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Rise Up Founder Denise Dunning (left) and her mom, Raquel, circa 1979.


Denise Raquel Dunning, Founder + Executive Director

Having children has given me a completely different perspective on motherhood and a much deeper appreciation for my own mom. As I struggle along with so many women to balance family and work, I have increasing gratitude for my mom’s priorities, choices, and sacrifices. And as I learn from the many Rise Up leaders who are both mothers and advocates, I have a profound respect for women around the world who are fighting for their own rights and those of their children.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, I know I’m not the only one reflecting on my relationship with my mom and the incredible impact she has had on my life. So much of what I have done in my life is influenced by my mom’s story, her struggles, and her inimitable style. And so much of who I am comes from life lessons I learned from my mom.

To read the full Mother's Day piece by Denise, click here or the button below.

Rise Up leaders reconnect, share lessons learned, and explore opportunities to improve the lives of girls in Honduras.


Claudia Romeu, Program Manager

Last month, Rise Up hosted in-country convenings for our Latin American network of Guatemala and Honduras Fellows. Bringing together Rise Up leaders from all previous cohorts since 2009 across the two countries, Rise Up’s leadership and knowledge-sharing convenings strengthen the advocacy of Fellows and foster new alliances and strategic opportunities for them to work together.

Rise Up’s Program Manager Claudia Romeu reflected on her inspiring experience in Honduras with the Fellows and gives us a look into the convening with this blog post.

Click here or the button below to read Claudia's reflections from Honduras. 

Kajiado Girl Leaders learn to advocate for their rights through the Girls Voices Initiative. 


In Kenya, 23% of young women are married by the age of 18, and an estimated 21% of girls and women have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM). With support from the Cummins Foundation, Rise Up partnered with the Center for the Study of Adolescence (CSA) in Kenya to implement the Girls Voices Initiative (GVI) to enable Kajiado Girl Leaders to raise their voices against early marriage and FGM and advocate for their rights. CSA selected 24 girls between the ages of 12-14, along with 11 teachers and chaperones, to participate in the GVI Kenya program.

The girl leaders created an action plan to advocate with key decision-makers in their communities to protect girls’ rights and support their right to finish school. To achieve this goal, the girl leaders are asking decision makers to implement Kenya’s Children’s Act (passed in 2001) and the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (passed in 2011). In parallel with the girls’ action plan, teachers and chaperones created a plan to support girls in their advocacy strategy and activities.

Click here or the button below to read more about how Rise Up and CSA are working with GVI girl leaders to create lasting change in Kenya. 

Rise Up Leadership Council members at the 2018 United State of Women Summit in Los Angeles (from left to right): Tanum Davis Bohen, Vicki Wilkerson, April Benavidez King, and Loretta Stagnitto.


Reflections from Rise Up Leadership Council members 

April Benavidez King

"I have to admit that when I first received Rise Up’s invitation to the United State of Women (USOW) summit–other than the draw of seeing Michelle Obama and Jane Fonda speak–I really had no idea what was in store for me.

I made the trek down to Los Angeles with great anticipation of what I could learn and walked away with renewed energy and hope."

Click here to read April Benavidez King's full piece on the USOW.

Loretta Stagnitto

"Coming down from such an omnipotent ‘girl power’ experience, now nestled in my office two days later, I’m reviewing in my head all the injustices I learned about, and the opportunities we have to address them. I think about the formidable tasks ahead and the significance of the empowerment and life-changes that can be created if we are successful in addressing them. And I wonder if I, personally, am doing enough to move us forward." 

Click here to read Loretta Stagnitto's takeaways from the 2018 USOW.



At Rise Up, we see a future with girls and women thriving in a more just and equitable world. We believe in the power of girls and women to drive exponential change. If you agree, join our team! We are currently looking for a Program Associate and a Master Trainer with an Africa focus. 

Learn more and apply »
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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