Helping Women and Girls Achieve Their Full Potential

By Giving List Women   |   May 20, 2024
Rise Up leaders in India.

A movement often starts with a moment. For Dr. Denise Raquel Dunning, that moment happened when she was just 12 years old. Dunning’s worldview changed in an instant during a trip to visit family in Argentina while riding on a train. The doors opened and a girl – appearing to be only two years older than herself, carrying a baby, and with a toddler in tow – stepped into the same car as Dunning.

“She was not even close to being an adult, yet she was a mom to these two small children,” says Dunning. “They walked down the whole length of the train, stopping to ask people for money and food and help. And I remember, nobody even looked at her. I just remember feeling so incredibly angry and ashamed because there was nothing that I could do. I promised myself that someday I would do something for girls like her.”

Fast forward to 2009. Dunning kept that promise when she and Josie Ramos co-founded Rise Up, a nonprofit that she says, “is about supporting girls and women to achieve their potential, fulfill their dreams, and live the lives that we all want to be living in terms of being able to finish school, have access to healthcare, and support ourselves and our families.”

Investing in Local Leaders to Drive Global Change for Women and Girls

Rise Up girl leader in Honduras.

Rise Up follows a bottom-up approach for creating impact by supporting and investing in local leaders with lived experiences and who know best what they need to solve the issues they are facing. They do this by providing women, girls, and their allies with training, funding, and connections to a global network to create sustainable change.

Rise Up’s movement includes a global network of  more than 800 leaders and their organizations whose advocacy and determination have already helped pass 185 laws and policies that have impacted 160 million people around the world. Their powerful network of worldwide leaders includes such notable visionaries as:

Memory Banda, who advocated for a national law banning child marriage to help safeguard the rights of four million girls in Malawi.

Hameda Deedat, who successfully fought for a policy ensuring women’s economic opportunity by protecting 1.2 million workers in South Africa from gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace.

Silvia Alejandra Holguín Cinco, who strengthened gender equity policies and increased politi­cal representation for more than one million women and young people in Mexico.

Creating a Gender-Equitable World

To date, Rise Up has focused on supporting community leaders and organizations in the U.S., Latin America, South Asia, and Africa, but the nonprofit’s goal is to deepen and grow their gender equity and justice work. From enabling girls to get an education to improving women’s health and economic opportunities to advancing legislation that protects against gender-based violence, the stories in the Rise Up Leaders’ network are a testament to the change that is possible when we listen to girls and women. 

“Working towards a more gender-just world is critical to all areas of a healthy society, from reducing poverty to promoting education, health, and economic opportunity around the world,” says Dunning. “When women and girls are able to thrive, everyone thrives.”


Rise Up

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Development and Engagement Manager: Jen Byrne


Rise Up partners with women, girls, and allies who are transforming their communities and countries as part of a global movement for justice and equity. We build power with these local leaders as they work for equity in education, health, and economic opportunity to create a better future for all.

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