In 2010, while spending some time at Tema Hospital near Accra, Ghana, I met Vida, a young AIDS patient who contracted the disease through her HIV –positive mother. She was thrilled with her recent near-perfect report card, sharing it – albeit shyly – with others in Tema’s outpatient AIDS clinic.
Vida passed away three weeks after I returned to the States. She developed a tooth infection and her body simply lacked the ability to prevent its spread. Each time I think of her it is with happiness to have met her, sadness at such unnecessary death and anger at the loss of such enormous potential.
The loss of potential should never be tamely tolerated. And it isn’t. All over sub-Saharan Africa local volunteers, artists, NGOs, faith communities, business, community and national leaders have ongoing programs to help people help themselves. And all over the United States, there are similar efforts designed to work with those in developing nations.
At ONE (US), we focus primarily on health, energy, transparency, agriculture and budget support from the United States to support these programs that work. And while these programs affect men and women, girls and boys, we think it is time to showcase our work also – and specifically – through its disproportionate impact on girls and women. Our ONE Moms have been doing this for a few years – this new initiative is an expansion of their work and dedication.
But not just ONE’s work. There is so much being done by so many in areas outside of ONE’s specific wheelhouse. We want to use this new ONE Girls and Women initiative as a portal for others to share their good work and provide you with centrally-located resources (kind of a one stop shop) about work specifically designed around the needs of girls and women.
Visit the resource drop-down menu on the Girls and Women page for a sense of issues; there are around 100 current partner resources listed there and we anticipate that it will only grow and become a richer source of information as time goes by.
Each month this page will feature a different guest curator who will write and post about his or her work or interests in this area. And, we will have posts from bloggers, partners and occasionally just a story about a kick-ass girl doing kick-ass things.
Speaking of – this month’s curator, Phiona is just such a girl-turned-young-woman. She is a classic example of when the right type of a hand-up is provided to a girl, there is no telling where she might go. Right now she is still waiting for Bill Gates to meet her for that chess match he challenged her to!
Growing up in the slums of Katwe, Uganda, Phiona Mutesi (age 18) has an unlikely distinction: she is her country’s top junior chess player. As the Junior Chess Champion of Uganda, Phiona has excelled in the world of competitive chess. Her achievements include being selected to represent Africa at the World Chess Olympiad and earning the title of Woman Candidate Master. She has been recognized as the most influential athlete in Uganda and in 2013, she was honored as a Woman of Impact at the Women in the World Summit in New York City. While in New York, Phiona had the opportunity to play a game of chess against Gary Kasparov, her idol and inspiration. In addition to Kasparov, Bill Gates has challenged Phiona to a game of chess.
Phiona and her coach, Robert, use her success to promote chess and education among impoverished girls in Uganda. They opened Uganda’s first girls-only chess program, which not only teaches chess, but also empowers girls to delay marriage and to pursue an education and a career.
Phiona’s ultimate goal is to become a pediatrician and to return home to Katwe with her brothers to build a shelter that provides health care and education for slum children. A true inspiration to many, especially marginalized girls, Phiona wants use to her international platform to open the doors of opportunity for other girls and women across the world.
Phiona is the subject of a book, The Queen of Katwe, written by Tim Crothers, which will soon be made into a Disney movie.
Check back often – content all over the page will change throughout the month – and the ongoing stackla at the bottom of the page will keep you up to speed on daily/hourly happenings.