Nothing illustrates a community’s real-life issues like an engaging story. Which is why, since 2009, the non-profit Girl Rising has encouraged young women around the world to share the personal stories that inspired them to launch local initiatives that range from bringing quality schools to Nigeria to combating adolescent pregnancy in Costa Rica.
Education is key to ending systemic inequalities, says Girl Rising Co-Founder Christina Lowery, and it’s also the most efficient way to help girls and women reach their full potential. Girl Rising is laser-focused on amplifying their voices “to ensure that girls around the world are educated and empowered.”
In partnership with HP, Girl Rising has just wrapped the second year of its global My Story Storytelling Challenge, which drew some 1,500 participants from 90 countries. Participants’ stories, some of which touched on difficult themes of racial injustice, sexual abuse, and child marriage, could not be more urgent. Finalists will receive a $500 prize from HP to help them continue their important work.
Some emphasize simple dignity, like lovingly ironing out handmade masks before delivering 200 of them each day for free in Kisumu, Kenya. Others focus on teaching practical skills, such as coding in Bangkok or Pune, or playing male-dominated soccer in Madagascar. “There is something that is so brave and powerful about every single one of these stories,” says HP’s Chief Brand and Communications Officer Karen Kahn, who served as a judge in this year’s competition. “The greatest power of this kind of program is creating space for diversity of voices.”
There were nearly twice as many entrants this year as when the competition first launched in 2018. Some of the applicants are boys, who understand that allyship from those with privilege is essential to elevating their sisters. All share the common theme of giving girls and women space to be more than society expects of them, and a willingness to speak out about their hopes and dreams, against all odds.