Women Helping Women

Redefining Business as a Tool for Building a Better World

Nine years ago, Stacy Jurado-Miller started and built a business with her husband called the Vecino Group, which became a $100 million real estate company devoted to building a better world, one community and one development at a time. She did this with no experience or interest in real estate development, but with a belief that if you develop a business with the goal of building a better world, that business will be successful. Stacy says that the traditional model of business for profit was developed by men. This male-driven capitalism model has brought us to where we are today. Stacy calls herself a passionate communicator and says, “The thing I’m most passionate about at this moment in time is the untapped power of using business to build a better world.” In fact, she says any business can be redefined as a tool for a mission-driven business and the pandemic right now presents a huge opportunity for change.

Gender Equity and Redefining Leadership

Stacy says the question for women is do we want to change the world by continuing to work our jobs within the traditional male-driven companies or is it quicker to develop our own system and create a new path for change? Feeling frustrated in her traditional company, Stacy’s passion for nearly four years has been the lack of gender equity and how traditional business defines leadership. Male-driven business values assertive competitive risk-takers as the natural best leaders. Whereas Stacy thinks it’s very contrary to that and says, “I think if you’re a good listener, if you’re empathetic, if you can identify what people are saying and what they’re needing, and play to that, that’s true leadership.” So in January, she took a leap of faith and quit her job, even though she says she is as proud of that company as she is her children.

Work That Doesn’t Feel Like Work

Then in March COVID-19 hit along with stay-at-home orders, homeschooling and all the rest. But like a lot of us, Stacy has had time to think. And one of the things she is thinking is that if you turn your passion into your business, you can’t help but succeed. She says that when you pursue something that creates fire in your belly, you will do it every day. Work doesn’t feel like work. And barriers get dissolved.

Barriers that Stop Women Starting Their Own Companies

Stacy says that women face two sets of barriers. Our internal barriers are confidence and insecurity, and that women feel they need to have everything figured out before we will do something. Of the external barriers, Stacy thinks funding is the biggest hurdle. Women founders have trouble raising capital because of the traditional ways success and leadership are defined by men. She says that if the potential looks different, investors see it as too risky. In fact, Stacy sees it as less risky and a more solid investment.

Stay-tuned to find out where Stacy’s vision will take her next. In quitting her position at the company she helped found and grow, she realized that she could do it all again with another business. One that truly ignites her fire in her own belly in ways that feel like personal activism for female equity.

Listen to this interview for more of Stacy’s personal story and how she and Dr. Nancy believe women will change our traditions and redefine business to build a better world.

A Strong Woman’s Voice for the People in Congress

Stephanie Rimmer is answering the call to transform our government into a body that serves the interests of the people. She’s running for Congress in the 6th District in Arizona and her primary is on August 4. Stephanie is driven to fix the things she sees that are broken: lack of pre-kindergarten education, lack of healthcare for many, widespread poverty, environmental  sustainability, lack of government accountability, tax incentives for small business and entrepreneurs, effective job training and much more. As a mother of four daughters, Vice President in charge of Finance and Operations for Rimmer Lighting, LLC, which she owns with her husband and a life-long public servant, Stephanie wants to build a strong future for the next generation. She has studied and made lists of policies for 20 years that Congress could reverse and transform the wrongs that are actually hurting American citizens rather than supporting them.

Why Elect Women to Congress

Stephanie says that what has been lacking in our country is the exposure to real world problems that women are solving every day in our communities. She notes that these are experiences you can’t come into contact with while you’re busy building a resumé. You get them by volunteering for the Boys and Girls Clubs, The American Heart Association or Feed My Starving Children. By serving on boards, helping develop strategic community plans, working on international trade relations for American-made products, raising children who you protect, guide and equip to lead healthy productive lives and to be the next generation of leaders. Stephanie says that she isn’t worried about her political career, only about being effective. Simply put, Stephanie says, “We need women who are not building careers, but who are building the future. And that is what I represent.”

Stephanie Rimmer Platform

As a mom, Stephanie thinks children first. In this conversation, Dr. Nancy brought up the ERA and Stephanie responded that what the ERA would do is give everyone, not just women, equality from the first moment of life, before thought or being able to choose whether you want to be a boy or a girl. That levels the field for everyone and that is key to two of her platform issues:

  1. Medicare for infants. Stephanie says that once you have healthcare, no one can take it away. She argues that people who propose moving the age of Medicare recipients to 50-something are only tweaking the real problem, which is lack of healthcare, and a lack of care for the most vulnerable populations.
  2. Federally funded pre-kindergarten. Stephanie says that in her home state of Arizona, English as a second language holds children back. Everyone is qualified for Head Start, but many don’t know it. Their children get no pre-kindergarten education and are not ready to learn when they get to kindergarten. They’re behind before they begin.

There are many more points to Stephanie’s platform. Check out the complete list here: RimmerforCongress.com/platform-sr And check out the remainder of her website. RimmerforCongress.com Follow her on Facebook at Rimmer4Congress, and on Twitter and Instagram.

Listen to this interview for more of Stephanie’s personal story, and how she doesn’t feel different from other women who just do what must be done in the reality of life. As she says, “Life happened. I was never afraid to take on more and do more and I’ve never found it to be problematic and overwhelming.” Stephanie says that the hundred new people we elected to Congress don’t know the reforms we need, but she firmly believes that she does know and is ready to step forward and be a strong woman’s voice for the people of Arizona.

 

Women Connect4Good Challenges Young Women to Succeed

Each year young women around the world take their first college classes and build the foundation for their careers and future earnings. According to the Department of Education since 1982 women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men, more master’s degrees since 1987, and more doctoral degrees since 2006. That’s why Dr. Nancy O’Reilly has put her foundation, Women Connect4Good, Inc., to work to help these young women move forward and succeed.

A college education has become increasingly important for a woman’s success (45% of all jobs currently require a degree) but increasing costs and inadequate financial aid can present significant barriers for many. At Drury University, a private liberal arts university located in Springfield, Missouri, Dr. Nancy O’Reilly and other female leaders are working to change that and make a difference for a number of women who otherwise may not be able to attend the private college.

Dr. Nancy O’Reilly and Judy Thompson

In the Fall of 2019 Judy Thompson, Drury’s Executive Vice President of Development and Campaign Director, approached Dr. Nancy, a Drury alumnus, and asked her for a donation of $25,000 to challenge women in leadership to provide a new or increased gift for scholarships for women. Those who were challenged stepped up.

“We sent the challenge to Drury alumnae who were in leadership roles, and raised over $27,000 from women in leadership positions, including an international scientist and an Ambassador.” Judy said. “We now have over $52,000 in financial aid to support women students at Drury.”

Drury University breaks the mold of single majors and rigid formulas most often associated with traditional education. Students receive a blend of life and career credentials, which allows them to pursue their intellectual passions while giving them the tools they need to be technically proficient and career-ready. Through this combination of professional and non-professional studies, and with the generosity of Dr. Nancy and other alumnae, a number of young women will learn to be flexible, innovative and creative problem solvers with their equally innovative degree program at Drury. They will go beyond traditional education and thinking by blending career, calling, life, community, self and service.

“Dr. Nancy O’Reilly has once again provided an avenue to bring women together to support young women and provide an opportunity for many to choose to study at Drury who might otherwise not have had that choice,” Judy concluded. “It is exciting to think what these women might accomplish in their lives. Thank you, Dr. Nancy, for providing this wonderful challenge!”

How Girl Up Initiative Uganda Empowers Girls to Lead

How Girl Up Initiative Uganda Empowers Girls to LeadMonica Nyiraguhabwa stored her experiences of injustice as a young girl in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, to fuel her passion to empower girls to lead, to know they are important, help them find their voices, and use their many talents to “Girl Up” similar to how boys are taught to man up. Monica’s own desire for leadership was stalled by the fact that she was too poor to have shoes and all the family’s limited resources went to her younger brother—his educational needs, uniform, etc. Girls are not a priority in Ugandan culture and most do not finish school. It wasn’t until Monica went to a Catholic high school and met a teacher who convinced her of her self-worth that she began to shine. Her grades improved and two college degrees later, she met Kimberly Wolf, a young American girl, with a like-minded passion to help empower girls. Kimberly supplied $100 as seed money and the two young women co-founded Girl Up Initiative Uganda.

“I think this has to stop and it stops with me.”

In college Monica says that her education helped transform her ideas into reality. She began to understand the issues of patriarchy and gender bias. Combined with her unmet needs as a child, she describes it as an accumulated hunger to respond to the injustices she had endured. She went to work for a women’s rights group, which was where she met Kimberly. When Kimberly addressed the problem of the lack of money, Monica said that she didn’t need money. She said, “I was the capital. I knew I could speak.” Monica used the $100 to buy snacks for children, starting the momentum with one school, as a part time effort. Today, they’re in 20 schools, with over 2,000 students and doing this program for the whole year.”

It’s important to empower adolescent girls, Monica says, while they are still naïve and haven’t accepted the limitations that culture has placed on them. The program is also holistic, supporting girls with educational and economic needs. She explains that if girls don’t have sanitary supplies during their monthly period, they won’t go to school. Also, many of them are going hungry, so nourishment is also important for Girl Up to support. Finally, they teach them skills to use their creativity and help them support themselves. And they mentor them in the way Monica herself was mentored by her teacher to understand they are worthy and important and can become a change-agent in their own families and communities.

Women are the best investment in the future

Monica says that women give the best return on investment. She says that she really believes in women because when you pass the right information on to a woman, she will share it with her children. It’s in our character. We want to speak the truth and share that wisdom with other women. In fact, she is delighted about the new Big Sisters Camp for the alumni of the Adolescent Girls Program. Read more about it and other Girl Up programs here.

Nancy expressed a concern over the lack of women in world leadership, and how if women and men supported other women in leadership, anything would be possible. Monica agreed. She said, “I believe you a hundred percent. And I think if we are to fix leadership crisis in the world, then women need to take charge of the world.” Nancy replied, “Well Monica, I think it’s time for you and I to take charge. It’s time.”

Greatest Need Is Partnerships

While Monica mentions that with the current COVID-19 crisis, Girl Up is challenged to figure out how to operate amidst the pandemic. Schools are closed; dawn to dusk curfews are in place. But she anticipates this time will be short. The biggest challenge is keeping people fed, because like in the U.S., the people of Uganda are experiencing economic hardships. Watch this video for more about what is being done now.

The organization’s biggest need is partnerships. As the Girl Up Initiative grows, Monica feels the need to partner with different organizations who are doing similar work. She says that they haven’t created Girl Up alone. They have benefited from other organizations offering them advice, support, resources and introducing them to different networks. To continue to grow, Monica says that partnerships among people working toward similar goals is crucial.

Listen to this interview for more valuable information, more of Monica’s personal story and Dr. Nancy’s views on how much better off the world would be if we would understand that we’re all equally important. Check out Girl Up website for ways to support their work, and to learn more about how they are empowering girls to lead and keeping hope alive.

Calling All Men—Stand Up and Advance Women

Corporate gender strategist Jeffery Tobias Halter is calling on men to put action behind their claim of being male allies. Jeffery is the leading expert on engaging men to advance women and he says it’s fine to say you’re an advocate for gender diversity and inclusion, but the follow-up question is what are you doing about it? He says that men need to do more than simply mentor or be an ally for women. They need to get out front and pull women up to advance them at the same rate as men. He points out that gender equity has been stuck in relatively the same place for 20 years, but things are changing. He reports that the white guys like himself (boomer men) are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day. These were the figures prior to the COVID-19 shift in workforce numbers.

Jeffery says this exodus is causing a macroshift where the workforce will look significantly different than it does today with jobs being filled by women, millennials, and people of color. However, with the pandemic, companies are going to have to reorganize and restructure. Those that were operating fragile business environments and don’t get the need to strategically advance the new diverse workforce will ultimately be the huge losers and probably close their doors. To make his point he says, “When did Sears figure out it was Sears? 20 years too late.”

What Makes Men See the Need to Advance Women

As President of YWomen, Jeffrey conducts business to business programs for men (no women in the room) to talk about being advocates. He says, “These are the opposite of the me-too knuckleheads. These guys are never going to make a headline. They are just great leaders and great managers.” But no matter how much most of them want to be advocates, the real motivator is a personal connection with a woman, especially if they have a daughter. He says male advocates can practice all of the other skills, but if they aren’t helping advance the women who are working with them, their daughters will face the same issues as women today, making only 83% of their son’s wages, lack of promotions they deserve and little chance of making it to the c-suite.

His book, WHY WOMEN, The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men, spells out exactly what is needed to advance women in the workplace. As the first man to write a book on advancing women, Jeffery sees women as an organization’s most valuable asset and feels it is absolutely critical for businesses to understand this and hold their men accountable for the advancement of women. He calls men 80% of the problem, but  says they are also 80% of the solution since they hold the management jobs that are responsible for bringing women up through the ranks.

More Resources at YWomen.Biz

Listen to this interview for more of Jeffery’s ideas about what managers need to do to improve their strategies for advancing women. Check out his website, www.ywomen.biz, for more information, his white papers, including “Women on a Broken Rung.” and watch his TEDx St. Louis Women presentation. Jeffery invites all listeners to take the quiz on his website to find out how you rank as an advocate for women. Are you just thinking about it or are you doing something? Jeffery says just thinking isn’t enough. We all have to work together to help women advance.  Read WHY WOMEN and find out how.

Trust and Building Relationships One Conversation at a Time

When Stacey Engle joined Fierce Conversations, there were only six people on the team. Now, with corporate offices in Seattle and Stacey serving as President, Fierce, Inc. is adapting its business-to-business training to equip both individuals and companies with the tools to have conversations to develop deep connections and trusting relationships that blend the personal-professional world of work while social distancing.

Stacey has always been a people person and a self-proclaimed “off-the-charts extrovert.” Although she didn’t know there was a corporate training industry when she began her business career, a few years later when she found Fierce Conversations, it was a perfect match. She became president at 33 and she has been a key driver to its double-digit growth, including a 30% sales growth in 2018. Stacey says that people avoid conversations, thinking they’re going to be difficult or tough. What is tough for you may not be very tough for someone else. The biggest mistake is avoiding them, because the missing conversations are the most costly. She says that it’s not about self-confidence necessarily. It’s about having “some core knowledge of self,” and always showing up as that person that creates trust.

“We All Experience Reality Differently. And There Isn’t One Right Way.”

In a typical working day, Stacey says almost any company and any professional, not just the leaders will have six conversations. She describes them as coaching, giving feedback, confronting, creating accountability and getting perspectives. Conversations become tough when we let them build up around issues we’ve avoided talking about. At Fierce, they provide tools for distinguishing between confrontation and feedback. Feedback is strictly a curiosity—naming something you witnessed without citing the impact and assumptions based on your own judgements. This is very different from the old methodologies used by companies where people are asked to analyze the issues. Stacey says there is no one right way. And everyone, especially leaders have to “interrogate” reality to really understand what’s true.

Stacey says that there is no status quo. You’re either going one way or another. People often object that their company’s culture doesn’t support certain actions that the trainers at Fierce suggest. Stacey says that when you’re having a conversation, you are the culture. You need to go ahead and have conversations that you’re afraid of. There’s uncertainty for everyone. You have to trust in yourself and go forward. There are repercussions whether or not you have the conversation.  Trust starts one conversation at a time.

Free Online Mini-Course from Fierce Inc. Now Available!

Stacey is excited to announce a mini-course for every single individual. Since we’re all having tough conversations right now working remotely amongst our partners, our children and our pets, the blending of personal and professional life is accelerating. Stacey said this mini-course is less work-oriented and provides personal stories from three generations of Fierce Conversations leaders: herself, the founder and CEO Susan Scott and the SVP of Learning Ronna Detrick, downloadable tools and actionable insights.

Listen to this conversation for more insights into what matters in the world of building personal and professional relationships. And check out Fierce Conversations website for more tools on their blog and other ways to engage with them and learn to build relationships one conversation at a time.

Most of all sign up for their free mini-course: In less than 30 minutes, you can learn how to have the conversations that strengthen your relationships with the people who matter most in your life. Enroll today!

What Does Your New Normal Look Like?

A large portion of the country is reopening, and while that can signal a return to the office – at least part time – for many, it won’t be a return to “normal”. We’re going to be leaving our homes for a very different world. And while some people can’t wait for “things to get back to normal,” the question we need to be asking is, “Was that ’normal’ the best that we could do?”

Prior to the pandemic shutdown we were a society on the go. We were a schedule-driven, multitasking mob with goals, agendas, and very little downtime. We defined ourselves by doing, not by being, and wore our busyness like a badge of honor. We scheduled our kids, ourselves, our weekends, and our holidays. We scheduled it all and we were busy, busy, busy. That busyness came at a cost though, it was making us sick. Dr. Susan Koven, Massachusetts General Hospital, noticed the trend and wrote, “In the past few years, I’ve observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or X-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it’s easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness.”

However, early this year that busyness stopped – abruptly –and the time of the great reflection began. Why were we so busy? What did that busyness mean? Why did that busyness matter? And most importantly, what’s next? Our dilemma is global and can best be summed up by a piece of graffiti in Hong Kong that proclaims, “We can’t return to normal, because the normal we had was precisely the problem.”

While these past weeks have been traumatizing, in certain ways they’ve been a gift. We have been able to connect with our immediate and extended families; we’re consistently reaching out to neighbors and friends; we’re reengaging with our communities (from a distance), and we’re focusing on the people that make our lives full. We’re more mindful of our time; we’re focusing on self-care; we’re picking up old hobbies; we’re cooking; we’re making art, and while many of us are still working, we’re not traveling, networking, or engaging in the extraneous noise, or busyness of it all. We’ve been able to enjoy the quiet, and in some ways, are reluctant to let it go.

As we start to look at what’s next and define our new normal, we need to take stock of these past few weeks and evaluate what we want to take forward with us. Is it unscheduled weekends or daily walks? Is it a consistent focus on self care? Could it be a regular opportunity to make art? More time with friends? Or watching the sunset? Now – before the busyness sets in – it’s time to pause, take stock, and ask yourself what you really want. We’re all in this together and if we want to collectively benefit from these times, we need to support one another, be clear with our intentions, and define what we truly want our new normal to look like.

 

The Art of Giving as a Way of Life

Sarah, Duchess of York, is a global humanitarian, businesswoman, author, producer and self-proclaimed “philanthrepreneur” who firmly believes that giving saved her life. She says that she is a Celtic woman and attributes her comeback spirit to her Irish and Scottish DNA, and her “red-haired Boadicea strength.” When life and the future seemed bleak, her belief in goodness and kindness, in life and faith, and bestowing that on someone else restored it to herself. She quotes her grandmother who said, “When you feel bad about yourself, give to others.” When the Duchess felt bad, she would go out and do something to help someone else, and that would help her realize how lucky she is.

Lead by Example

The Duchess says that she does not preach to people, but leads by example. For instance, if she were a woman in a refugee camp, she would want personal hygiene for herself, clothes for her children, seeds to plant so she could grow healthy food, and something productive for her husband to do. So when she founded Tasovčići in the former Yugoslavia, she provided those things, including abandoned farm machinery from northern England, which she had recycled into candle-making equipment. The men made candles, since there was no electricity in the camp.  She said, “Those candles burned for 36 hours and what does that give–light and hope. And I think the art of giving is wanting to give hope to somebody.”

Just Show Up and Be Yourself

The art of giving doesn’t require anything special. The Duchess says that all you have to do is show up. You don’t have to bring anything. Bring yourself. People want to feel that someone is listening. In its simplest form, the art of giving is being there for someone and wanting to give them hope. When Oklahoma City was bombed in the 1995, the Duchess followed the first responders into the building and met a woman on the second floor who needed help. She asked her what she could do for her. The woman asked her to save her grandson, P.J. The toddler was 18 months old and burned over 68% of his body. To do this, the Duchess partnered with FAO Schwartz to make replicas of her doll, Little Red, which she sold for $20 each to create a fund to save children like P.J. Little Red has since gone on to save many children and has written an entire series of children’s books.

Making Giving a Lifestyle

Listen to this conversation for many ideas of how giving can become a lifestyle choice. The Duchess says to choose joy every day, and be kind to others whether or not they are kind to you. Check out the Duchess’s amazing charities, including Street Child and stay tuned for more information about Sarah’s Trust, her new tea, which she is calling “The Duchess Collection, a brew to help the crew,” and more children’s books coming from an Australian publisher.

The Duchess is particularly grateful for the American people. She says that Americans welcomed her when she joined Weight Watchers and helped her grow membership from six million to 30 million in 10 years. And she tells the amazing adventures of Little Red after Oklahoma City, including her window view from the 101st floor of the World Trade Center. Listen to hear the whole story and the fate of Little Red, “the long tale of hope,” and how her art of giving is branching out to help the world.

Relationships Are Catalysts for Success

Tish Times teaches clients that relationships are at the core of their success, and the primary relationship they may need to work on is their relationship with themselves.

Tish is President of Tish Times Networking & Sales. She’s on a mission to help clients own their value, find sales confidence, and make life-changing income so they can transform their world to one of perpetual success.

Tish speaks from the heart about her own struggles with self-confidence and self-doubt. She had a solid foundation—a father who taught her through his own actions that, if she didn’t like something, she had the power to change it. She also had a mother who was wonderful in the service of others but struggled with her own lack of self-worth, showing one side to the world and another to her observant daughter. The result is Tish’s built-in resilience and awareness to know the difference between things you need to face and things you need to change. Most of all, Tish made a pact with herself never to change who she is. She says, “I am who I am through the grace of God. I don’t believe I could do anything else but that.” With all that she has experienced, she also says, “I am standing here today a woman with huge dreams and a lot of aspirations and desires to do great things to help change the world.”

Asking Questions Key to Getting the Right Fit

Tish defines sales as “the process by which you get someone from where they are to where they have said they want to be.” Along the way, there will be objections and considerations, but you have to ask the right questions to find out what those are and how to solve them. She says that you have to get past wearing the “sales hat,” which is all about me-me-me, and switch to the service hat, which is about helping your customer get what he/she wants.  Then it becomes a transactional sale where both you and your customer get what they want. This requires building a relationship.

Tish says that women are very good at relationship-building but tend to keep it social and have trouble getting to the sale. Men, on the other hand, get quickly to the sale, but it may be a one-time thing. On the surface, they may seem more successful and might make more money, but long-term, relationship-building produces greater rewards. She says, “The fortune is in the follow-up, but the relationship is the currency that gets us to that place of being able to follow up.”

Tips for Women to Be Successful in Sales

  1. Of course, Tish’s first tip is to believe in yourself. She says that no one is born self-confident. You have to remind yourself what you have accomplished, how you have already succeeded and become your own cheerleader.
  2. Next, women need to own their own platform. They have to recognize that they got where they are by their own merit. No one else did it for them, and they cannot allow anyone, not even themselves, to make them feel less-than.
  3. Finally, women need to put themselves out there and have the uncomfortable conversation. Whether you are looking for a job, asking for a raise or presenting to a new client, keep putting yourself in that uncomfortable conversation, and practice it over and over until it becomes more comfortable.

Listen to this conversation for more insights into how Tish has created generational customers—those business friends where their families, their neighbors, and their friends of friends have also become customers. And check out Tish’s website, TishTimes.com, for more information about her current Unstoppable Sales Academy training course, books, online events and other services to help you learn strategies and spearhead your business to a whole new level of success.

 

 

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.

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