Girls’ Globe speaks with Nick Kristof!

This morning Elisabeth Epstein and I had the privilege to speak with New York Times journalist, author and activist Nicholas Kristof in an interactive Google+ Hangout. In their new book, A Path Appears, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn highlight powerful stories of people who are making a difference. The book shares courageous stories from young people working to combat trafficking, illiteracy, poor education and a myriad of other issues around the world.

During the Hangout, Nick shared the inspiration behind this new project as well as the lessons they have learned from years of investing in women, girls and international development. In this engaging Hangout, Nick answered questions from the virtual audience, those watching live and tweeting their questions using the hashtag #AskNick. Nick challenged young people to get involved with existing organizations working to improve the lives of women and girls around the world.

Did you miss the G+ Hangout? Check out the Storify recap.

Don’t miss all of our engaging 2014 UNGA week video interviews.

A Path Appears

A young eighteen-year-old girl boards a plane to Malawi, Africa. Excitement and trepidation fill her spirit as she spends the summer after high school graduation working with women and children in a remote village. That young girl was me and the experience in Africa, forever changed my life. Long before this trip, I had a heart to serve women and girls around the world. For the past fifteen years, this passion has shaped both my educational and career pursuits. Several years ago, I read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. This book is a compelling embodiment of the plight of women and girls around the world as well as a great tool to help people get involved. Over the past several years, I have used this book in papers, shared it with friends and have shown the documentary to countless people to raise awareness about the issues that affect women and girls.

Photo Credit: Random House
Photo Credit: Random House

In their new book, A Path Appears, Kristof and WuDunn highlight powerful stories of people who are making a difference. The book shows the courage of young people, including the late Rachel Beckwith whose determination both in life and after her death inspired others to provide clean water to villages in rural Ethiopia through charity:water. Other stories include Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner, a young couple who work to empower girls through education in Kenya’s Kibera slum. Through numerous illustrations they also display a picture of poverty in America. They champion every day people who are working to combat issues of trafficking, poor education, illiteracy and substance abuse addictions.

After graduating with my Master’s in International Development at the age of twenty-six, I boarded another plane to serve in Uganda and then eventually in India. I approached my work with youthful zeal and an idealist exuberance. I have met many wonderful women and girls creating change in their communities. I have written about some of my experiences working with women and girls on this platform. Like Nicholas and Sheryl, I have also seen when projects fail and lack a meaningful impact on people’s lives. In Uganda, I watched food programs for children and agricultural programs for communities struggle to take root and be successful. In India, I have seen many wells intended to empower women and communities broken and dry. In contrast, I have also seen the positive impact made by organizations and brave women who daily choose to listen to their communities. These organizations and women work from the ground up. I have witnessed the happiness of women who have worked together to provide clean water for their community. As a young person, I have known both failures and joys in order to understand the complex nature of charity, social good, field work and human development.

The question is: How can young people make an effective impact for women and girls around the world?

Kristof and WuDunn candidly share their triumphs and failures in relation to working with communities and empowering women and girls. They uncover the inevitable challenges related to charitable giving, organizational management and the importance of measuring impact. This book is full of engaging statistics related both to poverty here in the United States and other parts of the world. Stories and illustrations help to solidify the issues and show how we can work together

Photo Credit: Random House
Photo Credit: Random House

for global change. Kristof and WuDunn give their readers a plethora of practical tips and advice on how to approach charitable giving, social entrepreneurship, social good, philanthropy and organizational management.

As a young person, I understand many of the challenges and debates posited in this book. I believe it is time to take action and think about how our giving, social good and international development affects women and girls around the world. This may simply require you to try, learn and try again. A Path Appears is a true conversation starter. It serves as a platform to learn from others triumphs and challenges in order to begin examining effective ways to empower women, girls and entire communities. A Path Appears is available now for pre-order and the book will be released on September 23rd, 2014.

Want to be a part of the conversation?

Join our interactive G+ Hangout on Sept. 25, 11amEDT as we chat with Nicholas Kristof about his new book A Path Appears. Tweet your questions to #AskNick and learn how you can effectively impact women and girls around the world.

September 21st-26th Girls’ Globe will be in New York for the 2014 UN General Assembly. We are partnering with FHI360, Johnson & Johnson, and Women Deliver in support of Every Woman Every Child to amplify the global conversation on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 agenda. Follow #MDG456Live, raise your voice and join the conversation to advance women’s and children’s health. Sign up for the Daily Delivery to receive live crowd-sourced coverage of these issues directly to your inbox.

Cover photo credit: David Woo, Flickr Creative Commons

Half the Sky: A Life-Changing Read

It all started my sophomore year of high school, after I read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. A riveting call to arms against the injustices that women face, Half the Sky not only underscores the alarming dimensions of discrimination that women experience, but also highlights the urgent need for us to tackle these problems and turn the tides against gender inequality.

After reading Half the Sky, it became self-evident that education is not only a catalyst for positive social change, but also a crucial springboard for gender equality and women’s empowerment. The compelling stories of women whose voices had been silenced inspired me to advocate for women’s and girls’ education. I wanted to help women escape the myriad poverty traps in which they found themselves, desired to move them one step closer to being adequately equipped to contribute to the fabric of society, independent of any hurdles that worked against them.

Givology pioneers a new model of "crowdfunding" philanthropy to make the largest impact at the lowest cost. Since its launch in 2008, Givology has raised more than $300,000 to help over 2,800 students in 26 countries through 46 grassroots partnerships (Source: Givology)
Givology pioneers a new model of “crowdfunding” philanthropy to make the largest impact at the lowest cost. Since its launch in 2008, Givology has raised more than $300,000 to help over 2,800 students in 26 countries through 46 grassroots partnerships (Source: Givology)

The first step I took after I finished Half the Sky was to apply for a volunteer position at Givology, an online giving marketplace that leverages dollar donations to grassroots education projects in the developing world, making my first foray into the world of nonprofit management. Givology’s enlivening mission of giving every child access to a quality education and its phenomenal network of volunteers, giving teams, grassroots partners, and donors resonated with me deeply, ultimately motivating me to start a Givology chapter in Hong Kong in support of Givology’s women’s education-focused partners.

I have had the time of my life so far leading local advocacy campaigns and fundraising initiatives with Givology’s Hong Kong chapter, which is currently raising funds for family violence intervention training and vocal empowerment programs for women in Guatemala, for Starfish One by One. Through education and mentorship, Starfish One by One harnesses female momentum to accelerate change, achieving this in Guatemala, the Western Hemisphere’s worst context for women.

Through an innovative program and bar-setting mentorship, Starfish One by One, one of Givology's grassroots partners, is creating a generation of 500 empowered, rural indigenous women that will unlock the doors for thousands of others and break cycles of poverty (Source: Starfish One by One)
Through an innovative program and bar-setting mentorship, Starfish One by One, one of Givology’s grassroots partners, is creating a generation of 500 empowered, rural indigenous women that will unlock the doors for thousands of others and break cycles of poverty (Source: Starfish One by One)

In Guatemala, Mayan women and girls live on the fringes of society, trapped on the bottom rung of the Guatemalan social ladder. Only 5% of rural Mayan girls complete their elementary school education, 70% of women are illiterate, and an estimated 9 in 10 women have been a victim of domestic violence. These foreboding figures should propel us to act, to give in a sustainable way that transforms these girls’ families and communities into more healthy and equitable entities.

Equally close to my heart is my work with Women LEAD Nepal. An incredible nonprofit with the mission of empowering adolescent girls to become leaders, Women LEAD Nepal values the voices and opinions of young women, expediting women’s access to the same educational, professional and leadership opportunities as their male counterparts.

In societies that are patriarchal and male-dominated, women form an under-served population and for the most part find it difficult to stand their ground. Having kickstarted a Women LEAD chapter in Hong Kong as a junior in high school, I witness the manifold returns of investing in women’s education and leadership training, namely bolstered confidence, the ability to self-identify as a leader, amplified voices in acts of advocacy, and clearer work-life goals. We see Women LEAD’s students pursuing tertiary study and professional paths in avenues of their choice, see a rise in sustainable family units and further inter-generational transmission of literacy.

Women LEAD's Leadership Institute in 2013. 90% of Women LEAD’s graduates are attending university in Nepal, India, the USA and Bangladesh - an amazing feat! Women LEAD’s programs equip young women with leadership skills not just for the future, but starting today. (Source: Women LEAD Nepal)
Women LEAD’s Leadership Institute in 2013. 90% of Women LEAD’s graduates are attending university in Nepal, India, the USA and Bangladesh – an amazing feat! Women LEAD’s programs equip young women with leadership skills not just for the future, but starting today. (Source: Women LEAD Nepal)

One component of women’s empowerment that Women LEAD also stresses is solidarity. It’s not about individual success or personal development, but advancing together as an empowered, enlightened community of women. Women LEAD’s Leadership Institute provides hands-on leadership training that adequately equips girls for career success; it simultaneously redefines traditional masculine roles and foregrounds sisterhood, underlining the potency of women’s alliances. A crucial synergy of friendship and mentorship is at the crux of Women LEAD’s vision of effecting real and sustained change for women; it is this synthesis that can, with education, break cycles of poverty and set girls on the path to prosperity.

My acquaintance with these two remarkable organizations began only after I read Half the Sky, a true testament to the fact that a little help can transform the lives of women and girls around the world. I can only imagine how many millions of others were spurred into action after reading Kristof and WuDunn’s stories of resilience and courage. Such is the immense power of Half the Sky, which strikes chords within us and imbues us with the confidence that we can – as part of the movement to improve the lives of women and girls – make a difference.

External Resources:

The Half the Sky Movement is dedicated to ending the oppression of women worldwide. Through inspiring stories of extraordinary women, this movement hopes to not only raise awareness of women’s issues, but also provide concrete ways to empower women.

Givology is a 100% volunteer-run social enterprise that connects donors and volunteers to grassroots education projects and student scholarships around the world. From school supplies to library construction to empowerment workshops, it emphasizes transparency and maximizing the impact per dollar given.

Women LEAD is the first and only leadership development organization for young women in Nepal. Having empowered more than 200 young women to become leaders in their schools and communities, Women LEAD’s programs women with intensive yearlong leadership training, skills building, mentoring, and a peer-support network.

Mobile Technology: The Future of International Development

Image Courtesy of USAID

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web. Over the past twenty years, internet technology has grown exponentially. In fact, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) predicts that by 2015, 50 percent of the world will have access to the internet.

Today, internet technology not only incorporates desktop or laptop computers, but mobile networks as well. Driving mobile technology is the fact that, of the seven billion people in the world, approximately six billion are cell phone subscribers. In Latin America alone, the World Bank recently announced that the region has surpassed 100 percent mobile phone penetration, meaning there are currently 107 mobile phones for every 100 people.

In recent years, mobile technology has grown to what we now know as “smart phones,” a mobile device that integrates various social media platforms, email, and applications. Unfortunately, smart phones are not quite as prevalent in developing countries as in the developed world. However, if history tells us anything, it is that smart phones will soon become the dominant mobile technology around the world.

So what does the growth of internet and mobile technologies mean for global health and gender equality?


In fact, USAID recently announced its initiative to use both traditional and social media platforms to advance gender equality. Partnering with the Ford Foundation, Show of Force, and Games for Change, the Half the Sky Movement Media and Technology Engagement Initiative aims to “create behavior change toward gender issues in India and Kenya through an integrated media campaign.”

Already, Games for Change has produced the mobile game “Nine Minutes,” which aims to educate women and girls about the importance of safe pregnancy practices for both the mother-to-be and her growing fetus. Created for phones commonly found in India and East Africa, a 2012 study demonstrated positive shifts in knowledge, attitudes, and behavioral intentions in individuals after playing the mobile game.

Additionally, mHealth Alliance, a UN Foundation organization, works across multiple sectors and advocates for the use of mobile phone technologies to improve global health. The mHealth Alliance also serves as a community in which mHealth providers can “share tools, knowledge, experience and lessons learned.”

Over the past five years, the African continent has experienced a growth in mobile phone subscriptions at a rate of twenty percent each year. In Malawi specifically, mobile phones have proven themselves to be a lifesaving technology.  Doreen Namasala, a community health worker in Malawi, receives approximately 15 to 18 calls per day at Chipatala Cha Pa Foni, or the “health center by phone.” As a result of the technologically advanced health center, women no longer are forced to walk miles to the nearest clinic. Instead, this toll-free health hotline provides women in Malawi with an increased access to maternal healthcare through mobile phone technology.

Judging from the continued growth of internet and mobile technologies, the future of international development belongs to positive Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

For more information, please see the links below:

Twitter at #ICT4D

Decode Global, an organization developing mobile games for social change.

Mobile Games: Reaching the Hardest to Reach, Half the Sky Movement

How the Future of Mobile Lies in the Developing World, TechCrunch

Empower One: Change the Future of Many

It was in a small rural village in the state of Jharkhand, India, that I first met Naisban.  As we sat together on the floor of her home, I listened intently as she talked to me about the pressing issue of illiteracy in her community. In an area lacking proper sanitation and sufficient water supply, Naisban is one woman who is motivated to create far-reaching change.

Naisban outside of her home

As we talked, I watched her eyes light up as she discussed the opportunities for development in her area. Unlike many women and children in India, she is fully literate, having been educated all the way through secondary school. A leader in her community, she has earned the respect of both the men and women through her initiation of meetings related to community development.

Naisban believes that literacy is a powerful tool in the fight to empower girls and women around the world. Her goal is to see every woman and girl in her village become literate and for many years, Naisban has dedicated her time to educating women and young girls by building her own literacy program.

India Girl
Empower One Girl: Change Many

India has one of the largest illiterate populations in the world. In 2001, it was reported that only half of the female population was literate. However, literacy rates have increased within the last decade, with the  female rate rising to 65.5% in 2011.

Much of the credit for this increase should go to women like Naisban. She is one of many women around the world who have the potential to improve the lives of girls and women in need. If you invest in the life of one woman like Naisban, you will be changing the lives of those around her.

Naisban’s passion brings to mind the life of Somaly Mam. Somaly, who was recently featured in Half the Sky, was born in a rural area of Cambodia and endured the horrors of being sold into sexual slavery. She has dedicated her life to loving and empowering young girls who have been abused and exploited by the sex trade. Her life and experience has made a difference in the lives of over 7,000 young girls in Cambodia and many more around the world.

Photo Courtesy of

“A seed is like a little girl,” Somaly believes, “It can look small and worthless, but if you treat it well then it will grow beautiful.” (The Road of Lost Innocence, The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine)

Millions of girls and women like Naisban and Somaly Mam are on the front lines, tirelessly fighting for women’s rights and dignity. Let’s get behind these girls and women and champion their visions and causes. By empowering even just one girl, we are changing the lives of many.

Do you know of organizations that seek to empower girls like Naisban? Tweet us @GirlsGlobe!

Want to learn about organizations that empower local girls and women?

Learn more about the Somaly Mam Foundation
On Twitter @SomalyMam

Check out the Girl Effect
On Twitter @girleffect


Census  India 2011.
Census India 2001.

The Girl Effect.
The Somaly Mam Foundation.
Somaly Mam. The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine

The Freedom Center: Bridging the Past and Present of Slavery

As we approach the end of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month here in the US, I want to take a moment to highlight an institution that is making strides in raising awareness about the reality and horrors of slavery and human trafficking. And, it just so happens to be located in the modest Midwestern city that I live in, Cincinnati, Ohio!

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The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is situated on the Ohio River, which was the dividing line between slavery and freedom in the US up through the late 1800s, in the heart of downtown Cincinnati. The Freedom Center is commonly and erroneously referred to as a museum. But, it’s really more than an institution dedicated to objects and ideas of the past. The Freedom Center is an active symbol of consciousness, a platform from which voices can be heard, and a bridge linking the past and present. Oh yes, and it has the first permanent exhibit in the world dedicated to modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

This exhibit, Invisible: Slavery Today, truly gives a comprehensive view of what slavery and trafficking actually look like around the world today. The exhibit is a sensory experience, made to make you feel like you are a part of slavery, from dim lighting to the wooden crate walls to the mattresses with ‘Sex Trafficking’ scrawled across the bed springs and the miniature brothel models underneath. It’s a haunting homage to the dirty, seedy, exhaustive underbelly of an underground trade and the lives that are lost to it. The true personal testimonies of children forced to work in Indian rug factories, young women sold to Eastern European brothels and men forced to work in African mining fields will long stay in the back of your thoughts. In fact, the experience will haunt you long after you’ve left the building.

GG Pic
Modern slavery and human trafficking takes many forms: domestic servitude, sex trafficking, forced labor, child soldiers, indentured servitude, child slavery. Together, they are a global injustice affecting an estimated 12-27 million people at any one time, a range so broad due to the clandestine nature of the trade. It also just so happens to be a multi-billion dollar business, generating $44.3 billion dollars each year.

Slavery and trafficking affect people of all ages, all backgrounds and ethnicity  and both sexes. It occurs in developed and developing countries alike, and particularly in times of instability like armed conflict.

Women and girls are most vulnerable to being trafficked and forced into slavery. Consider the statistics from the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report :

  • 55% of forced labor victims are women and girls
  • 98% of sex trafficking victims are women and girls
  • 4.5 million victims are sexually exploited

The 2012 UNODC Global Report of Trafficking in Persons reports that:

  • Trafficking of girls accounts for 15-20% of the total number of victims from 2007-2010
  • The number of detected women victims has declined somewhat in recent years, however the number of girls has risen

Trafficking is a crime with a strong gender bias towards women and girls.

If you happen to end up in the area, come by and check out the Freedom Center. It’s an amazing learning experience that will educate you, depress you, but most importantly inspire you to take action to fight slavery and trafficking in your own community. Don’t miss the slavery and trafficking exhibit, and if you get there before March be sure to check out the Half the Sky temporary exhibit! Oh yes, you read that correct. There is an exhibit there devoted solely to the Half the Sky movement (and if you know anything about Girls’ Globe, you know we’re BIG fans of Half the Sky)!

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If visiting isn’t an option any time soon, the Freedom Center website offers a wealth of useful and practical suggestions on how you, no matter where you are in the world, can become a modern day abolitionist. If you haven’t yet watched the recent Google+ hangout, covered by our Girls’ Globe founder Julia Wiklander, featuring our heroes against slavery and human trafficking Nick Kristof, Somaly Mam, and Rachel Loyd. You may have notice that the moderator was Luke Blocher Director of Contemporary Slavery Initiatives at the Freedom Center!

Check out these Freedom Center partner organizations around the world who are working towards freedom:

…and learn more about slavery and trafficking with these book suggestions:

  • Half the Sky
  • A Crime So Monstrous
  • The Road of Lost Innocence

Consider how slavery has looked in your country in the past and how it compares to today. Does your country/ state/ city have a history of slavery? What about those around you? Who were the victims? Have you seen any signs of slavery today? How do the victims compare to those in the past? How does the work compare? Use the Freedom Center and these resources to start educating yourself and raise awareness in your community today.

Pictures taken by Sally Pope at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.