Today marks International Women’s Day 2019 (IWD2019). 110 years ago, what could be considered as the first ever National Women’s Day took place in New York. It is overwhelming and incredible to think how far we’ve progressed in these 110 years. However, despite the advancement in women’s rights, there is still room for improvement and this is what International Women’s Day is all about.
For the last 23 years, the UN have assigned the day an official theme every year, with this year’s theme being: Better the balance, better the world. The IWD2019 website asks ‘How can you help forge a more gender-balanced world?’ and suggests ‘celebrating women’s achievements’, ‘raising awareness against bias’ and more importantly that we ‘take action’.
You may remember last year’s IWD blog, where we showcased some of our on-the-ground partners’ unsung heroes. This year, we turn our attention to One Girl Can Founder and CEO Lotte Davis – a woman who believes every day is International Women’s Day and who has devoted her life to working toward exactly what this year’s IWD theme is: bettering the balance and bettering the world. One Girl Can is an all-female run charity focused on empowering girls through education. What follows comes from a short email interview conducted this week.
Driven, excited and always concerned about the work that still needs to be done, Lotte Davis doesn’t consider what she does as ‘work’, but more like ‘a really good book that you can’t put down’, one that results in much late-night reading. Often focusing on the future and what goals are yet to be achieved, Davis occasionally needs to remind herself about what One Girl Can has achieved and the milestones the charity has reached since starting in 2008. Some of these accomplishments include mentoring 20,000 girls this year through various workshops, providing 454 girls with high school scholarships since 2014 and totalling 212 full university scholarships since 2013.
However, Davis explained that her own personal measure of success is the change she sees in the mentees, when she visits the programmes every six months. The mentees are girls who have grown up largely unexposed to the notion of women tackling challenges confidently and ambitiously. Due to the extreme poverty that they come from, they have limited choices in how far they can go. These limitations are exactly what One Girl Can is striving to eradicate.
Davis recalls ‘seeing a discernible change in posture, eye contact, voice, attitude, as well as assertiveness and overall confidence’. The message OGC are giving is getting through, it being that ‘there is nothing you can’t accomplish if you have a vision, a goal, a plan and a commitment to act on this every day’. One Girl Can gives these girls the tools to work with, then stands back and watches them move forward.
Following this incredible transformation, the idea is that girls who have graduated and have successfully qualified for a job create a ripple effect by giving a small percentage of their wages back to the programme and dedicate some of their time to mentoring the new cohort of young girls. This wonderful cycle allows the women who were fortunate enough to benefit from the programme as young girls, to give back and keep empowering more and more girls through education across Kenya and Uganda.
As recounted in Davis’s interview with Journeys by Design a year ago, it was Kibera, the biggest slum in Nairobi, that inspired her to take action and rebuild a school called Ushirika. It’s now evolved from being solely a primary school to also being a secondary school. Davis is currently aiming to find a way to invite potential charity supporters into Kibera, to allow a meeting with current recipients of funding for education. And to hopefully encourage direct support for further scholarships. Last year, One Girl Can released a video called 2018 Empower The Cycle, which shows Kibera and some of the women and girls from there. The video is incredibly well-made, emotive and informative.
I personally can’t help but be in absolute awe and inspired by all the work that Lotte Davis and One Girl Can do. If you would like to know more about the charity and how to get involved, get in touch with us today or have a look at One Girl Can’s website.