The Ashoka Foundation has chosen a New Orleans woman, the founding director of the Mama Maji nonprofit, as a 2015 Ashoka-American Express Emerging Innovator. Mama Maji promotes the economic empowerment of women through control of clean water.

Sydney Gray is a member of the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend, which has been involved with Mama Maji for two years, holding a fundraising water walk in conjunction with U.N. World Water, and also applying for grants from the Rotary Foundation to develop Mama Maji’s water projects.

Ashoka is a global network of social entrepreneurs, with nearly 3,000 Ashoka fellows in 70 countries putting their system-changing ideas into practice. The Ashoka Foundation will pay for Gray to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, where she will be one of 20 award recipients to participate in a series of workshops and training with social innovators, business experts and industry leaders.

Mama Maji provides sanitation and business training for women in the Chiga community in Kenya. The charity provides a water kiosk, which supplies more than 1,500 villagers clean water daily. Two expansions of the initial project have brought water taps into homes for the first time, as well as to a village school serving 275 students. Mama Maji plans two further expansions of its Chiga water kiosk business this year.

While in Kenya, Gray plans to visit Mama Maji project sites.