Teen Leaders Addressing Women’s Needs in Developing Countries
However, there are exceptions.
Maria and Julia Myers, ages 17 and 19, are the sisters behind Pretty Purposeful, a non-profit organization founded in 2012. The idea was born after the sisters watched A Walk to Beautiful, a documentary on the lives of women with obstetric fistula condition in Ethiopia. The documentary has changed the sisters’ lives and opened their eyes to see how different the story is for girls of their age in developing countries.
We were privileged to have Maria as our keynote speaker for the EBW2020 Abundance Live 2016 conference. The teen philanthropist shared stories and insights on putting up Pretty Purposeful, how young women today are stepping up to take on the challenge of improving the future, and how teen change-makers from all over the world are making an impact.
Obstetric fistula is a childbirth condition where due to obstructed labor, a fetus’ head pushes on tissues in the mother’s body leaving a damaging hole (fistula). Imagine young girls, with their small and fragile bodies, giving birth to full-sized babies.
Maria shares that “93% of patients lose their child, can no longer bear children, left by husbands, rejected by families, and shunned by their communities”
It takes a great deal of understanding to identify the reasons why obstetric fistula is still rampant in developing countries. The condition is caused by malnutrition, child marriage, lack of healthcare, and oppressive cultural practices. Notice that these causes are preventable as long as the girls’ circumstances are changed. Maria presented the statistics: there are over 2 million cases in the world, with 100,000 recorded new cases every year, and only 15,000 of these cases are treated annually. Yet, the condition is rarely ever talked about on our side of the world and the Myers sisters do what they can to raise awareness to the plight of young girls in developing countries.
Pretty Purposeful organizes fund raising activities to achieve two goals: raise funds for surgeries and promote awareness. The organization believes that to empower girls and women of the next generation, it is necessary to focus on these three key aspects:
It all starts with providing good health care. Health problems lead to girls missing school days and dropping out at an early age. Female genital mutilation and maternal health issues are some of the key health concerns affecting girls in Africa.
Maria relays that 66 million girls are not in school. Focusing on getting a good education for the girls lead to opening up more opportunities for them and lessens the chances of child marriage.
Girls who are equipped with education and experience can give back to the society and help empower others through social, political, and economic involvement.
To date, Pretty Purposeful has raised $85,000USD enough to fund over 70 obstetric fistula repair surgeries and helped reestablish a clinic in Sierra Leone catering to post-op care for patients.
Maria and Julia are not alone. More teens in different parts of the globe are participating in changing the future.
Maria shares the advocacies of some of her fellow teen change-makers and Global Teen Leaders:
Ileri Jaiyeoba, 18, founded Code Red, a non-profit organization focused on raising period awareness, ending the stigma on menstruation, and handles the distribution of menstrual products to girls in developing countries.
Renita Zapardo, a 17-year old, saw the need to provide a means of transportation so that girls can go to school. She founded Pedal2Prosperity, providing bicycles for girls who need to walk miles every day to attend their classes.
Microloans4Moms is an enabler founded by Saika Sharma to help mothers in Nepal to get back on their feet and start pursuing opportunities through loan grants, financial literacy education, and encouragement to reinvest in their families and communities.
On her closing statement, Maria thanked the earlier generation of female entrepreneurs. The women that teen leaders look up to have set an example and paved the way for girls her age to continue their advocacy to create change that will help inspire and empower a billion women.
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