I would like to launch a movement that will profoundly impact the future of girls and young women. The movement would empower women to be bold leaders squarely focused on lifting up the girls who are following them. To this end, I am proposing a “Girl-Focused World Conference” to be held in 2021. High level thought leaders, politicians, nonprofit leaders and girl advisors will convene and set out a detailed, strategic plan to ignite the movement to empower girls.
I had a pleasure interviewing Kylie Schuyler of G.L.O.W.
G.L.O.W. (Global Girls Leading Our World) is a 501(c)(3) organization working to accelerate girls’ greatness today so that they can build a better tomorrow. Founded in 2012 and operating in 23countries, Global G.L.O.W. empowers young women and girls worldwide to self-advocate, strengthening themselves and their communities. Through its innovative girl-led model, Global G.L.O.W. works collaboratively with girls and communities to develop unique programs that address the most critical barriers affecting girls globally. Global G.L.O.W. incubates, operates and accelerates programming across the impact areas of educational attainment, self-advocacy, community impact, health and well-being and economic opportunity. Working alongside grassroots organizations, key global stakeholders, NGOs and educational institutions, Global G.L.O.W. activates girl-driven change through its programming and partnerships. For more information, visitwww.globalgirlsglow.org or follow GlobalG.L.O.W.onFacebook,Twitter and Instagram.
Thank you for joining us Kylie. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Yes! Unbelievably, it was a little 10-year Cambodian girl named Srelin who set me on this path!! Srelin changed my life and made me strong!
The story is this: while making a speech on a one hot, sticky June day in a rural area outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I spied a little girl. My speech was to a throng of villagers amassed sitting on the ground, in rapt attention, in the heat. The village people were silently, patiently waiting for me to finish — they were really patient because my talk was in English and they all spoke Khmer! The people were waiting for us to cut the ribbon on a brand new school in their village — the first the village had had since the Khmer Rouge destroyed them all nearly 40 years earlier.
The little girl I had spied was a girl about 10 years old, barefoot, with a bright beautiful face and big expressive eyes. She was standing outside the school gates — clearly not being enrolled — clinging with both hands, fingers clutching the wire fencing… She was peering in, longingly, from outside. The sight of her profoundly touched me. That was my moment of inflection.
I knew that empowering girls like Srelin, making sure she came in those school gates, was the way that I would make a true contribution — a strong girl transforms her own family, her community and ultimately, the world!
I established GG in 2012 to ignite the power of girls around the world as a force for global transformation.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
One of the central beliefs, a North Star, really, for Global G.L.O.W. is that girls know what girls need. We listen to girls to learn how best to develop programs. I went on a listening tour to Kenya to hear from girls about their health and wellness needs. In a rural area outside Nairobi in Maasai country, I was honored to sit in a circle of about 20 girls, ages 8–12. The girls were dressed in their colorful red, traditional Maasai robes, called Shukas, and finely beaded necklaces because they wanted to treat us to a cultural dance after our group time. The girls told me, that day, in great harrowing detail about the horrors of FGM (female genital mutilation) that are still practiced (though illegal) in their communities. Girls, age 10–12, are taken at night, usually by the women in the family, and cut. After the cut, tragically, school is over and society views a girl as ready for marriage. She will never reach her potential or have her own dreams come true.
By bravely talking about FGM, girls are breaking the secrecy and fighting the taboo that has silenced women. The girls in my group that day were so courageous — the taboo against speaking out is strong. I was profoundly honored to hear their thoughts, fears, and stories. The girls’ stories informed Global G.L.O.W.’s development of our “Healthy GLOW” initiative that addresses all health and wellness challenges faced by girls, including calling out FGM as a barbaric, dangerous practice to embolden girls to stand against it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I believe that a “mistake” can absolutely lead to a fast, positive outcome if one acts quickly to rectify it! My biggest mistake happened just as I was establishing Global G.L.O.W. in the U.S. I went to meet my first middle school principal to present a less-than-fully formed idea of what Global G.L.O.W. would do to empower her 10–14-year-old girls in afterschool groups. To my shock, the principal, an amazing woman who comes from a “place of yes”, said, “Let’s get started next week!”. I remember going back to my car after the meeting thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” Little did I know, that fateful day was the turning point in my life! Now Global G.L.O.W. serves more than 8,000 girls annually in 23 countries and across the U.S.
And what did I learn? I should say that I learned to be prepared before jumping in, but, honestly — I tend to leap in, follow my gut, and work out the kinks as we go. It is often a little like flying the plane while building it!
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Global G.L.O.W.’s mission is to ignite the power of girls as a force for global transformation. We believe when a girl is strong, she positively transforms her family, her community and ultimately, the global community! In practice, we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit incubator that creates and operates innovative after-school programs to mentor girls, ages 10–18 from vulnerable communities, to advocate for themselves. Working through community partners with more than 8,000 girls annually in 23 countries, Global G.L.O.W. mentors girls to overcome barriers and demonstrate improvement in education engagement, self-advocacy, community impact, health and well-being and economic opportunity.
We like to talk about the social impact we are making as the “Global GLOW Girl Effect”. That is, the creation of just, equitable communities driving sustainable economic growth so that every person can reach her full potential.
In short: “We accelerate girls’ greatness today, so that they can build a better tomorrow.”
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Global G.L.O.W.’s programs aim to give girls self-esteem and personal agency which often then turns into leadership skills. This was the case with two G.L.O.W. girls, Patience and Kashish, in Kampala, Uganda. Patience and Kashish saw and decided to do something about a huge challenge for girls in their community — a lack of menstrual supplies. Girls miss an average of 40 days of school per year due to the lack of menstrual supplies. Patience and Kashish called their community action plan, “Girls for School.” They learned to sew reusable sanitary pads from fabric, and distributed the pads to girls in their communities to give them dignity and help them stay in school. They have expanded their efforts by also teaching other girls/women to sew pads. This now has helped keep 1,000’s of girls in school keep them in school, and it also has provided a form of income for many!
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
1. Follow channels and organizations, including Global G.L.O.W., that amplify the voices of girls. Knowing of the barriers that girls face — from the girls themselves — vital for changing social norms. Solutions can then be envisioned and action taken to eliminate the barriers to girls’ empowerment.
2. Speak up about gender inequities. Do not be hampered by the old social taboos that kept girls and women silent and suffering. A question that I continue to have is — Why are we so afraid to discuss and address menstrual needs of women and girls? Let us be bold and speak about this universal experience, including access to supplies, hygiene and pain meds.
3. Support girl-focused organizations. Investing in girls is the best investment we can make to strengthen our communities. Girls start an upward spiral — positively transforming their families (they have fewer, educated, healthier children), their communities (they participate in economic welfare), and, ultimately the world.
One delicious, feel good way to support girls-focused organizations is to buy froyo from g.l.o.w. Superfoods (www.glowforgood.com). g.l.o.w. Superfood is a social enterprise that is fully dedicated to supporting organizations that empower girls around the world — with 100% of our profits donated.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I have had many definitions of leadership that have guided me through my journey. For me, at this time in my life, I think it is incumbent upon me to be an inspiration for women, particularly young women. Right now, this quote from tennis champion, Serena Williams, really resonates with me as my definition of leadership:
“The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous, be strong, be extremely kind, and above all, be humble.”
We can change our global community if women become the kind of inspiring, strong, kind, leaders that Serena describes. We need women leaders who can be models and inspiration for others, particularly other women and girls. I truly believe that this, over time, will change the social norms that hold women and girls back. It is a noble goal to aspire to be such a leader: According to a recent McKenzie Global Institute report, if women participated in the economy on par with men, worldwide GDP would increase by $28 trillion, or 26% by 2025. Everyone would benefit!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- An African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I wish I had taken heed of this proverb when I first started Global G.L.O.W. I thought I needed to do everything! What I needed was like-minded, passionate women with me — early — to launch the important movement to empower girls.
- Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate! Similar to my “go far together” revelation, I wish I had understood that I didn’t need to create every structure for Global G.L.O.W. alone. There are so many best practices, models and programs out there that have been created by other organizations and people. There is not a need to completely reinvent the wheel!
- I wish I had understood the significance of clearly defining the problem to be solved before setting out on the journey. If you are able to articulate the root cause of a problem, and creatively craft solutions in collaboration with the people that you want to serve, you will be more successful quickly. Develop a theory of change early in the process.
- I wish someone had told me that to be maximally effective in serving girls, it was critical to be girl-led in every way possible. Girls know what they need to flourish. Now, I listen and learn from girls in every way possible.
- Find allies and join with allies early! Allies are people and organizations who have a passion for the mission. We are stronger together. Together we can ignite an unstoppable movement to empower girls!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I have two movements that I would like to inspire and spearhead. The first: create a coalition of organizations and people who will not stop until all girls and women worldwide have access to free menstrual supplies and needs and period taboo is eliminated. Some progressive countries have instituted free supplies and have open discussions about this universal woman’s experience. My movement would involve transforming societal norms, breaking period taboos, promoting government policy changes and ensuring that all women and girls have access to supplies, hygiene-related and pain medication. Once successful, girls would not miss school for the lack of supplies, suffer the shame and loss of dignity associated with their periods, and would be more confident moving toward fulfilling their potential. It will be absolutely world-changing WHEN we accomplish this goal! Watch me! I am looking for allies to come alongside to fuel this movement.
The second movement is the overarching one: I would like to launch a movement that will profoundly impact the future of girls and young women. The movement would empower women to be bold leaders squarely focused on lifting up the girls who are following them. To this end, I am proposing a “Girl-Focused World Conference” to be held in 2021. High level thought leaders, politicians, nonprofit leaders and girl advisors will convene and set out a detailed, strategic plan to ignite the movement to empower girls.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have two favorite quotes — both by the Eleanor Roosevelt
“The Future Belongs to Those Who Believe in The Beauty of Their Dreams” and,
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face.” (a bit like the more meme-able “Do one thing that scares you everyday” which has been mis-attributed to Eleanor).
These two “Life Lesson Quotes” go hand in hand for me because I believe that the beauty of my dreams take shape when I consciously and courageously move out of my comfort zone and take calculated risks. With each such experience, I am stronger and more able to shape the beautiful future that I dream of.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Michelle Obama! She is, and has been, my model of a strong woman who has an unwavering commitment and passion for girls’ empowerment. Honestly, to have a private lunch with her, I might just think I had died and gone to heaven!
I want to add, parenthetically, that I think my chances of having that lunch are good! I have just one degree of separation with Michelle because I went to college with Barack in LA. He was in my Sophomore dorm!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow g.l.o.w. Superfood @glow4good and Global G.L.O.W. @global_glow