The world is at an interesting set of crossroads. No longer are issues such as human rights abuses, social inequality and the destruction of our environment confined to particular countries. The challenges faced by people reach beyond borders and require global solutions. Technology, in particular, has created unprecedented possibilities for interaction between people across the world on a scale not seen before. In this context, an opportunity has emerged for young women to lead the way forward.
The Institute for Global Women Leaders (IGWL), founded by Rosie O’Halloran, is an Australian based non-profit organisation that has a mission to support, connect and empower young women from around the world as agents of change. The organisation believes that young women are one of the most underutilised and powerful assets the world has for social transformation and we are making an unparalleled investment in their personal and leadership journeys.
“We design and facilitate leadership and personal development programs and undertake research into women-led social change,” says O’Halleran. “Our programs are co-created with industry experts and international women changemakers and leaders. Our research investigates the complexities and challenges faced by women social entrepreneurs and how their innovative approaches are transforming societies globally.”
IGWL is harnessing the opportunity to help young women lead by providing powerful personal and professional development opportunities in leadership development so that they can drive social change within communities and across countries.
“We are building an international network of young women leaders and change agents, providing the infrastructure and support for them to connect and collaborate purposefully,” says O’Halloran.
Ashok Regmi, Director of Social Innovation and Citizenship Programs at the International Youth Foundation, has identified this opportunity and testifies to the impact IGWL will have in this space.
“Many organisations, because of a lack of resources, are unable to tailor their programs to meet the specific challenges that young women leaders and change makers face and provide direct support. IGWL’s offerings will bring a much needed perspective to the global movement of young people leading change and will fill a huge gap in the youth leadership sector,” he says.
IGWL launched in Sydney in August 2014, alongside the 5th Girls20 Summit. The event was attended by the celebrated international women and girls advocate and social entrepreneur Farah Mohamed, and delegates from the Girls20 Summit. The organisation also has an impressive list of members that include Jan Owen AM, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians, and Susan Barton AM, CEO of the Lighthouse Foundation.
The idea of for creating IGWL started late one night in 2008 when O’Halloran was watching TV and procrastinating on a uni assignment. “I started to flick through the channels, and as I flicked something caught my eye. It was a flash of a landscape of vast green hills and I was captivated! The next morning I rang the ABC and asked, ‘Where in the world are those green hills?’ The lady on the other end of the phone gave me the name of a village in south-west Uganda, Nyakisru. Soon after that phone call I was on a flight to Africa, filled with anticipation, and heading for those green hills.”
O’Halloran says her first trip to Uganda was incredible. “Living in the village of Nyakisru, surrounded by the green hills, I volunteered at a local primary school and spent time connecting with people of all ages. I formed friendships with a special group of girls from the village. I became the best of friends with one girl in particular, Abbias. We spent most of our time together telling jokes and sharing our hopes for the future. I have never discussed the meaning of the joke ‘why did the chicken cross the road?’ so much before in my life!”
“I returned to Uganda for a second time nine months after my first trip, at the age of 23. While back in the village of Nyaksiru undertaking some research with my colleague Hayley, we came across a little girl, wrapped in a blanket, shivering on a woven mat on a dusty roadside. Her name was Sarah. She had malaria and no family to look after her and money to visit the hospital. She had been left to die. With permission from the local authorities we took Sarah to the local hospital and insisted she be cared for; with the right treatment Sarah recovered. Sarah however was not the only child I met on that trip to Uganda who didn’t have a family to care for them or a place to call home”.
In January 2010, O’Halloran started a children’s home called ‘Our Place’; and four years on ‘Our Place’ is still running. It cares for a number of children, some who live at ‘Our Place’ and some who live outside of the home with guardians. Sarah and her older brother Fred are two of the children who now call ‘Our Place’ home. She is thriving, attending school and being cared for.
In May 2011, there was a moment that changed everything for O’Halloran. “My friend Abbias, the friend I told jokes with on my first trip to Uganda, became sick and so we fundraised to take her to the capital to receive urgent medical care,” says O’Halloran.
“At the hospital the doctor sat across from Abbias and her mother and said this: she was just a girl from a village and that she didn’t matter. I was shocked. Weeks later at age 16 Abbias passed away. I was deeply saddened by the death of Abbias. I began to question the attitude towards women and girls around the world. How could someone say to a girl, ‘you don’t matter?’”
Losing her friend Abbias was the deeply personal reason that O’Halloran started IGWL. Because girls do matter.
Earlier this year IGWL began working with financial and entrepreneur community We Love Numbers. The organisation uses We Love Numbers’ bookkeeping and finance team packages.
“Given our business is still starting out, the majority of our time has been using the finance team offer, which is training sessions and financial education sessions, as well as building the tools we need to establish the business and help making in making critical business decisions” says O’Halloran. “We’ve also worked on goal-setting and keeping us accountable to hit the our milestones. As for systems, we now have Xero as bookkeeping system – keeping tracking of our numbers! We also have budgeting and forecasting tools, as well as tools to help cost projects”.
There are lots of projects currently in the works for IGWL for the next 12 months, the organisation is looking to expand its program reach and build its faculty of facilitators for its In Full Flight program. The company is also conducting a mini Run The World Conference at Melbourne Grammar School in December for high school students with the League of Extraordinary Women.
We Love Numbers is helping keep all these plans financially in check, as well as assisting in helping to implement a fee-for-service leadership program cost model to support the philanthropic work at IGWL.
“We Love Numbers believes in what I am doing and encourage me,” says O’Halloran. “The staff assist me with my personal, business and lifestyle questions and this has allowed me to get my financial systems operating effectively.”
This post is sponsored by We Love Numbers. To find out more information what the We Love Numbers community is about go to welovenumbers.community/apply