Here at OUAI, we support women and today, in honor of International Women’s Day we’re doing it more literally than usual. We’re thrilled to be donating 20% of all sales today to She’s the First, a non-profit organization that fights gender inequality through education. Founded by Tammy Tibbetts and Christen Brandt, She’s the First supports girls around the world who will be the first in their families to graduate high school and gives students everywhere the power to lead. Their multi-pronged approach employs scholarships, locally-led partnership and global citizenship that train women to take action on issues affecting women and girls locally and globally. Below, we chat with co-founder Tammy Tibbetts about She’s the First and how we can all make a difference in women’s lives around the world.
Tell us a little bit about what inspired you to start She’s the First?
She’s the First started almost ten years ago. My co-founder and Chief Programs Officer, Christen Brandt and I actually met through a scholarship program ourselves. We both received scholarships through New York Women in Communications and it was life changing for both of us. Receiving a scholarship instilled in us this desire to pay it forward. We never thought we would do it by starting a scholarship program ourselves, but in our own separate ways, pursuing careers in journalism, we stumbled upon the stats and saw how girls are overwhelmingly more affected by being out of school than boys. We felt we wanted to help rectify that.
Can you share some of those stats with us?
50 million girls around the world are out at secondary school and 130 million girls are out from primary school around the world.
When faced with colossal numbers like that how do you decide where you begin?
Our original goal was to crowdsource funds from millennials to support scholarships. In doing that we realized we were meeting a need that small grassroots organizations had to engage a young donor base and be part of a network that with shared resources, so our scope began to expand.
Today, your initial scholarship focus has evolved into a three-prong approach that includes not only scholarships but also locally-led partnerships and global citizenship. One of these prongs empowers students across the globe to mobilize-can you share a bit about that.
We have campus chapters across, in 8 countries with 200 across the US. These are self started by a student who wants to mobilize their communities to be involved in advocacy for girls and women around the world. This part of the program is centered around global awareness and citizenship. They meet every other week or so on campus and we supply them with a monthly topic and current events and they discuss that. Likewise, our scholars around the world meet with mentors and girls to give them the tools they need to better their communities locally and the lives of women globally.
How can we non-college students get involved?
We have a public facing action network at action.shesthefirst.org. This is how anyone can get involved in the global citizen piece that is central to the campus program. The scholars that you’re supporting, you’re not just sending them to school, they’re part of leadership and education in their communities.
On the topic of education—how are the locally-led partnerships She’s the First has set up addressing sex and consent internationally?
One of the things that we talk about internationally is that sexual education is a very culturally sensitive topic. To have American women go into their communities and lead a workshop does not work as well as someone of that culture giving that workshop. Our partners in East Africa and West Africa and around the world understand the local culture.
When you have a consultant come in and work with the staff, it’s an African woman talking to other African women and girls about sex and family planning and what consent looks like in terms that mean more to them, because it’s someone who's not coming from the west. Our goal is to find local experts, trained to talk about this with the women and girls to work with our partners so they have the words to use to talk about this in a way that makes cultural sense to them.
Lastly, what’s one thing you think people should understand about She’s the First and the best ways to empower women generally?
We’ve been raised to see non-profits as charity but we don’t think of our work as charity—the word implies you’re doing something for those in need. Instead it’s so much more empowering to think what can you do WITH women and girls around the world and thinking in terms of driving movements. Consider how you talk about lower income countries and how you talk about the women and girls you’re supporting around the world. It’s important to see the beneficiaries of your giving as partners in driving the change you want to see.