Foundation

Girl Up Initiative Uganda is Changing Lives

Many young girls living in the urban slums of Kampala, Uganda, struggle with a lack of educational and economic opportunities. In a culture where a male’s education is prioritized, a disproportionate number of girls do not complete school, are often forced marry early, feel like they don’t matter, and lack the skills needed to contribute to their families, which lowers their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Monica Nyiraguhabwa was one of those young women struggling to complete her education until a chance encounter with Kimberly Wolf, a young American woman passionate about girls’ rights and leadership, changed everything. While their backgrounds and circumstances were different, they both related to the challenges that come with growing up as a girl in today’s world and the power of having someone believe in them.

Together, they dreamed up the idea of Girl Up Initiative Uganda (GUIU) after visiting Monica’s community and identifying the need to advance educational and economic opportunities for young women and adolescent girls in these slum areas. They named it “Girl Up” because they wanted the name of the organization to reflect their commitment to lifting girls out of a life of poverty and gender inequality. Just as boys are taught to “man up,” the two wanted girls to be taught to “girl up” and realize their power and strength as girls.

What started out as an idea with $100 seed money has grown into a movement in just eight short years. Each year, the number of girls and young women that GUIU helps increases as the organization grows. This year, Girl Up intends to directly help 15,000 girls and young women and equip them with the skills, knowledge, tools, and provide mentorship and support to develop their self-confidence and voice to thrive as leaders in their schools and communities.

“We aim to contribute to systematic change in the community by ensuring that girls are recognized as active agents of change,” Monica said. “By empowering girls, both individually and collectively, to challenge the patriarchal social order, they become spokespersons for girls’ rights and become drivers of systemic gendered change in the community.”

Girl Up has directly helped over 70,000 girls and young women through various programs since 2012 and encourages the girls and young women to share their learnings and acquired knowledge with others who do not benefit from the programs. The girls are also eager to use the leadership skills and confidence they have gained through the program to mentor other girls. Girl Up estimates that each girl will reach an additional five girls, creating positive ripple effects throughout their schools and communities.

Its mission is to create a gender equal world by equipping girls and young women with the confidence, mentorship, skills, and knowledge to reach their full potential. The organization currently has Coaches (facilitators) who not only train girls, but act as positive role models for at-risk girls. Programs include:

The Adolescent Girls Program

GUIU has run the Adolescent Girls Program (AGP) as its flagship program to advance the educational opportunities for adolescent girls aged 9-15 living in urban slum areas in Kampala since 2013. An in-school program, AGP focuses on building adolescent girls’ capacities for individual empowerment and social survival, especially in patriarchal environments that do not value and respect the rights of girls and women. It consists of a cluster of synergistic activities to ensure that girls receive the skills, knowledge, tools, mentorship, and support to develop their self-confidence and voice to thrive as leaders in their schools and communities.

The Big Sister Network

In 2016, GUIU launched The Big Sisters Network, as they recognized that graduates of the AGP needed continued support and opportunities to grow their leadership and influencing capacities. It now ensures that AGP alumni continue to access female- focused education and stay involved and engaged with GUIU and their fellow graduates. In 2019, GUIU realized one of its biggest organizational dreams – the Big Sister Camp – where 210 girls converged for a residential camp full of learning, laughing, and playing. It was a magical four days to honor and further develop the leadership potentials of our Big Sisters. In 2020, they plan to have another Big Sister Camp for 260 promising girl leaders.

Mazuri Designs Hub

Mazuri Designs Hub was first launched in 2015 in recognition of the limited economic opportunities for out-of-school young women in the communities GUIU works with. Uganda’s  70% youth unemployment rate leaves them financially dependent on men and struggling to support themselves and their families. Therefore, Girl Up launched a social enterprise to offer young women skills training that could provide them with a sustainable income. Today, the Mazuri Designs Hub training program offers a one-year vocational training course in fashion, design, and tailoring that is combined with entrepreneurial and personal skills training for young women, ages 16-35 years. The young women are trained by experienced tailors and given the opportunity to showcase their products at the fashion show graduation at the end of the course.  The project advances economic opportunities for the young women and has had a positive impact on their incomes. In GUIU’s 2019 post-project survey, 67% young women reported that their average weekly income had increased after participating in the program, all due to selling products they sewed.

Ni-Yetu Youth Program

GUIU has partnered with Plan International Uganda since 2015 to implement the Ni-Yetu Youth Project in all five divisions of Kampala. The aim of the project is to empower young people, ages 13-24 years, with correct knowledge, attitude and skills for reducing gender-based violence and improving their sexual and reproductive health and rights outcomes. The Ni-Yetu Youth Project is a gender transformative project that looks at challenging negative social norms and practices that affect SRHR outcomes amongst young people. It uses youth innovative approaches such as street theatre performances, youth-friendly health camps, peer-to-peer education, music campaigns, and sports outreaches. While the project reaches out to both genders, it benefits young women specifically by changing attitudes towards gender inequality in the communities they live in. Even though girls and women constitute GUIU’s focus group, the organization understands that boys and men must also be engaged in the fight for gender equality given that they are the other half of the equation when it comes to advancing girls’ rights and ending gender-based violence.

As Girl Up’s programs have grown over the years, their staff has too. “We are proud of the growth of our young, female-led, Ugandan team. Girl Up now employs 20 full time Ugandan staff, 76% of which are female and 85% under the age of 30 years. Providing employment and volunteer opportunities to aspiring and dedicated young Ugandans is an essential part of our mission and the way we work,” Monica said. “These vibrant young people make up the GUIU Dream Team – we dream together, create ideas together, and make change happen together! Each team member brings their own unique skills, talents, and ideas to enable the organization to grow and transform more lives.”

“We have achieved many exciting milestones, and I have been blessed to work in a job I am extremely passionate about. My biggest highlight is seeing the growth and development of our girls as they become powerful and confident young women in my community. Many of them are now in university and secondary school, and stay in touch with me. I love to see how GUIU has impacted their lives in positive ways,” Monica said. “Because I work in the same community that has seen me grow up, they are now seeing me in this position as a woman and a leader. I love going into the community to engage with the adolescent girls and tell them my story to inspire them to re-write their stories so they can achieve their dreams.”

Monica and Kimberly have garnered some international attention for their efforts too and have appeared on NBC’s The Today Show with Michelle Obama in 2018 (see here) and were invited to meet Oprah Winfrey at her home last year. Monica has also had the opportunity to speak up for girls through the Obama Africa Fellowship, Cordes Fellowship, iLEAP Fellowship, and African Visionary Fellowship with the Segal Family Foundation.

People can help Girl Up Initiative Uganda by following and sharing updates through social media platforms (@girlupuganda on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and by subscribing to their newsletter at www.girlupuganda.org. You can also support GUIU’s work to change the lives of young women and girls and donate to their cause at www.girlupuganda.org/donate.

To Get More Women in Leadership It’s Time to Take The Lead

“When women support one another, we can create massive ripples of change that create better lives for everyone.” – Gloria Feldt

Over the past five years, the number of women in senior leadership has grown. Still, women continue to be underrepresented at every level. Why? For starters, women are less likely to be hired and promoted to manager. In fact, for every 100 men promoted and hired to manager, only 72 women are promoted and hired. As a result, men hold 62% of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38%. The number of women decreases at every subsequent level, reducing to a minuscule 5% at the CEO level.

That’s where organizations like Take The Lead Women can create real change. Designed for women ready to take ownership of their careers (and lives), Take The Lead gives women the tools they need to up their game with 9 Leadership Power Tools courses, 50 Women Can Change the World programs, Virtual Happy Hours, leadership coaching and much more.

This week in Scottsdale, Arizona, Take The Lead celebrates progress with the Power Up Conference: 50 Women Can Change the World 2.0, spotlighting their work to teach, mentor, coach, invigorate, and inspire women who are committed to owning their power and using their voice to become influential leaders of change. The conference will offer two full days of learning, and participants will experience extraordinary leadership development including workshops, panel discussions, lightning talks, accelerated roundtable discussions, and networking.

Take the Lead was founded in 2014 by Gloria Feldt and Amy Litzenberger, with the bold mission to reach leadership gender parity by 2025. That’s 70 to 150 years faster than the prevalent projections. Gloria is certain that this is the moment when a quantum leap to parity can occur. She is convinced that through Take the Lead’s uniquely effective programs, based on solid research and measurable results, women will embrace their phenomenal power to lead with purpose, confidence, intention and joy – without fear or apology.

Dr. Nancy currently serves as Take The Lead’s board chair, and Women Connect4Good, Inc., which supports women helping women networks, is proud to support Take The Lead and help them equip women with the tools they need to achieve parity by 2025.  That partnership not only advances women into leadership positions across all sectors, it proves our power   to transform women’s leadership when we work together.

To learn more about Take The Lead and the upcoming Power Up Conference, go to www.taketheleadwomen.com.

Women Connect to Share Powerful Message of Equality for All

Amazing things happen when women support women and connect with one another. The conversations lead to ideas, and the ideas lead to action. As we wrote in the book, In This Together, working together with other women (and our male allies) is the best way for women to claim their power and have loads of fun in the process. By supporting each other we can make our voices heard and claim equality for all – together.

Last week was exciting for the Women Connect4Good team, and for many of our friends and supported organizations. Information Matrix TV, which is known for mining the imaginative and exciting ideas that exist in the minds of participating organizations, flew to California to share Dr. Nancy’s story, her work for women’s empowerment and the development and support of women-helping-women networks that raise the status women globally. Gloria Feldt of Take The Lead was on hand, as were representatives of Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara, the National Association of Women Business Owners, Association for Women in Communications and a number of colleagues and friends.

Information Matrix is an award-winning program that features new stories and innovative concepts through groundbreaking short-form and long-form documentary presentations. The series, filmed for the Pubic Television audience, is anchored by a veteran production team with decades of industry experience that enable them to effectively communicate important stories to a wide and diverse audience. Hosted by Laurence Fishburne, Information Matrix is a widely-acclaimed program that will help us spread the word and broadcast the importance of the work we’re doing for gender equality.

Shot in multiple locations, the filming brought together numerous friends and allies from many backgrounds and walks of life to highlight the work we’re all doing to make the world a better place for women and girls. Great connections were made, laughs were shared, and we all were reminded that there’s strength in numbers, and by working together, we will achieve equality for all.

 

ORDER YOUR COPY OF DR. NANCY’S NEW BOOK TODAY!

How women succeed when they work together is one of the main themes covered in Dr. Nancy’s new book, In This Together: How Successful Women Support Each Other In Work and Life, along with thoughts, inspiration, and stories from 40 successful women.

Order your copy – and gifts for your friends today! After you’ve read it, please, leave us a 5-star review on Amazon. Your review will help us reach more women with proven techniques for achieving gender equality by working with other women and our male allies.

Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly To Receive Take The Lead’s First Leading Woman Award

Dr. Nancy D. O’Reilly will be recognized in New York City on Tuesday, November 14, at Take The Lead Day, an event sponsored by Take The Lead, and celebrated around the world in a series of skill-based workshops, interactive panels, livestream watch parties and webinars in an additional 89 cities and 10 countries. In an evening featuring music, poetry, theater and a speech by former US Treasurer Rosie Rios, Dr. Nancy will receive the first Leading Woman Award in recognition of her many contributions to the advancement and empowerment of women.
“Nancy’s generosity is exceeded only by her wisdom as a board member and her indomitable optimism about our ability to achieve our mission of gender parity in leadership,” said Take The Lead’s cofounder and president, and Leading Women co-author Gloria Feldt. “Creating an award that derives from the title of her book seems perfect as a way to honor her on the first Take The Lead Day and by extension each time we give the award in the future.”
“Take The Lead Day is the perfect way for women to come together to discover solutions and employ specific strategies to achieve gender equity in leadership by 2025,” Dr. Nancy added. “If you can’t be in New York, that’s okay.  Sign up for some of the free and virtual events and live streaming.”
Take The Lead prepares, develops, inspires and propels women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. It’s today’s women’s movement — a unique catalyst for women to embrace power and reach leadership parity. To sign up for the live, virtual, and streaming events, go to TakeTheLeadDay.com.
Dr. Nancy and the Women Connect4Good foundation share Take The Lead’s mission of advancing women to leadership parity by 2025.

Sex Trafficking Horrific, but Successes Transform Lives


Victims of sex trafficking endure horrible abuse and trauma, but their stories can actually end happily. Dedicated people in organizations around the world are saving victims every day, and they need our support. I’d like to share with you some success stories from Washington State, California, India and Nepal.

Dream Center Helps West Coast Victims

“Hope” is in her early 20’s, and has a one-year-old daughter.  A few years ago, she took the greyhound bus to Los Angeles, but when she got off, her boyfriend wasn’t there to meet her.  Walking to get some food, she was kidnapped and forced to work on the streets for about seven months.   She had to serve 8-10 men per day and bring in a quota of $1500.  There was no room for trying to escape from her pimp because she was constantly watched.
One night, a Vice Cop said he could help her get out. They staged an arrest and safely removed her from the situation. Although she had escaped, she had been brainwashed that he was her only source of protection, and she went back several times before she was finally able to get out and stay out. Life was still hard, she served time on an old warrant and lost custody of her daughter. She heard about the Dream Center, and now is working to complete the program, get her daughter back, and pursue a degree in social work.

“Lover Boys” Groom Girls On Internet

Michelle met her “lover boy” on the Internet while struggling to rebuilt her chaotic life and take care of her two sons. He was “sweet and kind” to her, but introduced her to meth to ease her stress. When she needed surgery, he moved in to help take care of the boys. Despite the drugs, she thought she had found her happy family until he began pressuring her to earn more. She started working the streets and he directed her by phone while home watching the kids. “The more I made, the more he did for me – got my hair done, nails, clothes, stuff for my boys they never had before and more drugs. I felt like a princess.” But he started abusing and cheating on her and she lost custody of her sons. The situation worsened until her mother told her about the Dream Center and she escaped to Los Angeles. She intends to start school in the fall and is working to regain custody of her children.

Nepalese Girls Turn to Shared Hope

Reshma was little more than a child herself when she was lured from her remote village in Nepal to Kathmandu— then enslaved by a bar owner who sold girls for sex along with the drinks.  Soon she found she was pregnant and, friendless and terrified, Reshma surrendered her baby “Angel” at birth. Soon she found her way to Asha Nepal, a partner organization that Shared Hope helped establish and supports. Seeing other children there, she realized she had not needed to give up her child and Asha Nepal’s founder helped get her back. They spent over three years there, and in 2016, gainfully employed, Reshma and Angel moved into their own small apartment in Kathmandu.

Children of Sex Slaves Can Rise Above Circumstances

Manisha is 20 years old and has made her home at Asha Nepal since she was 7.  Her mother fell in love at 16 with a man who betrayed her and sold her into India. She soon got pregnant, but rejected her child, who appeared to have no future other than sex slavery. Aunty Renu, also trafficked to the same brothel, began caring for Manisha until she was rescued by Shared Hope International’s local partner organization. Now a second-year college student pursuing a degree in Social Work, Manisha dreams of restoring trafficking victims back into society and seeing sorrowful lives transformed to joyful ones.

Former Sex Slaves Become Leading Business Women

In a typical tea shop with a small front kitchen and several tables, Shamita and Kala have found strength, success and freedom from Nepals’ brutal sex trafficking industry. They have escaped sex slavery and become two female business leaders in a Nepalese culture that often devalues women as property of men. Shamita and Kala once thought their lives were no more valuable than providing their bodies to man after man in the brothels of Mumbai. When they escaped they encountered a familiar story: their village shunned them and their own father forced them to leave. This lack of options forces many back into the violent arms of the brothel. But they went instead to Asha Nepal, a home that allows women who were trafficked to India to return to their home country.
Shamita’s and Kala’s lives are testament that life beyond the brothel is possible. Success is possible. Freedom is possible. Anything can be possible.

Want to report sex traffficking? Need to call for help? National Hotline is 1-888-373-7888

Resources and Partners

Women Like Us Documentary

In the documentary, Women Like Us.  Three Journeys.  One Mission.  To Change the World, Women Like Us tells the stories of women who are sex trafficked and those women who are leading initiatives to eradicate it.

Women Like Us Books

In the most recent Women Like Us Book, Women Like Us.  Together…Changing the World by Founder and President, Linda Rendleman, we share personal stories of women fighting to end sex trafficking and homelessness and advocating for education both locally and globally.
2017 campaign funding women’s leadership
to eradicate sex trafficking

Women Like Us Foundation has a long history of creating awareness of sex trafficking both locally and globally.  Our support of women’s leadership against sex trafficking is making a difference for lives of women and girls.
Shared Hope International  is a global community dedicated to protecting children on a local level. It trains parents, youth workers, community leaders, and teens how traffickers operate and how they can protect themselves and their friends.
Dream Center is a volunteer-driven organization that finds and fills the needs of over 40,000 individuals and families through approximately 70,000 encounters each month, including victims of human trafficking.
Somaly Mam Foundation We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to the eradication of slavery and the empowerment of its survivors, based on the vision and life’s work of Cambodian survivor Somaly Mam.
Purchased The mission of Purchased is to educate, equip, & empower the community to end modern day slavery.

Amplify Women’s Voices Around the World

Lauren Anderson


International Geopolitical Consultant Lauren Anderson is excited about the huge world-wide momentum that’s building of women reaching out to help one another across the boundaries of professions and countries  in the many organizations where she serves. Driven by the need to be of service to others and the benefits of justice and equality in our world, Lauren has journeyed through a 29-year distinguished career as an FBI executive, both in high-risk domestic and foreign service, overseeing anti-terrorism and FBI relations with 24 different countries to present-day global efforts on many fronts to empower and help women and girls become leaders in their chosen professions. Lauren serves on  numerous boards and in many capacities, including service as a public speaker and expert with the Women’s Media Center , as Global Ambassador with Vital Voices, Leadership Ambassador with Take the Lead, and  more.
While in the FBI, she saw an enormous amount of talent not being used. In fact, cultures in many countries actually held women back from contributing their skills and talents. While she saw the limitations, she couldn’t dream of all the possibilities. When she became a fellow with the International Women’s Forum, she says it exploded her world open. For the first time, she was in an environment with women from all sectors and many nations from around the world. She saw expertise, knowledge and sharing that could go beyond what she had considered with her background in law enforcement, intelligence and diplomacy.

Vital Voices Partners with Leading Women to Make Their Vision A Reality.

Founded in 1991 by Hillary Clinton and others, Vital Voices is made up of powerful bi-partisan women. Lauren says that Vital Voices identifies and works with women leaders around the world. They started where women had no capacity, in the Middle East, Africa and south Asia, regardless of their sector. Their programs range from something as basic as how to write a business plan to the global ambassador program that Lauren is part of. They select women who are at a tipping point in their profession and pair them with another successful woman. She says that the beauty of Vital Voices is they cross sectors and match people with their skill sets. For example, she currently is coaching a Somali obstetrician-gynecologist, a Filipino businesswoman and a woman in Beirut who makes cookies, though her own sector is much different.

Red Dot Foundation-Safe City Identifies Hot Spots to Protect Women.

Lauren was just asked to be the board chair for Safe City in India. The program was started by Elsa DeSilva after the horrific rape, torture and ultimate death of the young Indian doctor in 2012. Compelled to do something about the violence and sexual harassment in the streets that women go through, she and a couple of friends created the The Red Dot Foundation–Safe City. Lauren says that when it was formed, it was the only crowd-sourced and crowd-funded platform where women could share their stories. Now, Safe City has collected 50,000 separate stories of women who have experienced everything from sexual harassment to rape. The analytics this collection is providing has helped the police identify hot spots within 4 cities in India where they can increase coverage to protect women.
The Safe City model is so successful that it has expanded into Kenya, Nepal, Trinidad,  Nigeria, Cameroon, and others are set up to come on board in the future.  The United States is also looking at ways this model can be used in work environments and on college campuses.

Taking Take the Lead to Global Ambassadorship

Now Lauren and Gloria Feldt are looking into taking Take the Lead’s Leadership Ambassador program world-wide. The Leadership Ambassador  program  applies Gloria’s “9 Power Tools” to help women transform their relationship with power so they can use it to accomplish their intentional goals. They partnered with the Leadership Foundation Fellows of the International Women’s Forum and delivered a partial version of “The 9 Power Tools” to a group of women from around the world. The Leadership Ambassador program expands  beyond Take the Lead, as each Ambassador teaches entire new groups of women, so the message and the method grow exponentially.
Listen to this interview to learn about more collaborative programs where women are reaching out to help other women around the world. Check out the links of the programs that offer these opportunities for more details about how you can become involved in the movement of women reaching out to help other women around the world, and visit Lauren on Linked-In, Twitter and Facebook.

Reach Out to Help Another Woman Lead

by Dr. Nancy O’Reilly
Women keep saying to me, “This is our time. There has never been a better time to be a woman.” It’s true. We have more degrees and opportunities than ever before and, even though we lag behind men in earnings, more women are achieving independent means than ever before. My Leading Women coauthor, Joanna Krotz, tracks women’s progress toward wealth in her chapter, “Redefining Sex and Power: How Women Can Bankroll Change and Fund Their Future.” Joanna says, “Women alive today belong to the most affluent, educated, and longest-lived generations in history.”

It’s no wonder many of us who promote women empowerment are impatient to see women take their seats at the tables of policy and power. It’s time for each of us to step up and speak out to create a better world for all of us. It’s proven in study after study that when women lead, their policies benefit the lives of the people they serve. It’s not rocket science then to conclude that having more women leaders will make the world a better place.
I’ve been on this soap box for quite awhile now, encouraging women to reach out and help each other. Leading Women: 20 Influential Women ShareTheir Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life was created by 20 skilled leaders who did just that. They reached out with expertise and wisdom to share actionable tools women can use to accomplish their passion and purpose. With the influx of women signing up in recent months to learn how to run for public office, its messages are especially relevant today. The expertise in this book comes from a broad range of ages, races and countries. Women everywhere are looking for ways to continue — and accelerate –the momentum of the world-wide women’s march. That’s one reason why women are reaching out to share their time, talent and treasure.
And women do give, and at higher rates than men. Women give at all levels and by all means. Many establish foundations like my own WomenConnect4Good, Inc.
Leading Women co-author Linda Rendleman established her Women Like Us foundation to support other organizations working to benefit women and children. Her chapter, “Poise, the Final Ingredient,” tells how she developed the perspective to define herself in ways that would help her create social change. She chose Audrey Hepburn for her role model, because of her “poise” and quoted the actress as saying that her ambassadorship for UNICEF was the most difficult role she ever played.
If you read history closely, you’ll find women throughout the centuries who stepped up to care for those forgotten by society. They founded schools, charities, hospitals and agencies to fill countless social needs.
My co-author Shirley Osborne tells the story about one such school in her chapter, “Information: The Best Philanthropy.” A simple school that began to help female immigrant factory workers learn English became Simmons College, which instituted the first MBA designed specifically for women’s career and leadership success. That’s where Shirley, originally from a tiny Caribbean Island, received her MBA and gained the tools to realize her personal and professional vision.  With that inspiration and the stories of the women she met there, including one from China who hid her studies from her husband, Shirley noted the improvements in the lives of women and girls brought about by women philanthropists. In fact, Shirley Osborn has gone on to become the recently elected Speaker of Montserrat’s Legislative Assembly and Executive Director of The Women’s Resource Center.
There are literally thousands of such stories, in which one woman reaches out to another, in turn empowering them to do the same for still others, as did all 20 of the Leading Women co-authors. The single message here is that now we have an opportunity to engage women like no other time in history. Women are stepping forward to say, “I care. Women’s Rights Are Human Rights. I want to be respected. I want to make a difference. Feminine leadership is powerful leadership.” As my co-author Gloria Feldt says, “It is not power over; it is the power to” join with others to create a world that supports a culture of respect for all of humanity.
We have a responsibility as citizens of a free world to protect and exercise our civil rights. This is the way to protect ourselves and our families and create more women leaders. Most women already function as leaders in their families and communities; we just need to believe in ourselves and gain the self-confidence to go forward. Read the stories in Leading Women to find out how others overcame their fears, stepped into their “power to,” and achieved their purpose while helping others achieve theirs. The stories in Leading Women will inspire you to step up and make a difference in the world.

Find Your Voice and Give It To Those In Need

“I’m never going to quit. I’m going to do this until the day I die.”
Those are the words of Cindy Dennis, a woman whose experiences of trauma and heartache ultimately shaped her life’s work—educating and empowering children to recognize and speak out against all forms of abuse.
Cindy’s journey began in the 1980s when her young son was abused by a family member. This event set in motion the long process of therapeutic recovery, but it also sparked a deep desire in Cindy to learn how she could be a voice for other children who experienced abuse. She earned a degree in psychology, and in the process of learning how to give a voice to others, Cindy recognized that she needed to give herself a voice as well. Speaking out on behalf of the sometimes-voiceless victims of abuse would make demands of her personally, so she sought the counsel of professional coaches in addition to her personal network to help her define her voice.
Cindy benefited from the insight of her coaches, but she also found tremendous value in surrounding herself with other women who provided her with strength, empowerment, and encouragement on her path of discovery. Though others may not have experienced the same hardships that she had, Cindy recognized that there was power in reaching out and comforting the women in her life who were also going through difficult times, as many had done for her. Relationships built on transparency and vulnerability provide a strong sense of safety and mutuality. She acknowledges, “We’re all in this together.”
These days, Cindy is using her voice to help children and their communities develop an awareness of abuse while taking steps to prevent it. In 2016, she established the Give a Child a Voice Foundation, an organization that strives to be the nation’s leader in educating and empowering children to protect themselves from all forms of abuse. Cindy says that many people are reluctant to talk about abuse because it brings up bad memories or feels awkward, or they just want to pretend it doesn’t exist. Her goal is to smash that way of thinking and confront the issue head on. Her work is rooted in the belief that every child was made to shine, and her convictions embolden her to break down the walls of discomfort and shine a light into a very dark subject. From community events to sales and giveaways of a series of picture books written and drawn by Cindy herself, Give a Child a Voice is removing the stigmas of abuse and giving communities the power to recognize and prevent child abuse.
To learn more about the Give a Child a Voice Foundation, visit their website, and be sure to check out Cindy’s book series at her site. For every book purchased, a book is donated to a child in need.

Women Connect4Good Working For Parity

On December 20, 262 women (and men) came together to effectively change the world. That was the day that Women Connect4Good Inc. partnered with Take The Lead Women in an exciting and monumental 24-hour crowdfunding campaign to support them in their effort to propel women to take their fair and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025. As a part of the effort, we had 24 hours to raise $300,000. Women Connect4Good Foundation pledged to match every dollar up to $300.000. Other sponsors also pledged to match additional funds to achieve $600,000 in 24 hours.
We not only met that goal, we surpassed it. Through crowdsourcing we were able to raise $312,160!!! Take The Lead will use these funds as well as the Women Connect4Good match to support program growth, provide more free community resources, and give more women the training, mentorship and coaching they need to take the lead in their own lives and careers.
Take the Lead founder and Leading Women co-author Gloria Feldt was thrilled with the response, and touched by the Women Connect4Good contribution. “I don’t think I personally can ever honor and thank her (Dr. Nancy) enough. The money is great and essential, but it’s what the money MEANS for the future of this leadership parity movement that is most significant.”
“We were just at the place where we couldn’t possibly deliver on our mission in a truly significant way without building an infrastructure to support it. I was trying to do everything and that was just not sustainable,” Gloria added.  “This campaign, which could only have happened because of Nancy’s vision and collaborative spirit, is enabling Take The Lead to kick start the future. People love matching gifts because they know their own contributions will be doubled in value, and in this case, they were quadrupled in value, then Nancy matched them all!!”
The parallel missions of Women Connect4 Good and Take The Lead intersect with women’s empowerment, gender parity by 2025 and the support of women to work together to create a better world. It has always been Women Connect4 Good’s mission to educate people to develop women-helping-women networks to raise the status of women and change the world. And that runs perfectly with Take The Lead’s work.
Gloria, and Take The Lead’s co-founder Amy Litzenberger, a former investment banker with extensive experience in strategic planning and funding of start-up and emerging growth companies, came together in 2013 to form the organization. Amy was questioning why women had stalled at 18-20% across all sectors. Gloria, who had spent over 30 years advancing women, including having served as President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, had been so obsessed with the very question Amy asked that she had literally written the book on it, No Excuses, 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.
We both wanted to build a better world for the women we loved and respected,” Gloria said. “We did it for our friends and colleagues, women we watched hit the glass ceiling again and again. We did it for our daughters, hopeful we could create the right tools to help them embrace their power and live their lives without limits. We did it because we wanted to see women reach leadership equality and pay equity in our lifetime.
As Gloria says, as a community, we are united by our shared commitment and vision for equality. And as individuals, we must each do our part to support this movement and to build a better world. At Women Connect4Good, we can think of no better way to start a new year than to join hands with other women and together, change the world.
Donations to Women Connect4Good and Take The Lead Women are both tax deductible if you want to join us and help push these issues forward.

This Season is the Perfect Time to Invest in Women

10498411_621812561264504_955884005606031384_oAt the recent Fortune-TIME Global Forum in Rome, Cherie Blair and Bineta Diop joined New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof to discuss the ways that the private sector has both a moral and commercial interest in harnessing the power of women and girls to grow their business. All three speakers agreed that focusing on girls’ education and female economic empowerment is not just a matter of social responsibility but is instrumental in driving growth.
“It’s not just about doing good,” said Diop, Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security for the African Union. “It’s also doing the smart things because women have the capacity and knowledge and competence to bring another dimension into the workplace.”
There has been extensive research suggesting that investing money in women, whether in education or supporting women as entrepreneurs, is highly cost effective. USAid, a U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty, reports that aid programs that provide women opportunities to better their health, education, and well-being have effects far beyond a single individual. In fact, a woman multiplies the impact of an investment made in her future by extending benefits to the world around her, creating a better life for her family and building a strong community.
Melinda Gates has found that helping women and girls is not only the right thing to do, it is essential to global development. She recently was quoted in Fortune Magazine as saying, “If you want to make life better for a community, you should start by investing in its women and girls.”
“When I talk to women, a universal desire is to bring every good thing to our kids. Women tend to spend their resources on their families—prioritizing things like healthcare, nutritious food, education, and all the building blocks of a thriving society,” Gates said. “The way I think about it is that when we invest in women, we invest in the people who invest in everyone else. So, when we match their commitment with our own, great things are possible.”
On the global front, Convoy of Hope and their Women’s Empowerment program has a tremendous impact helping women around the world to realize their value and reach their potential through job training and education. As a result of the program – which features a Women’s Micro-Enterprise Program, Mother’s Club, and Empowered Girls components – many women throughout El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Kenya, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Tanzania now own businesses that enable them to feed and care for their own children. This matters because of the 1.3 billion people living in abject poverty, 70 percent are women. As Kara Edson, director of the program says, “That’s unacceptable. We’re helping women break the cycle of poverty.”
On a business front, it boils down to encouraging female participation in the workforce and clearing the way for women to reach leadership positions. Morgan Stanley research teams recently reported that calls for more female participation in the economy have grown louder, often based on political or cultural arguments founded on fairness. Yet, a persuasive argument for diversity and equality is also anchored to the bottom line. Quantitative analysis showed that ensuring that more women are working and leading in the workplace is simply good business, especially for investors who not only care about the ethics, but also want returns.
One way you can invest in women is by advocating for women in the workplace and by being a mentor. Mentors matter, and many women in business today attribute part of their success to lessons learned through a mentoring relationship. On one level, a mentor helps women become empowered, with more self-confidence and resolve. On another, mentors serve as a guide, role model and advisor.
When women win, we all win, which is why now is the perfect time to reach out and look for ways to help. It is up to all of us to build strong support systems, and help one another while connecting in the workplace, the community, and the world at large. And bottom line, the best investment you can make is a personal commitment to help a woman step into her own power and create the life she deserves!
 

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