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Who We’re Celebrating this International Women’s Day

Stories

March 8, 2024
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There are three women on the right side of the image and three women on the left side of the image. In the center of the image, Michelle Obama is hugging a woman and facing the camera. Michelle Obama has curly hair and is wearing several rings. The woman she is hugging is facing opposite the camera – we cannot see her face – she has short curly hair and is wearing a beige sweater and black pants. In the background, several women with a range of light to deep skin tones and ages speak to one another. On the wall of the room is a poster that reads, “Girls Opportunity Alliance.” The poster has a border with short perpendicular lines in pink and light blue with a dark blue background.

At the Obama Foundation, our goal is to inspire, empower, and connect people so they can change their world. Through programs like the Girls Opportunity Alliance, we’re working with community leaders to support adolescent girls around the world, allowing them to achieve their full potential and bring change home to their families, communities, and countries. 

This International Women’s Day, we’re spotlighting a few remarkable leaders who are part of the Girls Opportunity Alliance Network, a growing community of more than 4,000 grassroots leaders dedicated to the issue of adolescent girls’ education and empowerment.

From villages in Nepal to our homebase of Chicago, these changemakers are making a tangible difference in the lives of adolescent girls, and we’re committed to supporting their work through the Girls Opportunity Alliance for years to come.

Meet them:

A Black woman with a deep skin tone stands  underneath a large green umbrella on a boardwalk. She has dreadlocks that hit past her shoulders and is wearing a green and pink shirt that reads, “Restored Hope.” She wears a patterned face mask and holds a microphone. Behind the woman is a red shopping cart, a stack of blue signs, and a DJ set up.

Tameka Lawson: Healing Communities in Chicago

Tameka Lawson, Founder and Director of Restored Hope in Chicago, understands the importance of healing and empowerment in communities affected by trauma. Through Restored Hope, Tameka offers yoga and mindfulness classes to young women, providing them with tools for self-care and resilience. Her commitment to holistic healing has made a significant impact on the lives of many, offering hope and healing where it's needed most. This spring, funding from the Girls Opportunity Alliance will help girls from Chicago travel to Ghana for a week of cross-cultural exchange.

Tameka shares that one goal of hers is “to teach girls how to hold space for themselves and then for others. Sometimes as women, it’s hard for us to create boundaries. To name what we're feeling without feeling ashamed. So seeing the girls able to do that, it’s a big deal. Those are our wins. I do this work because I was a girl in Chicago, born and raised on the South Side. Now I’m raising a daughter in Chicago. I want all our girls to never stop reaching and to reach beyond what their eyes can see."

Jackie Bomboma: Supporting Young Mothers in Tanzania

Jackie Bomboma, the Founder and CEO of the Young Strong Mothers Foundation (YSMF) in Tanzania, is dedicated to supporting vulnerable young mothers and adolescent girls in her community. Through YSMF, Jackie has provided essential resources and education to more than 10,500 young mothers, and helped 7,500 adolescent girls prevent and navigate challenges such as forced marriage and teenage pregnancy. Her goal is to create an environment where all girls can achieve their dreams, regardless of their circumstances. The Girls Opportunity Alliance is helping the YSMF support 500 girls who are either out of school or at risk of forced marriage, teenage pregnancy and dropping out. 

Jackie shares, "I want girls to know that it doesn't matter where you were born or what you went through. I want to change challenges into opportunity not only for me or for my daughter, but all the women in my community. For me, working with women and girls is not about having a job or employment. It's all about what I feel in my heart. It's very close to me. That's why I never gave up."

A Black woman with a deep skin tone sits on a wooden step outdoors. She has curly black hair and is wearing glasses as she smiles at the camera. The woman is wearing a black sweater with white lining, a black turtleneck, and denim jeans. Her fingernails are painted bright pink and on her left wrist is a watch and on her right wrist are two gold bracelets.
A Black woman with a medium skin tone sits at a table in a conference room. She has long black and brown box braids. She is wearing an orange, light blue, and dark blue Greek Key pattern vest. in the She states at a large piece of paper with a variety of drawings and text. On the table are a pair of glasses, an IPhone, pink post-it notes, and a marker. Behind the woman are a group of people standing around the table. They are a range of light to deep skin tones.

Myriam Narcisse: Advocating for Girls' Rights in Haiti

Myriam Narcisse, Executive Director of the Haiti Adolescent Girls Network (HAGN), has been a tireless advocate for girls' rights and empowerment in Haiti for more than two decades. Through HAGN, Myriam provides educational trainings, mentorship, and support to girls from underserved communities. The organization formed after a devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010, in recognition that girls are especially vulnerable in times of crisis but their needs are too often left behind. The Girls Opportunity Alliance is supporting HAGN by providing 300 girls with trainings that address gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, financial literacy, and leadership. 

“In many ways these girls are my teachers, because our program makes it a point to be girl-centered,” Myriam shared. “Our work evolved as a response to feedback from the communities and what the girls were telling us. Younger adolescents are a segment of the population that are often left behind, so we give them safe spaces to take the leadership and take the responsibility. It’s really rooted in the community, and I think that’s what’s making the difference.”

Karla Rax: Empowering Indigenous Girls in Guatemala

Karla Rax, Program Coordinator at Na'leb'ak, is dedicated to supporting indigenous girls in Guatemala. Na'leb'ak works in 27 rural communities—none of these have a secondary school, leaving adolescent girls with few opportunities to complete their education. Karla brings girls together for workshops where they can build new skills. learn about their rights, and ask questions about topics like menstruation and sexual health. The program works to prevent child marriage and teenage pregnancy, and it teaches girls new trades and skills to help them support themselves. 

Funding from the Girls Opportunity Alliance is helping Na'leb'ak provide workshops and scholarships to marginalized adolescent girls, helping them to gain new skills and reach their goals. Karla's work is instrumental in breaking the cycle of poverty and empowering girls to create better futures for themselves and their communities.

The image is a “cowboy shot” of a woman with a light skin tone and long black hair. She smiles at the camera. Her arms are crossed around her stomach. She is wearing a red indigenous print shirt with black dots and a blue patterned skirt.
A group of people are sitting around a table in a conference room. The table has books, pens, water, and red cards. Around the table is a group of young people playing a card game. They have light skin tones and dark hair. At the center of the table is a woman with a light skin tone and long dark hair. She is wearing a long gold necklace with a large pendant and a light pink tunic with embossed embroidery across the center of the tunic. She is leaning on the table. Behind her is a wall with gold curtains and a sign hanging on the wall that says “Financial Literacy.”

Sanam Doka Sherpa: Championing Education in Nepal

Sanam Doka Sherpa, Programs Director of The Small World (TSW) in Nepal, has dedicated more than a decade to promoting girls' education and women's empowerment in remote villages. Through TSW, Sanam manages programs aimed at supporting adolescent girls, including mentorship programs, scholarship initiatives, and economic empowerment projects. Her efforts have had a profound impact on the lives of girls in the Everest region; without TSW’s support, many of the girls she works with would not have the chance to complete secondary school. The Girls Opportunity Alliance is helping The Small World send 40 girls to grades 11 and 12, covering all associated costs as well as providing them with leadership development and empowerment programming.

Last summer, Sanam attended a convening of the Girls Opportunity Alliance Network in Athens, where she forged new connections with leaders working to support girls around the world. She says, “It has been an amazing learning journey. We learn so much from each other. Though we are from different places representing different nations, we’re all working for the same cause. We’re all working to move the same mountain from different parts of the world.”

A group of 24 people stand together in a group photo in front of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. It is sunny outside. They are all of different ages and ethnicities. They have a range of light to deep skin tones. Columns and construction are in the background.

Members of the Girls Opportunity Alliance Network convene in Athens, Greece.

As Mrs. Obama said, “these changemakers are helping girls everywhere reimagine their futures—and they deserve our support, not just on International Women’s Day, but all year long.” Today, we’re adding four new organizations to the Girls Opportunity Alliance Fund to support more grassroots leaders and organizations like these around the world. Support their efforts by donating today. Opens in a new tab

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