Though her company's focus is on hair, AG's Lotte Davis has a second passion: supporting girls' education in Kenya and Uganda through her Vancouver-based charity, One Girl Can and its annual IWANTtoBE fundraising event, coming up on April 25th, 2019. —Noa Nichol
We know all about One Girl Can, but for those reading this who may not, can you give us a bit of background on this initiative?
One Girl Can is a Vancouver-based charity that supports girls' education in Kenya and Uganda. The goal is to create a system that not only educates girls, but supports them through every stage of their young adult life and helps them achieve their professional goals. Ultimately, the graduates of the program invest their time mentoring their younger peers, empowering themselves and others in the process.
Tell us about this year's IWANTtoBE event. How will the evening unfold and what is the goal?
I’m amazed each year how our support locally continues to grow. This is our fifth event, and our sponsorship has doubled from eight sponsors to 16, with significant companies like TD, Beedie, Odlum Brown, Deloitte, KPMG and more getting on board to support gender based programs globally. Our goal for the event this year is to raise $400,000. Our aim this year was to provide 50 girls in Kenya with university scholarships, but 78 qualified, and we couldn’t turn any of them away, so we’re hoping for an extra push to help us achieve this stretch goal. It is also our intention to use the funds raised at this event to build three dormitories and washroom facilities at Magomano Girls Boarding School in Kenya to provide the students with safe and clean accommodations and support the school’s continued growth.
Have you had a chance to get to know the special surprise guest from Kenya who will be speaking at the event about how One Girl Can helped change her life, personally? How does her story mirror the objectives of the organization?"
I met the young woman who will be speaking at the event five years ago by chance, and learned she was a straight-A student who had no chance of going to university due to the financial constraints in her family. One Girl Can provided her with a full scholarship and coached her for five years. She is graduating this month with a degree in Civil Engineering. Outside of the obvious advantages this will have on her life, one of her biggest motivations is to coach and mentor more young women in her society to ensure that many more women rise up to the challenge to join the workforce and begin shifting the dial on gender inequality. Our goal is to have 1,000 girls educated by 2022, all of whom have the same commitment to create this fundamental change in their world and provide access to jobs for all women.
Have there been any other personal stories that have really stuck with you?
I personally have supported a girl from the Kibera slums in Nairobi since she was eight years old, and she has now graduated with a Diploma in Marketing and PR and is just joining the workforce. I’m lucky enough to personally witness the transformation of hundreds of girls in our program every 6 months when I’m in Kenya and Uganda. Our emotional and financial support work beautifully in tandem to build confidence and skill, and we will stand behind every girl until she is earning a living and can stand alone.
What is the impact of community support on One Girl Can? In the same vein, what is the importance of IWANTtoBE's event in sparking transformative change for educational opportunities?
IWANTtoBE fundamentally addresses two of the greatest unmet challenges the world still faces this century—gender inequality and poverty. Both of these colossal issues can be resolved through educating girls, and our event brings people in our privileged community together for three short hours to raise enough money to send 78 girls to university and build three dormitories at a secondary school. We’re able to clearly articulate to this audience how we will manage their investment to deliver the biggest outcome, and I believe in turn, these guests genuinely feel their contribution is making a substantial difference. Many people in our community have been with us since our very first event five years ago. Their belief in our cause has changed thousands of lives, and our special guest will be proof of just how transformative their support can be. When you invest in one girl, the benefit extends far beyond her, impacting her family, her community and her country.
What's next for One Girl Can?
We’re developing a series of social enterprise and skills assessment workshops that can be taken online and will help our students develop their own small businesses to sustain them while they look for work. We also feel this experience will be very beneficial for their confidence, their resume, and the way they’ll show up for an interview and in the workplace.
Finally, a personal question. In the spirit of IWANTtoBE, what did you, as a little girl, dream of becoming when you grew up?!
Good question! I grew up in the '60s and in that environment women exclusively stayed home and took care of the household, so I didn’t have any role models to look up to. I remember thinking how divided the roles were and how the men in all households were more powerful and made all the final decisions. I was very bossy, the primary organizer for all play activities, and I knew I would work but hadn’t figured out how. I became aware of Betty Frieden when I was 13, and that changed everything for me. She gave a voice to all my observations and frustrations, and from then on I knew I would go to university, earn my own income and be financially independent.