Would you like to know how a rebel found her cause and was named as one of Melbourne’s 100 top most influential people in 2011 after being a party-girl lacking ambition for much of her late teens and early twenties? Read on…
Chantelle Baxter is the CEO and co-founder of One Girl which happens to be one of the fastest growing non-profit organisations in Australia. She founded the organisation at a point in her life when she saw everything she had been doing so far was futile. She had helped women switch to vegan pregnancy supplements and choose breastfeeding over formula, but so far it wasn't making much of a difference in quality-of-life. Then Chantelle travelled to Sierra Leone as part of a mentorship program where she was required to live for a month within a remote community and become involved in their everyday life. It was here that Chantelle discovered her heart could be moved and a dream could be born. She fell in love with the children of the community and particularly noticed the hardships the girls were subjected to.
One Girl was started on the back of this trip and exists to ensure that girls and women around the world are given access to an education. The basis of this foundation is that ‘when you educate a girl, she’ll change the world’ and their motivation is to educate one million of the 66 million girls globally.
There is nothing insignificant about the impact One Girl is having on uneducated women. To date, Chantelle has raised over $1.8 million for the work of One Girl and has been asked to speak at countless events raising awareness for these women. Raising awareness is a necessity as currently in Sierra Leone girls have more chance of being sexually assaulted than of attending high school.
Another of One Girl’s branches is LaunchPad. LaunchPad’s product line consists of eco-friendly sanitary pads – a welcome luxury in Sierra Leone where they can miss up to a week of school every month during their period for lack of sanitation. The program has two main roles: partnering with local Sierra Leone women in LaunchPad businesses and providing free menstrual health training and sanitary pads in schools. The social taboo around menstruation is extremely difficult for the women and so being empowered through business and something as simple as a good, affordable sanitary pad is freeing indeed. Many women in Sierra Leone have had FGC (Female Genital Cutting) rendering it very painful for them to insert anything (a tampon for example) into their bodies. Likewise, social etiquette sees them only successfully married on proof of their virginity and so few want to risk spinsterhood. A special point of One Girl and LaunchPad in particular is that they have listened to the audience and done their research, designing a product that is made from all natural materials, relatively locally sourced and perfectly suits the local women with all the daily cultural pressures they face.
Business Brains is a financial literacy and business education program delivered to young girls (and boys) in Sierra Leone to provide them with marketable skills for the future workplace. The program began when a young girl fainted in class from hunger, highlighting the need for more food provision.
The girls themselves suggested a solution, seeing One Girl financially backing them to start their own small companies from which they could buy their food.
One Girl is also building schools with proper sanitation and resources – a welcome haven after a 10-year civil war which resulted in 1200 of their schools burnt to smithereens. To help vulnerable or at-risk girls make it to school, they provide scholarships which ensure the girl has her fees paid, a school uniform and stationery. A strict selection committee chooses who will benefit from scholarships as they look to save girls from child marriage, teen pregnancies and a sheer lack of money – three of the leading contenders keeping young girls out of school and away from a future. The willingness of the people of Sierra Leone has partly ensured the success of the relationship with One Girl. These programs work and realise tangible, life-changing results.
Chantelle didn’t stop there. She is also one of the creators of Do It In A Dress which is a fundraising campaign anyone can sign up for. The gist of it is to pick a challenge to do in a dress, gain sponsorship for doing it and then complete the challenge. Statistics dictate a girl’s life will improve dramatically if she is educated. She will not only have an increased income but will also invest most of her income back into her family and she is likely to marry later in life with a smaller and much healthier family.
The challenge is really for all of us, through things such as Do It In A Dress, to do our bit to see these predictions fulfilled.
If you’d like to get involved…One Girl wants to do things differently to other organisations. They want show transparency in all their financials and so publish their year-end financial reports online so that you can see where your money is going. If you’d like to know more or to donate, please visit http://www.onegirl.org.au/ and http://www.doitinadress.com/.