Commendation | Grand Challenges Canada: Sabrina Natasha Premji & Afzal Habib’s Kidogo Early Years first award recipient

Sabrina Premji Afzal Habib

It is often said that if you want to gauge the success of any community, look at its youth and what they are doing …

Well, the future certainly looks bright for the Ismaili Community’s youth, as we share the exciting news of Sabrina Premji and Afzal Habib for winning $270,000 grant from Grand Challenges Canada. Ismailimail is proud to continue to profile Sabrina and Afzal again and profile the impact of what they are set out to do. (see below for some of the recent stories on both of them).

Sabrina and Afzal at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Sabrina and Afzal were presented the award at The Grand Challenges Annual Conference in Seattle this past week along with the other recipients, and were hosted for dinner at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Their company, Kidogo Early Years, is the first award recipient listed in the news release from Grand Challenges Canada and is one of the three innovators from Canada. This initiative qualifies under the “Saving Brains” Challenge of which Mrs. Laureen Harper (Canadian Prime Minister’s wife) serves as Honorary Chair. Saving Brains is also an initiative supported by the Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

This news coincides with an announcement of more than $2.9 million in funding for 11 new bold ideas aimed at improving the early brain development of infants and children in low-resource countries. Three innovators from Canada and eight innovators from developing countries will each receive $270,000 for projects (detailed below) to be implemented in Brazil, Ethiopia, Grenada, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Kidogo Early Years: Proving concept on a sustainable and scalable model of Early Childhood Care & Education for urban slums in Kenya

Project Lead(s): Sabrina Premji, Racheal Nduku

Kidogo Early Years is a social enterprise that seeks to transform the trajectory of these young children by providing high-quality, affordable, early childhood care and education in urban slums. Their innovative “hub & spoke” model is based on a two-fold approach: first, establishing best-practice early childhood development (ECD) “hubs” with a holistic curriculum that nurtures healthy growth and development, with caregivers trained on the principles of ECD. Secondly, Kidogo works to improve the quality of local baby care centres through its micro-franchising program with local “mama-preneurs” that would be given a “business-in-a-box”, including relevant training materials, resources and support. Initially, Kidogo will establish two ECD “hub” centres and five micro-franchised “spokes”, directly reaching over 250 children under the age of five, as they prove their business model. This approach aims to improve physical, psycho-social and cognitive indicators for the enrolled children, as well as contribute to improving economic opportunities for local women.

Kidogo Early Years

Funded by the Government of Canada, Grand Challenges Canada is dedicated to supporting bold ideas with big impact in global health.

What is a Grand Challenge?

A grand challenge is a specific critical barrier that, if removed, would help solve an important health problem in the developing world, with a high likelihood of global impact through widespread implementation.

The first grand challenge was introduced over a century ago in Germany, when Dr. David Hilbert issued 23 challenges in mathematics. By doing so, he inspired a generation of mathematicians. His efforts were successful: nearly all of his challenges have been solved. Grand Challenges Canada will bring the same focus and energy to defining and addressing global health issues.

Grand Challenges Canada works closely with its Scientific Advisory Board, Board of Directors, and key experts and decision-makers in the area of global health to identify and select Grand Challenges. Grand Challenges Canada’s Board of Directors approves all Grand Challenge topics.


Historically, some of the greatest impacts in global health were from innovators who tried out bold ideas. The discovery of vaccines over 200 years ago and of antibiotics in the last century are classic examples of unorthodox thinking that resulted from bold ideas that have had big impact and saved millions of lives … learn more


The onset of labour marks the start of a high-risk period for both mother and baby that does not ease until at least 48 hours after birth. During this short period of time, an estimated 150,000 maternal deaths, 1.6 million neonatal deaths, and 1.2 million stillbirths occur annually. The goal of the Saving Lives at Birth program is to leapfrog conventional approaches for prevention and treatment services to women and newborns in poor, rural communities … learn more


Over 200 million children fail to reach their cognitive potential, as a result of exposure to poverty-related risk factors – malnutrition, infection, poor management of pregnancy and birth, and lack of stimulation and nurturing – in the first thousand days (from conception to two years of age). This failure serves to lock societies into poverty. Effective, targeted interventions may unlock the potential of the next generation of children to solve the problems burdening their societies … learn more



Mental disorders contribute to 13% of the global burden of disease, with almost three quarters of this burden occurring in low- and middle-income countries. Mental health disorders make the largest contribution to the overall burden of non-communicable diseases, surpassing both cardiovascular disease and cancer. Moreover, mental health disorders are risk factors and/or are associated with both communicable and non-communicable diseases, and represent a leading cause of disability globally … learn more


In September 2011, the United Nations hosted a high-level meeting on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and associated risk factors. One such risk factor is hypertension or high blood pressure, which is a major contributor to the growing global pandemic of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Every year, the World Health Organization estimates that hypertension causes 7.5 million deaths globally … learn more


Access to effective and timely diagnosis is critical for the successful treatment of disease. In the developing world, diagnostic tools are often not available to assess an individual’s health status, risks of various illnesses and treatment options. In addition, little information about the burden of disease is available to guide population health decisions. These factors severely limit the care that people receive. Point-of-care diagnostics that are sensitive, specific, affordable, simple to use and amenable to use in low-resource settings have demonstrated tremendous promise for bringing timely and accurate diagnoses to people living in developing countries … learn more


Related: Synergy: Aga Khan Foundation Canada, Government of Canada and other partners catalyze partnership for ‘Saving Brains’

Related Grand Challenges Canada:

Related Sabrina Premji:

Related Afzal Habib:

Related Women Child Summit:

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