#SWAAYthenarrative

Providing the Tools for Girls to Change the World

4 Min Read
Culture

In 2007, while volunteering for the education-based NGO World Assistance Cambodia, I traveled to Phnom Penh to mark the opening of a new school. The folks who attended were patiently waiting for the city leaders to cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of this school—the first school they would have since the Khmer Rouge destroyed them all nearly 40 years earlier. It was on this day while overlooking a throng of Cambodians in attendance, I spied a little girl.

The girl I saw had a bright, beautiful face and big expressive eyes. She was standing outside the school gates, clinging to the fence with her fingers laced through the wires and peering in longingly. I knew that this young girl, who I later learned is named Srelin, was not being brought into the school to be enrolled, and I wondered if she ever would be. It was a moment of reflection as I realized that the world would never see the boundless potential she possessed if she was barred from education. I knew in that moment that providing girls like Srelin the tools for self-empowerment was the way that her community, indeed our world, could change for the better.

Educating and empowering girls is the single best action we can take to bring about a just, equitable, and flourishing world for all. But in order to get to this state, we must first listen to girls and amplify their voices.

Fast forward to 2012, I founded Global G.L.O.W. with a mission to ignite the power of girls for global transformation. Global G.L.O.W. is now an international nonprofit organization that creates and operates innovative out-of-school programs to mentor girls ages 10–18 to advocate for themselves and make their communities stronger. Working with community partners on the ground and almost 8,000 girls annually in 23 countries, including the U.S., Global G.L.O.W. works to accelerate girls' greatness today so they can build a better tomorrow.

When girls are strong, healthy, and educated, communities flourish, and everyone benefits. On the economic front alone, the World Economic Forum reports that closing the worldwide gender gap in the workforce fully could add $28 trillion to global GDP. On the educational side, every additional year of school a girl attends increases her wages by an average of 12%, according to the Malala Fund.

The evidence is overwhelming—when girls thrive, they start an upward spiral that changes societal perceptions and norms and breaks the shackles of poverty. This evidence fuels one of the central messages of our programming at Global G.L.O.W.—girls know what girls need. Our model is girl-led and listening-led—we listen to girls to understand both their challenges and their proposed solutions. We work collaboratively with girls, partners, and communities to develop unique mentor-based programs to address the most critical barriers affecting girls across the impact areas of self-advocacy, wellbeing, educational engagement, economic opportunity, and community impact.

The evidence is overwhelming—when girls thrive, they start an upward spiral that changes societal perceptions and norms and breaks the shackles of poverty.

This year, after hearing from the girls in our programs about the deep need and desire to take control of their own health—specifically around sexual and reproductive health and hygiene—Global G.L.O.W. created and began piloting our newest international program, Healthy G.L.O.W. Healthy G.L.O.W. is a 13-week health and reproductive health education program, providing girls with a safe space to explore, discuss, and learn about their physical, mental, and social well-being needs through knowledgeable and trusted mentors.

We've now expanded Healthy G.L.O.W. to include sessions devoted to issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, our aim is to give girls this critical health information so they are best armed to advocate for themselves, remain in school, and make positive, informed choices throughout their lives. After successfully piloting the program for 650 girls alongside our partner organizations in 9 countries including Ghana, Haiti, Cambodia, Colombia, Kenya, Nigeria, Thailand, and the U.S., Healthy GLOW will be expanded in 2021 to all of our partners worldwide.

Educating and empowering girls is the single best action we can take to bring about a just, equitable, and flourishing world for all. But in order to get to this state, we must first listen to girls and amplify their voices. Understanding the barriers that girls face—from their own perspectives—is vital for changing social norms. Only with this critical awareness can solutions be envisioned and actions taken to eliminate the barriers to girls' empowerment.

When girls are strong, healthy, and educated, communities flourish, and everyone benefits.

We must also speak up about gender inequities. Do not be hampered by the old social taboos that keep girls and women silent and suffering and avoid discussing issues like sexual health and menstrual hygiene. Let us be bold—learn and speak about the universal experiences of girls.

Finally, we must support girl-focused organizations. Investing in girls is the best investment we can make to strengthen our communities. The ultimate impact of the collective force of girls is the creation of a world in which everyone can reach their full potential.

3 min read
Culture

Please Don't Forget to Say Thank You

"More grapes, please," my daughter asked, as she continued to color her Peppa Pig drawing at the kitchen table.

"What do you say?" I asked her, as I was about to hand her the bowl.

"More grapes?"

I shook my head.

"Please?"

I stood there.

"I want green grapes instead of red grapes?"

I shook my head again. I handed her the bowl of green grapes. "Thank you. Please don't forget to say thank you."

"Thank you, Momma!"

Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children?

Many of us are busy training our young children on manners on the other side of the Zoom camera during this pandemic. Reminding them to say please, excuse me, I tried it and it's not my favorite, I am sorry, and thank you. And yet somehow simple manners continue to be undervalued and underappreciated in our workplaces. Because who has time to say thank you?

"Call me. This needs to be completed in the next hour."

"They didn't like the deck. Needs to be redone."

"When are you planning on sending the proposal?"

"Did you see the questions he asked? Where are the responses?"

"Needs to be done by Monday."

Let me take a look. I didn't see a please. No please. Let me re-read it again. Nope, no thank you either. Sure, I'll get to that right away. Oh yes, you're welcome.

Organizations are under enormous pressure in this pandemic. Therefore, leaders are under enormous pressure. Business models collapsing, budget cuts, layoffs, or scrapping plans… Companies are trying to pivot as quickly as possible—afraid of extinction. With employees and leaders everywhere teaching and parenting at home, taking care of elderly parents, or maybe even living alone with little social interaction, more and more of us are dealing with all forms of grief, including losing loved ones to COVID-19.

So we could argue we just don't have time to say thank you; we don't have time to express gratitude. There's too much happening in the world to be grateful for anything. We are all living day to day, the pendulum for us swinging between surviving and thriving. But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?

If you don't think you have to say thank you; if you don't think they deserve a thank you (it's their job, it's what they get paid to do); or if you think, "Why should I say thank you, no one ever thanks me for anything?" It's time to remember that while we might be living through one of the worst recessions of our lifetimes, the market will turn again. Jobs will open up, and those who don't feel recognized or valued will be the first to go. Those who don't feel appreciated and respected will make the easy decision to work for leaders who show gratitude.

But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?

Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children? Remind them with flashcards? Bribe them with a cookie? Tell them how I proud I am of them when they say those two magical words?

Showing gratitude isn't that difficult. You can send a thoughtful email or a text, send a handwritten card, send something small as a gesture of thank you, or just tell them. Call them and tell them how thankful you are for them and for their contributions. Just say thank you.

A coworker recently mailed me a thank you card, saying how much she appreciated me. It was one of the nicest things anyone from work has sent me during this pandemic. It was another reminder for me of how much we underestimate the power of a thank you card.

Apparently, quarantine gratitude journals are all the rage right now. So it's great if you have a beautiful, leather-bound gratitude journal. You can write down all of the people and the things that you are thankful for in your life. Apparently, it helps you sleep better, helps you stay grounded, and makes you in general happier. Just don't forget to take a moment to stop writing in that journal, and to show thanks and gratitude to those you are working with every single day.