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Our Mission is to tackle prejudice against girls worldwide and expand their freedom and opportunities through education and leadership.

Beginnings...

School Girls Unite began in a small café back in 2004 after a group of 12 year olds and young African women discussed the discrimination felt by girls in many developing countries. We aim to fight this discrimination, and advocate the powers of educating girls. We think education is the starting point to solving almost every other problem, including reducing diseases and ending poverty, and eventually increasing the number of women in leadership positions throughout the world.

School Girls Unite is comprised of chapters in the United States and Mali, Africa. Our incredible sister organization in Mali is called Les Filles Unies pour l’Education. We run a scholarship program in Mali, as well as provide leadership opportunities for youth in the US.

We chose to work in Mali because UNICEF identified it as having the worst situation among developing countries. The majority of girls never graduate from elementary school, many become child brides and the majority of women are illiterate.

Our Scholarship Program

We collaborate as philanthropists. School Girls Unite collects donations to cover the costs of sending 66 girls in Mali to school. Les Filles Unies pour l'Education manages this scholarship program, which includes paying school fees, school supplies, books and tutors. The older students of the organization serve as role models to the elementary school students, as well as their parents and the village elders. Lack of separate latrines, child marriage and other challenges facing girls increase our cross-cultural exchange and shared problem solving. The first hand experience from visiting these rural schools increases our knowledge as well as our credibility when we raise public awareness and meet with important decision makers.

Our Leadership Activities

School Girls Unite students and the young women leaders in Mali act as change agents advocating for the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, specifically gender equality and universal basic education as well as child marriage prevention and other human rights issues. These young activists make speeches, plan events to raise public support, do radio interviews, and participate with the Global Campaign for Education, which includes meeting with celebrities like Shakira and decision makers such as the Malian Minister of Education and Members of Congress.

School Girls Unite has also been instrumental in building the International Day of the Girl, which falls on October 11 each year. School Girls Unite members worked with other organizations to build this national campaign, which ran parallel to international efforts and at the U.N.This day recognizes the unique obstacles facing young girls around the world, as well as the power of young girls to make big changes in their local and global communities!

We have also led workshops for young girls in public speaking and advocacy, to teach others the skills we’ve learned along the way, so that anyone can be a leader.

Why We Do What We Do

We know of this problem, and we can’t stand to let it continue. The state of education around the world is lacking. There are girls around the world who never get the chance to learn to read, and we think literacy is the greatest tool we have to solving the world’s problems. If you educate a girl, you educate a whole community. (And as girls are half of the human population, there’s the potential for a lot of educated communities!)

Learn more about education and the problems facing girls under the Learn section.

Chapters!

While there are many people all around the world who support us (Thank you!), we have a couple really impressive chapters! We encourage girls everywhere to get together with peers and take action!

Check out the girls from Oakland Mills Middle School! They've created a giant petition called "The Book," and have been essential in persuading Congressman Sarbanes to become a sponsor of Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act and Education for All Act!

We also really appreciate everything the girls at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School do, along with the groups at Harpers Choice Middle School and Hammond Middle School! Keep up the amazing work! Rachel from Hammond Middle School talks about why she was inspired to start a chapter:

A Few Big Things We've Done...

In 2009, we hosted two benefit concerts to raise money for our scholarship program!

Catch some music and praise by the Embassy of Mali and a Member of Congress who spoke at our first benefit concert in the Washington, DC area.

TV Story of School Girls Unite

This story produced by Montgomery County Public Schools TV features
School Girls Unite skyping with Les Filles Unies in Mali and planning a major event.

In 2007, School Girls Unite participated in the International Girls Summit, in Minnesota!

Recent Highlights

• About a dozen School Girls Unite activists participated in an advocacy day at Congress organized by Plan USA. In addition to attending a Human Rights Commission hearing on forced marriage, they delivered over 11,000 e-letters urging action on the child marriage prevention bill signed by Plan USA supporters from all 50 states. 

Mamadou, 12 and one of the boys in SGU, also delivered his passionate letter to Senator Mikulski’s foreign affairs aide which got noticed by the International Women’s Health Coalition: http://blog.iwhc.org/2010/07/prevent-child-marriage-help-give-millions-of-girls-a-choice-and-a-chance/

• In Mali, an eleven-year-old girl whom we have sponsored since she was in first grade and would have started sixth grade in October 2009 now is married to a much older man. Les Filles Unies pour l'Education continues to meet with parents and village elders to discuss how to keep girls going to school and delay child marriage.

• Allison and Sheenali, two 12th graders, read a newspaper article about School Girls Unite that sparked the idea to do a senior project together. They both did considerable research and wrote impressive papers on the impact of educating girls in increasing health and economic development, including agricultural production. They produced a video that was shown to all the global studies classes to raise awareness about this crisis. They made 60 friendship bracelets and along with sales of T-shirts, raised $303 for our scholarship program in Mali. As Allison wrote in her paper: "Segregation needs to become an idea of the past...In order for the future of the world to exist, girls must be placed in school." Our thanks to these two global citiens and Poolesville High School for making a real difference in the world!   

Awards & Recognition

• School Girls Unite won Women of Tomorrow Award from the Maryland Commission for Women
• First founding member Shannon Sullivan won Middle School Student Prudential Spirit of Community Award
• School Girls Unite was one of eight country teams to participate in the International Girls Summit
• Filles Unies & School Girls Unite won Innovations in Civic Participation Global Youth Volunteering International Winner
• School Girls Unite leader Molara Obe won Angels in Action Award
• Dandio Coulibaly, youngest member, selected as New Moon magazine's 25 Most Beautiful Girls from the Inside Out
• Filles Unies President Bintou Soumaoro invited to speech at U.N. Reaffirming Human Rights For All Conference in Paris
• Mira Fleming, Child Marriage Prevention Project Coordinator, won the U.N. Youth Assembly's Achievement Award
• Featured in the Washington Post, TIME for Kids, WPGC, FOX, CBS, MSNBC TV

You all are amazing and inspiring. Beyond the good you are doing yourselves and your work will inspire other young women to advocate for girls' education around the world. 
~ Gene Sperling, founder, Global Campaign for Education USA

I would like to applaud School Girls Unite because you all are bringing an innovative approach to girls education: you are encouraging girls who are better off to help those in need. You are not only fostering women's leadership in Mali, you are also encouraging sisterhood by putting "UNITE" in practice. 
~ Abdoulaye Diop, Ambassador of Mali to the U.S.

Thanks to Our Supporters!

Our Board of Directors

(Please visit www.youthactivismproject.org, the parent nonprofit organization of this international girls leadership and education initiative.)

About Coordinator Wendy Schaetzel Lesko

SCHOOL GIRLS UNITE
Youth Activism Project, Inc.
Non-profit 501(c)(3)Tax ID 75-3163810
Washington, DC area address: P.O.Box E
Kensington, MD 20895 USA
Tel: 1-800-KID-POWER  or 301-929-8808 Fax: 301-929-8907
www.schoolgirlsunite.org