Skip to main content

Class 23 (2024-2026)

Lilian Villanova, Brazil

Duke University – Master in International Development Policy

Education in Emergencies | Child Rights | Community Development | Peacebuilding | Refugees

Lilian's core identity is rooted in four foundational aspects: being a woman, a Latin American, a mother, and an educator. Embracing her Brazilian heritage and her gender identity, she brings a decolonial perspective that challenges cultural, political, and economic hegemony, while advocating for social justice and equity for marginalized communities. As a mother of three and an educator, Lilian is committed to ensuring children worldwide experience happy and healthy childhoods. Holding degrees in Law and Language and Literature, she draws inspiration from Paulo Freire's teachings to champion an education rooted in love and freedom, which she believes fosters true emancipation.

In 2019, Lilian relocated to Malawi with her family and immersed herself in the Dzaleka refugee camp, leading comprehensive educational initiatives through the Brazilian NGO Fraternity without Borders, a UNHCR partner in Malawi. Her projects encompassed education, child protection, nutrition, mental health, and psychosocial support, emphasizing hands-on engagement and community-driven approaches.

Lilian created and implemented the Ubuntu Nation School initiative, which directly impacts the lives of over 5,000 people living in Dzaleka by offering a high-quality education program based on Emergency Pedagogy principles. Beyond her role as head of education programs for FWB, Lilian has collaborated closely with refugee-led organizations, facilitating connections to grants and sponsors, promoting capacity-building initiatives, and advocating for refugee participation in decision-making processes affecting their lives, believing that systems-level change begins by shifting power to the system's primary actors, who have lived experience with the issues they aim to solve.

In both personal and professional realms, Lilian places children at the forefront of her journey. A field-tested leader with grassroots humanitarian experience, she joins the Rotary Fellowship to broaden her expertise and enhance her capacity to drive social change. Her goal is to elevate childhood and play within peacebuilding policies, integrating theory with practice to realize a more peaceful and sustainable world.