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Denise Dunning, Founder + Executive Director

Women’s History Month is an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come, and the path forward. For far too long, women’s history has been the history of Western white women of privilege, ignoring the struggles of brown, black, and poor women and erasing their leadership in women’s movements. As I think about the past year, I am struck by the growing recognition of intersectional, intergenerational, and transnational women’s movements, and our struggle to share power authentically and inclusively.

As women’s movements face up to the past and chart the course for the future, I see more girls, youth, and young women taking the lead. No longer just the inheritors of women’s history, girls are becoming the agents and authors of women’s history, playing increasingly central roles in the fight for social, gender, and racial justice.

Around the world, girl leaders are bringing new voices, energy, and strategies to age-old problems that too many of us have given up trying to fight. In the U.S., girl leaders like 17-year-old Emma Gonzalez are transforming the national debate on gun violence, while girl leaders like 17-year-old Alejandra Teleguario are bringing an end to child marriage in Guatemala.

Girls and young women are no longer content to hover at the margins of history, and are taking their rightful place at the center of social justice movements. Unlike previous generations where too often girls were forced to sit back and wait for their turn to lead, young women are standing up, raising their voices, and driving exponential change.

Together, our responsibility is to create more inclusive, equitable, and intergenerational movements that recognize and amplify the power of girls as agents of change. That starts by creating spaces for listening to and learning from, girls and young women. Not tomorrow, next month, or in the coming years – but today.

For International Women's Day, former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Obama Foundation teamed up with Refinery29 to interview Rise Up Girl Leader Alejandra Teleguario Santizo. 


For International Women's Day, Michelle Obama teamed up with Refinery29 to interview girl leaders and shine a light on the importance and urgency of empowering girls around the world to ensure they can reach their full potential through education.

With the help of Rise Up’s Let Girls Lead initiative, Alejandra Teleguario Santizo began to speak out against sexual violence and acoso callejero — or street harassment — in her community at the age of 16 years old.

“[Girls] are the change that the world needs,” Alejandra told Mrs. Obama. “[Our] persistence is important because we will be able to achieve what we want as women. Because of my advocacy work and efforts, I’ve been able to better engage my community and educate policymakers. That’s where change begins.”

To read the full interview, click here or on the button below. To read a Spanish-language article about the interview, click here.

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ENGAGE leaders representing a variety of civil society organizations developed advocacy strategies to address early marriage in Malawi’s southern Thyolo District. 


Rise Up, the Girls’ Empowerment Network (GENET) and the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) just wrapped up a successful week-long ENGAGE training in Malawi. The ENGAGE (Enabling Girls to Advance Gender Equity) initiative aims to reduce the prevalence of child marriage in Southern Malawi by investing in local leaders.

Participants in this ENGAGE session were passionate and captivated by the panels and activities. In the intensive ENGAGE workshop, participants debated and defined the different components of advocacy, discussed the root causes of child marriage such as early pregnancy and economic barriers for girls, and they dove deep into proposal development on a wide variety of strategies to address child marriage in their communities.



Rise Up is delighted to announce a new partnership with Cummins Inc. that will expand our global reach in enabling girls and women to transform their own lives, communities, and countries through advocacy and policy change.

Nakita Shavers and Franklin Gnanamuthu, two of our Youth Champions working to ensure worldwide access to quality reproductive health care, are featured in an article by Family Planning 2020.          
Read the article »

Denise Dunning was interviewed by Kelli Rogers of Devex for an International Women's Day article about how we overcome hurdles to truly empower women economically.
Rise Up activates women and girls to transform their lives, families and communities through investment in local solutions, strengthening leadership, and building movements. Since 2009, Rise Up's powerful network of over 500 leaders has directly benefited 7 million girls, youth, and women, advocating for over 100 laws and policies impacting 115 million people in Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and the US. Rise Up is based at the Public Health Institute (PHI), a leader in global health and development for over 50 years.
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