Meet Ann Hudock
Isatu strode out of her hut in the village on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone as I arrived at the Rogbum Women’s Cooperative she had founded. Her dynamic leadership, uncommon for a woman in a male-dominated society where men led and women followed, had transformed the community. Because of the Cooperative, women in Isatu’s community now had plots of vegetables and fruits that improved family incomes and bolstered children’s nutrition and elevated their status with the men who appreciated what they accomplished.
After we had talked, I took a picture of a beautiful little girl playing nearby. On closer inspection, though I saw she was standing on a garbage pile, barefoot, her nose running, and her hair discolored from malnutrition. I told the father I would give him a copy of the photo on my next visit.
By the time I returned, that beautiful child had died, a heart-wrenching face on the statistics of under-five child mortality. The community efforts were important but not enough to save this child and so many others like her.
I carry her face with me every day at Plan International USA as I work to promote child rights and well-being around the world. She reminds me of why we do this work, how important it is, and why outside assistance from organizations like Plan must be combined with locally-driven and led initiatives to make sure programs succeed.
She reminds me too of the added and unique challenges girls face around the world. Because I am a Girl is a global movement driven by Plan to ensure girls everywhere can learn, lead, decide and thrive. It is a critical movement at a critical time, and it is very close to my heart. Girls continue to be the single most excluded group in the world. They face discrimination and abuse simply for being young and female. They are often denied their right to education, protection from gender-based violence, justice, and equal access to opportunity. They are prevented from engaging actively and equally in society and from making important decisions about their futures and bodies.
I joined Plan because it is locally-rooted in communities and helps to identify and implement appropriate solutions to complex problems. I stay with Plan because every day offers a new opportunity to support the lives of children, especially girls, and few jobs could be as rewarding as that.
Nothing will bring back that little girl in Sierra Leone. But our efforts will prevent the deaths of so many girls like her.
Click here to learn more about Ann.