The Moth and the Gates Foundation Discovery Center hosted an unforgettable evening of powerful storytelling on International Women’s Day, Wednesday, March 8, highlighting diverse experiences and perspectives on motherhood and the power of speaking up and speaking out. Hosted by Kenyan media personality and equality activist Adelle Onyango, the evening included stories told by Hannah Brennan, Ryann Morales, and Roseline Orwa, graduates of The Moth – a global arts organization dedicated to building empathy and compassion through personal narrative. Their stories will be followed by a panel discussion including the storytellers and Hema Magge, MD, MS, Senior Program Officer, Newborn Health, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Team. The event will also feature a performance by violinist, Anna Nordmoe.
Watch the event video
Adelle is an African woman who is the founder of the award-winning digital media platform – Legally Clueless Africa, which documents human journeys of everyday African people. Adelle has gained international recognition for her efforts to empower African women and has been celebrated as one of MIPAD’s Top 100 Africans 2020, Facebook’s 2019 Icons of Change; Africa Youth Awards 100 Most Influential Young Africans for 2019; and BBC’s 100 inspirational and innovative women in the world for 2017. Adelle is also the founder of the Adelle Onyango Initiative (AOI), which works towards ending sexual violence, and a proud graduate of The Moth’s Global Community Program.
Hannah H. Smith Brennan PhD
Hannah works as a cultural anthropologist/sociologist, teacher, youth worker, and playworker with a focus on the well-being of children and families. She pursues her vision of a world where healthy, fulfilled, socially-minded people love and support each other’s unique gifts and talents. Hannah felt profound care, acceptance and personal growth while working with a traditional midwife during her two pregnancies and births. In addition to new insights, these experiences raised important questions about when and how childhood begins, and the impacts of conception, pregnancy and birth on the health and well-being of children and families.
Ryann Bernard Morales
Ryann has been to over 750 births. A Certified Professional Midwife, Ryann graduated from Birthwise Midwifery School and attends home births in the DC area. Ryann believes birth work is social justice work and strives to practice midwifery in a way that is body-positive, queer-inclusive, and actively anti-racist. Before becoming a midwife, Ryann was an attorney for the Federal Government. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her family, and enjoys going to the theater, hiking, and skiing.
Roseline is a widow rights campaigner and a storyteller. She was part of the Global Community Masterclass with The Moth in 2022 and she told one of her stories at The Moth Nairobi Mainstage later in the same year. She empowers rural widows to use storytelling for advocacy –to influence their own change. Her global advocacy efforts alongside other widow-focused INGOs led to the adoption of the UN Widowhood Resolution in 2023. Roseline is a childless mother of 27 orphaned children, and the Founder and Executive Director of Rona Foundation, a widow human rights organization in Kenya.
Hema Magge, MD, MS
Hema currently serves as the Senior Program Officer, Newborn Health on the Maternal, Newborn, and Child health team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she leads the team’s strategic and technical guidance and investment portfolio for newborn health. Prior to joining the Foundation in March 2020, she served as the Executive Director for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in Ethiopia. From 2016, she oversaw all technical and operational aspects of this large-scale improvement program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to support the Federal Ministry of Health implementation of the National Healthcare Quality Strategy and drive improvement in the quality of maternal and newborn care and outcomes.
About the MOTH
The Moth is a nonprofit dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. For 25 years, The Moth has presented over 50,000 true personal stories, told live, without notes, to standing-room-only audiences and virtually around the globe. Renowned for showcasing a broad range of human experiences, The Moth produces approximately 600 live and virtual shows each year and has an ongoing presence in 28 cities worldwide. Additionally, The Moth runs storytelling workshops for high school students, teachers, adults, and advocates from around the world through its Education, Community and Global Programs, and MothWorks, which uses the essential elements of Moth storytelling as an empathetic communication tool.