These Girls Started out Orphans or in Urban Slums. Now They’re Becoming Community Leaders.

World Food Program USA
Published March 8, 2020

This International Women’s Day, World Food Program USA is proud to announce two new grantees for the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education.

Hunger affects women and girls disproportionately. Specifically, they make up 60 percent of the world’s hungry people. This disparity is due largely to unequal access to education, resources and opportunities for personal and economic success. The Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education aims to change this by empowering women and girls with the knowledge, training, and leadership skills necessary to achieve food security and reach their full potential.

This Spring, the Fund awarded two organizations – Nurturing Minds and Girl Up Initiative Uganda – with grants to expand their programs and make an even greater impact on the lives of the women and girls they serve.

Nurturing Minds

Nurturing Minds, located in Tanzania, is a non-profit on a mission to educate Tanzanian girls who are poor, marginalized and at risk of becoming involved in exploitative forms of child labor. Since 2008, Nurturing Minds has provided financial and technical support to Secondary Education for Girls’ Advancement (SEGA) for the development and operation of a high-quality secondary boarding school for vulnerable girls in Morogoro.

The purpose of the SEGA Girls’ Secondary School is to foster the development of girls’ academic excellence, strong values, healthy self-esteem and independent thinking, with an emphasis on leadership, social responsibility and environmental care. Half of SEGA’s students are orphans, and the majority were forced to drop out of other schools due to extreme poverty, or were deemed at high risk of dropping out, but are bright and motivated. When their families can’t pay for school, many girls are forced to become child laborers to help earn money. Thanks to SEGA, these girls are now able to continue their studies.

“Nurturing Minds is profoundly grateful for the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund’s grant to support the Msichana Kisasa (Modern Girl) Outreach Program in opening six new centers,” says Julie Bourgoin, Program Officer.

“Expanding this important program will have a tremendously positive impact on the lives of some of Tanzania’s most vulnerable girls, who are at risk of teen pregnancy and early marriage, as it teaches financial literacy and business skills and increases their knowledge of girls rights, sexual reproductive health, and hygiene, while learning communication skills to improve their self-confidence and be leaders in their own lives.”

Girl Up Initiative Uganda

GUIU was founded in 2012 by Monica Nyiraguhabwa, a young Ugandan woman who grew up in the urban slums of Kampala, and Kimberly Wolf, a young American woman passionate about girls’ rights and leadership. Together, they’ve worked to advance educational and economic opportunities for young women and adolescent girls in urban slum areas of Kampala. GUIU has been so successful that it was internationally recognized as part of Michelle Obama’s Global Girls Alliance.

Girl Up Initiative Uganda is building a vibrant movement of girls through transformative leadership, skills development, and sexual and reproductive health education. GUIU envisions a gender-equitable world where girls thrive and lead across five programs:

  1. Adolescent Girls Program
  2. Big Sisters Network
  3. Boy Champions Project
  4. Ni-Yetu Youth Program
  5. Mazuri Designs Hub

The Big Sister Camp program, a key component of their Big Sisters Network, is a multi-day overnight camp attended by girls who are all from urban slum areas in Kampala. The Big Sisters undergo interactive training on leadership and mentorship from GUIU coaches as well as gain skills in community service and advocacy.

“Girl Up Initiative Uganda is so honored to receive a grant from the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund,” says Kimberly Wolf, the Deputy Executive Director and Co-Founder. “It means that we are now able to expand our four-day residential Big Sister Camp 2020 to 260 at-risk adolescent girls coming from urban slum areas of Kampala who will have the chance to learn, play and reflect on what it means to be a girl leader in today’s world.”


When girls have the right nutrition, it improves their health, enables them to focus in school and increases their economic opportunities. That’s why the United Nations World Food Programme does whatever it takes to make sure they have enough to eat.  Last year, WFP delivered school meals to more than 16 million children, over half of whom were girls. See the full story of women’s hunger here.