GOOD CAUSE // ONE GIRL'S MISSION TO EDUCATE GIRLS
ONE GIRL CHARITY ON A MISSION TO EDUCATE GIRLS.
When I came across ONE GIRL I read a statement on their website, " a girl in Sierra Leone is more likely to be sexually assaulted than she is to go to high school". I was sickened if I'm honest that in 2016 we're still facing such discrimination again women and girls. I knew that One Girl was a charity that I wanted She Went Wild to support, their passion and work in Uganda and Sierra Leone is life changing.
We have become one of their business crusaders. We give a monthly donation, and will also be donating $5 of every ticket sold to our exhibition to ONE GIRL.
We caught up with Chantelle the founder of the charity to let you know more about who the charity is and what is their mission.
How did you come about to Start One Girl?
I was travelling across East and West Africa on a research trip – when a little girl randomly knocked on the door of my hostel one day.
She’d been on the streets for two days. Spat on, kicked, abused. Shoved out of the way. Why? Because she was a girl who dared to ask for the opportunity to go to school.
Her name is Brenda. And we met her 5 years ago, when she was just 14 years old.
Brenda’s parents had died, so she was left in the care of her grandmother. A woman who lived in a tiny shack and worked incredibly hard to make ends meet. She sold maize on the side of the road, but no matter how early she woke up, or how much maize she sold, they barely had enough money to cover food and rent – let alone something as ‘extravagant’ as school.
Brenda saw the life her grandmother led – and she wanted more. She knew being born a girl didn’t give her the strongest start. She’d watched girls sell themselves to men in order to survive. She’d noticed her neighbours’ daughters disappearing – sold into marriage before they’d even turned 13. She saw her grandmother’s constant struggle and knew she was destined for more. School was the only shot she had. So Brenda took matters into her own hands. She took a signed note from a local school principal stating she needed just $40 for her school fees and she began to beg on the streets – begging in one of the poorest countries in the world.
And that’s where we met her. Inspired by her passion and determination – we wanted to help.
David Dixon and I came back to Australia and co-founded One Girl.
That chance meeting ignited a movement that would inspire thousands of people to join forces and commit to educating 1 million girls across Africa.
What are the most concerning issue's facing young girls in Sierra Leone and Uganda?
There are many issue's, it’s difficult to choose what is the most concerning. In Sierra Leone, 13% of the girls will be sold into marriage before they are even 15. They’re raped on the wedding nights (often by men old enough to be their father or grandfather), and then forced to have children before their bodies are ready.
We’ve met girls as young as 11 who have been sold to men 4 times their age. On top of that there is early pregnancy, the high risk of sexual assault, low income, drug abuse, alcohol abuse… and the list goes on. The girls face so many challenges simply because of where they’ve been born, and we want to do something to change it.
How and who do you work with to provide girls the girls with an education?
We have four key programs.
Scholarships – Our scholarships give girls everything they need to go back to school – books, bags, uniforms, dresses, fees, you name it. Our scholarship girls are often girls who are considered ‘very vulnerable’. Just recently we accepted 100 new girls into our scholarship program – many of them had become orphans because of Ebola. Other girls were engaged to be married, some were rescued from child prostitution. Our scholarships give them a second chance.
LaunchPad – Girls can miss out on up to one week of school every week because they don’t have access to sanitary products to manage their period. Our LaunchPad program trains women to sell affordable sanitary products in their communities. Depending on the country we give girls access to disposable pads, cloth pads and ruby cups. Each item sold not only benefits the woman or girl buying it, but the female entrepreneur also makes a cut off what she is selling as well.
Business Brains – many of the girls won’t be able to get jobs once they leave school due to a 70% unemployment rate. To combat that we provide an 8 months business and financial literacy training program that runs alongside the school curriculum to train girls (and boys) to start their own small businesses.
School awesomisation – we work with existing schools to rebuild their school buildings and toilets to ensure that the schools our girls are attending are safe and they create a supportive learning environment.
What benefits can communities gain from when more girls are educated?
If you look at all the studies – even educating a single girl can change EVERYTHING. There is an amazing video by a group called the Girl Effect which explains this really well.
Educating a girl creates a ripple effect. For every $1 she earns, she’ll invest 90% of that money back into her family. That’s compared to 30% for a boy. Her children are more likely to live past the age of five. She’s more likely to have a smaller, healthier family. An educated woman will educate HER children, and it you start to see the ripple effect of change.
What are the major challenges that you face when trying to make a change?
Easily the most difficult part of what we do is raising funds for our projects. We have a list of programs that are waiting for funding, and the only thing we’re limited by is how much we can raise in Australia.
That’s why we have so many different, unique, hilarious and FUN campaigns for people to get involved in.
How can people get involved with the charity here in Australia?
There are so many ways! From August – October you can get your school dress on and raise money to educate girls via Do It In A Dress.
You can pick a running event (or organize your own) and Run #LikeAGirl and raise money.
You can give up your birthday and instead of getting presents you educate girls instead.
You can sign up to become a One Girl Ambassador (that’s for 2017, applications are closed now).
Or you can sign up to Graduation – join our monthly graduation program. Giving $25 a month which can help support a girl through to her graduation.
You must have come across some terrible stories during your trips, and I’m sure drives you to do even more. What’s one of one Girls major achievements?
Every girl that we get back in school is a major achievement. I remember on our first trip back to Sierra Leone, we met two young sisters who had just joined our new scholarship program. They were SO small. It turns out that when they joined the program, they were close to death. They’d lost both their parents and the guardian they were living with was neglecting them terribly.
As part of the scholarship they receive access to medical care, and we discovered they had words, malaria and typhoid – killers for girls as young as these two.
I remember meeting them both, and seeing them so happy and healthy and realising that WE had done that. It had taken us almost 3 years to raise the funds to get our first 100 girls back in school – but because we’d done it, those two little girls were still alive. That was a pretty amazing feeling.
One Girl is soon have a new CEO, why did you feel like it was important to put someone else in the role, what will you now be focusing your time on?
I’ve been responsible for getting One Girl up and running over the last 7 years – and it’s been an absolute honour and privilege to do it. As our organization grew, I began to see that we needed someone to come in who was strong in areas that I wasn’t.
I’m brilliant at starting things – give me a new business or new idea, and I can get it off the ground – and I’m great at inspiring people to get excited about something.
One Girl has been running now for a number of years, and we needed a new CEO to come in who would have the ability to get all of our systems and processes in place, and make sure we’re growing in a stable way and everything runs smoothly. Simply put, it’s not a role that I thrive in.
So now that we have our amazing new CEO, an extraordinary woman named Morgan Koegel, I’m off to my next thing. I launched a new business at the end of last year called Be. Bangles, and I’m selling beautiful minimal stainless steel bangles engraved with powerful sayings for women. Each bangle sold doesn’t just empower the woman wearing it, but it helps give a girl access to education in Africa as well.
I absolutely love working in the startup phase and getting new things up and running. I’ll still be involved with One Girl as a co-founder and director, however my time involved in operations has come to an end.
It’s time for a new chapter! But the future is bright and I’m excited to see what the team and organization create next.