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International Women’s Day 2016 – Celebrating the Dreamers and the Doers Working for Global Gender Parity

In 2014, the World Economic Forum predicted that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, that it would take even longer – until 2133!

This year, for International Women’s Day 2016, the United Nations is asking everyone to take a “pledge for parity” – to commit to move from talk to action so that together we can speed up our progress towards closing this gap.

We at World of Children are proud to already be supporting dreamers and the doers who have already taken action. Today, we celebrate four of these amazing women and their work on meaningful programs that provide opportunities for girls to “catch up” to their male peers. Please join us!

1. Winnifred Selby

Founder, EPF Educational Empowerment Initiative
2015 World of Children Youth Honoree


Founded in 2010, by 15 year-old Winnifred Selby, EPF Educational Empowerment Initiative works to reduce children’s barriers to education in Ghana, particularly in the impoverished Northern region of the country. EPF focuses specifically on three points of intervention with their Happy Feet Initiative, Menstrual Pads for Dignity Program, and Girls’ Scholarship Program.

Menstrual Pads for Dignity Program: This initiative provides free disposable menstrual products for needy girls in the most deprived districts in Ghana. In addition, the initiative provides hygiene, reproductive, and financial education for the girls it serves. The result has been a drastic reduction in the high rates of menstruation-related absenteeism among school-aged girls. The Foundation’s long-term goal is to produce sanitary pads domestically. The creation of a factory in Ghana would not only make the pads less expensive, it would also provide jobs in local communities.

Girls’ Scholarship Initiative: Working in partnership with private universities in Ghana, EPF provides a limited number of scholarships each year to brilliant but needy high school girls who would ordinarily not be able to afford the cost of a college education. Each participating university offers a tuition free scholarship to one girl each year, and the Foundation raises funds to support the student’s books, accommodations, and associated costs to attend the college.

An additional program, the Happy Feet Initiative, serves children of both genders and all ages. It complements the government of Ghana free school feeding and free uniforms program by providing new shoes and other educational supplies such as bags, books, and calculators to needy school children in deprived communities.

2. Catalina Escobar

Founder, Juan Felipe Gomez Escobar Foundation
2015 World of Children Humanitarian Honoree


In 2000 Catalina Escobar, a former business entrepreneur, quit her job in the private sector and dedicated her life to launching and planning a social initiative, which became the Juan Felipe Gómez Escobar Foundation.

The Foundation invests resources to create solutions to the problems of poverty in the poorest communities in Cartagena, Colombia. One of the biggest threats to child welfare in Cartagena, Colombia especially among children born to poor teenaged mothers, is infant mortality due to malnutrition or inaccessible medical care. To compound the issues facing these young mothers and their children, many of the mothers are victims of abuse and rape, and are still children themselves. All too often, they are ostracized by their families and leave school in an effort to seek income to support themselves. Without an education or vocational training, their choices of work are extremely limited and most remain trapped in the vicious intergenerational cycle of poverty.

The Medical Center Juan Felipe IPS is located in Juanfe’s headquarters and offers medical attention to the teenage mothers and their children. It also performs the follow up sessions for Crib Sponsorship Program patients, who receive ongoing care for 5 years after their time in the Crib Sponsorship program. In addition to the services provided to teenage mothers and their children, the Medical Center provides low-cost care to vulnerable members of the surrounding community.

The Teenage Mothers Extension Program at Juanfe provides teen mothers with what they need most: empowerment, education, entrepreneurship training, psychosocial intervention and healthcare. The programs ensure that teen mothers are armed with the tools they need to succeed.

The impact of the Foundation’s programs have been astounding:

  • Cartagena has seen an 80% reduction in the city’s child mortality rate
  • More than 2,800 teenage mothers have benefited from the program
    • 70%   Have returned to the education system.
    • 90% are in good health and have good nutrition.

3. Mary Grace Henry

Founder, Reverse the Course
2014 World of Children Youth Honoree

Winnie 2013

At the age of 12, Mary Grace Henry became determined to change the life of an underprivileged girl by funding her education. She started by teaching herself how to make reversible headbands with a plan to sell them at her school’s bookstore, using 100% of the profits to send girls living in extreme poverty to school. Soon, she had raised enough to send one girl to school. But she knew that she couldn’t stop there: so many other girls still did not have access to education.

“The greatest obstacle to education faced by both girls and boys is poverty,” Mary Grace says. “Girls, though, face a second hurdle that is far more difficult to address: their culture. In many countries throughout the world, girls are viewed as having not just lesser value than boys, but often devastatingly little or no value.”

This means that girls are often shut out from educational opportunities when families cannot afford to send all of their children to school. They often believe it is better to invest in sons who will remain with them than in daughters who will join their husbands’ families.

“Educating a girl can reverse the course of her life, change the course of a community…and a country,” says Mary Grace. Her program, Reverse The Course, is a successful social business that has sold over 14,000 hair accessories and funded the education of girls in Kenya, Uganda, Paraguay and Haiti. Without Mary Grace’s support, these girls would not have been able to attend school.

4. Dallas Jessup

Founder, Just Yell Fire
2012 World of Children Youth Honoree

Jessup, Dallas 2012 (1)

When she was 13, Dallas Jessup saw security video footage of a teenage girl being abducted in Florida on the evening news. Two days later the news shared that the girl had been murdered. With a black belt in martial arts, Dallas knew that if the girl had known a few basic self-defense techniques, she would have had a better chance of getting away. She decided to team up with her street-fighting coach to develop a free online video that would teach girls the basics of self-defense. Dallas hoped her video could help prevent these types of tragedies from happening again. Her video, along with many more she has created since then, is accessible to young women around the world, teaching them get-away moves to escape potential attackers.

Today Dallas runs Just Yell Fire, an all-volunteer organization that offers powerful videos for young women free of charge. Just Yell Fire has become an internationally-recognized resource for girls wanting to stop abuse, stop violence, stay safe and learn their rights. Dallas and her team have now inspired a 1.5 million Girl Revolution with a presence in 64 countries.

Join us in supporting heroes like these in providing equal opportunities for ALL children, regardless of their gender >>

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