Samasource Founder Leila Janah, Who Worked to End Poverty, Has Died at the Age of 37
Leila Janah, an American businesswoman who worked to end poverty in underserved countries, has died. She was 37. Janah’s company Samasource — a nonprofit organization that employs low-income workers in developing countries to do tech work,...
Leila Janah, an American businesswoman who worked to end poverty in underserved countries, has died. She was 37.
Janah’s company Samasource — a nonprofit organization that employs low-income workers in developing countries to do tech work, including the testing of artificial intelligence products — confirmed her death on January 24.
She died of complications from Epithelioid Sarcoma, a rare soft tissue cancer.
“We are deeply saddened to announce that Leila Janah, Samasource Founder and CEO, passed away last night due to complications from Epithelioid Sarcoma,” the statement, shared on Instagram and accompanied by a photo of Janah smiling in a field of grass, read.
“Her commitment to creating a better world was unparalleled and the ripple effects of her work will be felt for generations. We will miss her every day.”
Samasource shared a lengthier statement on the company’s website, elaborating on the impact Janah made in her field.
“Leila spearheaded a global impact sourcing movement and was a champion for environmental sustainability and ending global poverty,” the statement read.
In addition to founding Samasource, Janah was also the CEO of LXMI, a fair-trade, organic skincare company and Samaschool, a non-profit focused on providing digital skills training for online-based jobs that pay a living wage.
Born in New York, but raised in Los Angeles, Janah founded Samasource in Kenya in 2008 with the belief that “Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not.”
The company has since grown to employ over 50,000 people in Kenya, Uganda and India.
Before founding Samasource, Janah was a Visiting Scholar with the Stanford Program on Global Justice and Australian National University’s Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, according to the company’s website.
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She was also a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, a recipient of the inaugural Club de Madrid Young Leadership Award and the youngest person to win a Heinz Award in 2014.
View this post on Instagram
Our Founder and CEO recently announced some important news. @leilajanah , we’ve got your back and will continue to work tirelessly to fulfill our mission. You’ve got this! #Repost • • • • • I recently learned I have a rare but treatable form of cancer: epithelioid sarcoma. I decided to share it publicly because I have learned, in the course of building my companies, that the consistent support of friends and community is a powerful tool in the face of many seemingly impossible obstacles. I plan to continue my core CEO & Chairman duties at @Samasource, and as founder of @LXMIofficial, with accommodation for treatment and healing. Billions of people around the world don't have access to decent work or medical care, as I do. If anything, this diagnosis affirms my commitment to our work, and my resolve to beat cancer so I can continue doing what I love for decades to come. . . This was a challenging diagnosis for me to handle emotionally. @tassilo_f and I were in the midst of planning a wedding. I have been forced to take a break from kitesurfing, freediving, and the immersive experiences in nature that bring me so much joy. Being held back by surgery and recovering at home feels like a prison sentence. . . But then I remembered that every healthy moment is a gift, and that I've had more than my share of these to date. No one is immune to illness. . Susan Sontag said it best: “Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.” So here's to gaining another passport, and another life experience. Thank you for your support and friendship during this time. Taking a week off of social — be back soon. With love and gratitude, Leila
A post shared by Samasource (@samasource) on Apr 12, 2019 at 2:40pm PDT
The Heinz Awards recognizes “outstanding” individuals for their innovative contributions in: Arts and Humanities; Environment; Human Condition; Public Policy; and Technology, the Economy and Employment.
Promising to keep her legacy and vision alive, Janah’s longtime business partner and friend Wendy Gonzalez has been named interim CEO of Samasource.
Janah first announced her diagnosis in April 2019.
“This was a challenging diagnosis for me to handle. @Tassilo_F and I were jin the midst of planning a wedding. I have been forced to take a break from kitesurfing, freediving, and the immersive experiences in nature that bring me so much joy. Being held back by surgery and recovering at home feels like a prison sentence,” she wrote on the Samasource Instagram.
“But then I remembered that every healthy moment is a gift, and that I’ve had more than my share of these to date. No one is immune to illness,” she added.
Janah is survived by her husband Tassilo Festetics and her stepdaughter, according to the company’s website.