and children’s rights in Rwanda, Rwandan transitional justice and peace building, the Rwanda gacaca courts, the Rwanda Women Parliamentarians contribution to good governance, the impact of the Demobilization and Repatriation Commission on Rwandan development and democracy, and the Great Lakes regional peace building process. 

Cindy Carlson

Cindy Carlson is a Canadian entrepreneur and is the founder and managing partner of multiple successful small businesses in British Columbia, Canada. She is active in her community on numerous levels and is a vocal advocate for social justice causes, women's empowerment, effective democratic governance and environmental protection. Cindy is an avid supporter of services that benefit women and children who are leaving violent and abusive relationships, and has been working with Ishtar Transition Housing Society for the last three years, volunteering her time on a weekly basis to make a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable citizens of her community.