Leila Janah

Giving People Work, Not Aid

A true inspiration, Leila Janah (1982-2020) was an activist and social entrepreneur who pioneered impact sourcing. Above all, she was committed to eradicating world poverty through the dignity of work.

Handouts are not going to end global poverty, but work — real work — just might.

source: The CEO Magazine

“Don’t underestimate the ripple effect of what you do. These kinds of actions have toppled empires.”
~ Leila Janah

A courageous adventurer throughout her short life, Leila Janah’s work was inspired by her travels. A stint teaching English in Ghana when she was a high school senior first sparked her realization that there were talented people stuck in poverty simply because of where they lived. From that time on, she sought to do something about it, whether it was creating her own degree in African Development Studies at Harvard University or launching her nonprofit Samaschool in 2013 with the aim of teaching people transferable digital skills. Janah’s insight led her to found companies that were way ahead of their time. She created Samasource in 2008 to train workers in AI data annotation; today, the company, which employs people in India and East Africa, numbers the likes of Walmart and Microsoft among its clients, and has given over 50,000 people the skills to compete in the global marketplace. It was another trip that led to the founding of organic skincare company LXMI in 2015. Janah created this ethical, fair-trade brand after discovering its signature ingredient, Nilotica, at a market in Uganda, and it has expanded into Suriname, Kenya, and South Africa as well as providing opportunities for women in Uganda.

Janah’s life was cut tragically short by Epithelioid Sarcoma (ES), but she showed typical courage and drive in the face of the disease, working with nonprofit Research to the People to help advance research into this sarcoma. Her legacy lives on through the companies she founded: thriving social enterprises that continue to change lives today.


Leila gown

Leila Janah’s vision of dignity through work is something that resonates deeply with Maakola; in fact, it is the guiding principle behind everything we do. So when we created a dress in her memory, we were naturally drawn to the golden hands on the print: hands that symbolize the importance of paid employment. A dramatic design with a double-breasted bodice and deep front slit for freedom of movement, this bold maxi dress pays tribute to a remarkable entrepreneur and innovator who never stopped working for what she believed in.

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