I hear a lot of entrepreneurs saying they really want to contribute to a worthy cause, but they don’t know how to choose the right charity. They don’t know which organisations they can trust, there’s so many good causes out there they just don’t know how to decide where to donate.
So, I’ve invited the CEO of my favourite not-for-profit (One Girl) onto the podcast to talk about the different ways we can give back as entrepreneurs.
One Girl believes that every girl on the planet has the right to an education. No matter where she is born, how much her family earns, what religion she adheres to, or what her culture says – every girl deserves the opportunity to learn, grow, and be the best she can be. And when you educate a girl, she can change her world.
Leading One Girl, is Sarah Ireland. She has over 10 years experience working across the humanitarian and development sectors. Sarah has worked on the frontlines of some of the worst humanitarian crises of recent years in the Philippines, Iraq, Syria and Myanmar.
Sarah joined me to talk about the work they are doing and what it’s like to lead a non-profit organization, plus, how entrepreneurs can support their favorite non-profits.
In this episode, you’ll hear about:
- How to be a positive custodian of wealth
- How listening to her intuition changed Sarah’s path dramatically
- How Sarah made herself available for the opportunities that lead her to become the CEO of a not-for-profit
- The awesome work One Girl are doing in Sierra Leone to educate girls and women
- How to support your favorite not-for-profit as an entrepreneur (even if you’re not generating high income levels just yet)
- How to choose a not-for-profit that feels aligned for you and your business
Welcome to the Intuitive Entrepreneur podcast, I'm your host Brigit Esselmont, intuitive business strategist and mentor. As the founder of Biddy Tarot, I turned my love for Tarot into an abundant seven figure business. The secret to my success, making intuition and strategy my entrepreneurial superpower. Now, I'm inviting you to do the same. In this weekly podcast, I'll be sharing advice, tools, and real life examples from some of the best intuitive entrepreneurs to show you how you can trust your intuition, align with your purpose, and create a positive impact through your work. Let's make it happen.
Brigit: Hello, and welcome back to the Intuitive Entrepreneur podcast. Today, I'm speaking with Sarah Ireland, who is the CEO of One Girl, and One Girl is a not-for-profit that is empowering girls through education in Africa. I wanted to bring Sarah on for the reason that as entrepreneurs, we have this wonderful opportunity to support causes that are important to us.
And to also be really positive custodians of wealth and share that wealth in a way that has a really positive impact on the community and our society. Now, for me, this started, in fact, this started way back. I've got to remember, when I was a kid and I would get my pocket money and I would do all these crazy budgeting. Every week, I would count my money, all my coins, I'd put them into the little piles, one pile for gifts, one pile for buying stuff for myself, and one pile for giving to my favorite charities. Even if it was just 50 cents, I didn't care, I knew that, that was going to the RSPCA and would help a little animal maybe have a little bit of a meal that day. But, ultimately, I knew that part of the money that I was collecting needed to go out to these good causes, and as I've stepped into entrepreneurship even more, and the wonderful thing is that we attract wealth. We attract wealth through Biddy Tarot and through the business.
Brigit: I always have had this feeling that as we attract this wealth, we need to direct at least some of it into these positive causes. I know that the more that I can attract wealth through the business, the more that I can help and support these causes as well. Just last year, we became a corporate sponsor with One Girl and we made a commitment to a fairly large donation to One Girl to support, in particular, the Business Brains program. You're going to hear Sarah talk about the Business Brains program in a bit more detail later on but it's just one of the many programs that One Girl have implemented to really support young girls and women in Sierra Leone, and to help girls and young women to get education and also start their own businesses if that's the path that they choose.
Brigit: Here's the really neat thing about One Girl, One Girl believes that every girl on the planet has the right to an education, and no matter where she's born, how much her family earns, what religion she adheres to, or what her culture says, every girl deserves the opportunity to learn, grow, and be the best that she can be. When you educate a girl, she can change the world. My goodness, when I read that, that just gave me absolute chills because this is the kind of thing that I want to be able to support as a business owner. Again, as a custodian of wealth, and it's something that is very meaningful for me because, one, I have daughters and I absolutely believe in the more that we can support our daughters, our girls, to grow and to be educated that, yeah, she really can change the world. Let's talk a little bit more about Sarah too.
Brigit: So, Sarah Ireland, is the CEO of One Girl and she's got over 10 years experience working across the humanitarian and development sectors. Sarah has worked on the front lines of some of the worst humanitarian crises of recent years in the Philippines, Iraq, Syria, and Myanmar, and you're going to hear a lot more about her stories in this episode. When she's not overseeing all things One Girl, Sarah loves getting a regular dose of Vitamin Sea, that's S-E-A, and hanging out with her curious and hilarious two-year-old daughter. I invited Sarah to come and chat today, one, about her journey, what has led her to become the CEO of One Girl. You're going to hear about how she started off on the path of journalism thinking that was going to be her big thing. But she realized that all of these doors were starting to close on her and say, "No, no, no, no." In some ways, that was the universe saying, "Look, there's actually something else here for you."
Brigit: So she started to pursue her passion and her interest in humanitarian aid. You'll hear more about what she did in order to start getting exposure to more and more opportunities that eventually led her to become the leader of One Girl. Now, you'll also hear Sarah talk about One Girl and the awesome work that One Girl is doing within Sierra Leone in Africa to educate girls and young women. We also talk about how entrepreneurs can support their favorite not-for-profits. Even if you're just generating, maybe you're at the start of your business and you're only generating a small income through your business, there are still ways to support your favorite not-for-profits. Sarah also gives some advice about how to choose the right not-for-profit so that, that feels really good and in alignment for you. Because I know that as intuitive entrepreneurs, yes, we're here to support our family and ourselves, but we're also here to have a much bigger impact on the world.
Brigit: Both through our customers, the people that we attract into our business, but also into the wider society. I think you're really going to enjoy today's episode because it will paint a picture of possibility for you about what you can potentially do with the income that is coming through your business. All right, so let's just get straight into this. Well, hello, Sarah, thank you so much for being on the Intuitive Entrepreneur podcast. How you doing today?
Sarah Ireland: Hi, I'm good. Thank you so much for having me.
Brigit: Fabulous. Now, let's get straight into it because I want to hear a little bit more about your journey and how you got into, well, eventually working for One Girl and what's led you down that path?
Sarah Ireland: Many, many Australians like me, we move to London and we do a working holiday visa. I was, entirely sure, maybe I was about 23 or so at the time and I had a degree in journalism, a masters of International Studies and Peace and Conflict Resolution. I had worked as a journalist with the ABC for a little while, and I knew I wanted to be a journalist. Well, I thought at the time I wanted to be a journalist. I was really passionate about being a foreign correspondent so I think in my mind I always wanted to do something that was overseas that was in a similar space to what I ended up in. But, for my mind, it was through journalism. I moved to London and I just couldn't get a job as a journalist, I really tried, and just no opportunities came up. I ended up getting a job with an organization that was a media company, so it did a lot of things. But the bit that I worked on was it almost like a trade show for the aid sector.
Sarah Ireland: Companies that sold pop up tents for refugee camps or life straws which things that you can drink out of unlike water filters, so in little muddy puddles, you can still get clean water out of it. Little things you pop in your backpack when you're responding to an emergency where there's no clean water or to give out to affected populations. Just lots of things like that, but one of the ways that we got people from the actual sector to come along was we also, aside from the trade part of it, we organized lots of speakers and workshops and Q&A sessions, panel discussions with people from the UN or big international not-for-profits like Oxfam or Save the Children or World Vision. That was my first exposure to this sector that you could actually have a career in and I think back, I grew up in Brisbane, if you wanted to work as an aid worker, I mean not that that was even a thing to do at that stage, you become a volunteer, or maybe one day you work for the UN.
Sarah Ireland: It was through this exposure that I thought, "Actually, this could be a career for me." I tried, journalism just didn't work out for me. I tried really hard to get in through my journalism background, through communications. But every time I went for a job, they looked at my experience and said, "Okay, well, you've worked in Australia, you've never worked in a country like the ones that you would be reporting on or operating in." I ended up getting a volunteer position as a logistician in the humanitarian department. I was so excited, got my volunteer position and I went home, got on the internet and searched, "What is a logistician?" I had no idea, but I was just like, "You know what, I'm going to take it, I'm going to learn as much as I possibly can, and figure out what I'm going to do." It was just this amazing month in Save the Children in the UK and they have a staff of over 1000 people there, the emergencies department that I was working in was 100 people.
Sarah Ireland: It was this amazingly vibrant learning environment full of people who just loved their jobs, and were willing to teach me as well, which I think was such a privilege for me to have that first role and be in that environment. My volunteer position was to do some work in London and then four months later to get a job, get a volunteer position in one of the country offices of Save the Children. About month in they said, "Look, I just don't think that's going to be possible. We're really sorry, it just doesn't look like that field work is going to turn out." Which was really disappointing because I thought, "Well, without that, that was the thing that was holding me back, not having experience in other countries. Then about a week later, an enormous Cyclone hit Myanmar in Asia, Cyclone in August, which killed hundreds of thousands of people and impacted millions and millions more. For some reason, they sent me as part of the response team and I was supposed to be there for a week, just helping in the logistics office on the Bangkok side.
Sarah Ireland: In Thailand, supporting Save the Children to get life saving goods from Thailand over to my Myanmar, because nothing could be purchased at that time in in my Myanmar. I was there for a week and then they sent me to Myanmar and I stayed there for eight months. It was just the most remarkable learning experience for me, I went there as a volunteer and a few days later someone pulled out of a job. I put my hand up and said, "Look, I don't know what I'm doing, I want to learn. I'm here, I'm enthusiastic, I'll do it if you want me to." They employed me when I was 25, I was the youngest international staff member on the team. Again, I think I was just really privileged to be surrounded by people who took me at my word and thought, "Okay, she does want to learn, she's here, she's passionate about it."
Sarah Ireland: I don't know, maybe they saw that I was just like a sponge and I just took everything on board and I thought to myself at the time, "I'm just going to take everything on and I'm going to try to come up with solutions. I'm going to problem solve, I'm going to really try to work things through myself but I'm also not going to be afraid to ask questions and to go to people when I need help and to be up front with where I was in my career." I think that put me on a really great learning trajectory. I was there for about eight months, working in the logistics team and figured out what that meant, what I was supposed to do as a legislation.
Brigit: Tell me what is it? What were you doing?
Sarah Ireland: I was in this job, I was responsible as a team to get the life saving items. This is right at the start of a huge emergency, so food, shelter, so tarpaulin, plastic sheeting, water and sanitation items. Making sure people have access to clean water, making sure people have access to health care. Everything that people need to survive in those first couple of weeks after an emergency, me and my team were responsible for sourcing them and getting them to the people who needed them. That's incredibly difficult, particularly, at the time in Myanmar it was hard to get goods into the country. But then it was really hard to get them out to the people in the affected areas who these areas that had just been given stated by an enormous cyclone. Really important, which I think as well put me on the path to where I am today, one of the things that Save the Children does is also make sure that children are protected at the beginning of an emergency and schools get up and running as quickly as possible.
Sarah Ireland: One of my big focuses was on education, so making sure that there were structures that were safe for children to go back to school to. That it was that they had learning materials, but also that teachers were trained in how to support the children mentally, psychologically when they were back in the classroom, knowing that a lot of these teachers had also been impacted by the cyclone themselves. It was amazing to me to see that food, water, health care, those are absolutely essential things that people need to survive, but so is education for children and being in that safe space and getting back to learning and being a kid. Because if they don't have those safe spaces, then child trafficking, child abuse, all of these things can happen to those kids but also the longer that they are out of school, the less likely they are to return. That's when you see whole generations of kids lose out on an education because a disaster has happened and nobody's been there to support them in getting back into that learning environment.
Sarah Ireland: It was really from my very first emergency response seeing that inaction really showed me just how essential education is whether it's in a conflict situation, a disaster, or just in normal programming.
Brigit: Yeah, and then so then what happened after then? What was next?
Sarah Ireland: Well, then I went back to London and I went back to Save the Children in London, and I thought, "Okay, well, I want to get back out. How do I do this?
Brigit: You're addicted to it.
Sarah Ireland: I was, and it is funny because the thing is this, you do meet a lot of people in emergency response who I guess that adrenaline junky type thing but it is this really life saving, fast moving, chaotic environment where you can really see the impact of the work that you're doing. I wanted to do it again and I realized that this was something that I loved doing, I was really passionate about and that I was good at too. I could use my skills, the intuitive skills that I guess I have to be able in those kind of emergency situations. I went back to London, I thought, "Hey, well, I need to start applying for jobs." Save the Children put me in a temporary position in travel admin, so I was booking people's flights which wasn't my favorite role that I've ever had. But that was it gave me the exposure. While I was in this funny what skills do I have? I had this very unique experience.
Sarah Ireland: Myanmar at that time was just opening up its borders to international staff to come in for the response. There was a lot of things that we couldn't do in that context that as a logistician you would be required to do if you worked in another country that I'd missed out on those skills. I booked people's flights, but I also just put my hand up for everything that came across. That one stage somebody from a different team came to our team and said, "We need someone to take minutes in a meeting on grant management." I was like, "Okay, well, that sounds pretty boring but I'll do it." I put my hand up and it was in that meeting that they said, "Well, okay, we actually need someone to project manage this for the next two months." I was like, "Okay, well, yep, I'm here. Just took the minutes, so I know what you're talking about. They brought me onto the team for two months, and I ended up designing in a collaborative process and bringing people together from Save the Children offices all around the world, a grant management system.
Sarah Ireland: How the, one, Save the Children office will fund another to run a program, and so setting up this international structure, just because I was willing to put my hand up and get support and ask for support from people above me and with more experience. It's just picking up those little skills along the way and not being afraid to put myself forward for them. But then that finished and I went back to travel admin and I thought, "You know what, I don't think this is for me." I think I took that, again, because it was offered and I wanted to stay there and it was then that the director of the emergencies team pulled me aside and said, "What do you want to do?" I thought, "Oh, well, I want to get back out, I want to get back out into an emergency situation or run some programs in some countries." But he said, "Okay, well, what jobs have you applied for?" I said, "Oh, well, I haven't applied for any." He said, "Well, start. That's the first step."
Sarah Ireland: I did and he said to me, he's like, "You're much more valuable getting out there and working for a little organization and getting as many skills as you can and then coming back to Save the Children or a bigger organization when you've had those experiences. I applied for a job and I got one in Syria with a smaller organization that works on, primarily, on tackling malnutrition.
Brigit: Yeah, and just like hearing your story so far, what I find really inspiring and enlightening is that you are not afraid to get your hands dirty, and you're not afraid to do the jobs that potentially suck and aren't particularly interesting, right?
Sarah Ireland: Yeah.
Brigit: Because you want to be in the right place at the right time and you've created the situations where you can be there at the right place in the right time. I think a lot of people get a bit, I don't know, afraid or, "I don't want to do that job, that's beneath me or it's not in alignment with what I think I want to do." But sometimes you have to do that grunt work to get those opportunities, and it's so interesting just hearing about how these doors are opening up for you. You had all those closed doors in journalism and do you think that maybe that might be the universe saying, "Okay, we've got better things for you?"
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, go and maybe try this path Yes, go down this road.
Brigit: Yes, everything opens up for you from there on, and even without necessarily... You were being proactive but not proactive in terms of applying for jobs, not the traditional proactive, but more in terms of the proactive of just putting yourself in the places where these opportunities can come to you. I think that's really neat.
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, and one of the things I did when I was in that Save the Children office with all of these... London, at that time, had a much bigger international aid sector than Australia. I was surrounded with these people who had 20, 30 years experience in the sector and looking at them and thinking, "Okay, that's where I want to be." I went up to a lot of them, it was a little bit terrifying but I said, "Look, do you have 10 minutes? Can I grab you a coffee, can I..." I'm not a smoker, I very much don't like it but, "Can I come outside with you when you have your next smoking break and just chat, please?" I just really told all of them like, "This is where I want to go, this is where I want to be, this is what I'm doing right now. Am I on the right path? What else should I be doing?"
Sarah Ireland: Just trying to get that advice from as many people as possible, one, to help me know this was a new career step for me, am I doing the right thing? Am I going in the right direction? Am I making the right decisions and speaking to the right people? But also I really wanted those people to know that this is what I wanted to do and that I was interested and keen. Maybe if something came up, they would think of me and they will put a face to a name if they saw me in an email or something like that. It was using those opportunities while I was surrounded by these people to, in a nice way, but say, "Hi, I'm here. I'm really, really passionate. Maybe what do I do? Please remember me because one day we might be working together or you might see a job opportunity come up and you might think of me," or just using those opportunities while I had them.
Brigit: Yes, and I think also being in that receiving mode, so not necessarily being in self-promotion mode, "I'm here, this is what I can do, I want this." But more so it sounds like you were asking questions and receiving that information. That's a very different shift in terms of the energy around that.
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, absolutely. But, so it was the same when I got the job in Syria. I feel like all of my moves, job wise, have been just that one step out of my depth but in a good way. I applied for a job that was the organization, Action Against Hunger, had never worked in Syria before. They were just setting up operations up on it. It was before the current conflict working up on the Iraqi border, so working with Iraqi refugees that had come across during the previous conflict in Iraq. They needed somebody to come and help the country direct setup that office up there while the country director could be more back in Damascus and the Capitol trying to work with government and donors. My job was to be responsible for that base and the staff but really focused on logistics, which I had that experience. But then HR, finance, and administration and general management.
Sarah Ireland: I said in my interview, "Look, I have very little experience in HR and finance, but I've got the experience in logistics and I'm willing to learn." They said, "That's fine, we're here to support you. We know it's tough to get someone with all of those experiences so we'll definitely support you through it." They did, which was great. The finance person was always on Skype, to me, helping me through the financial process. But, again, it was just this it was a small enough office for me to learn and to deal with that but it was a great learning experience for me to add something else to my set of skills and experiences that I could take to the next job. Which was with the same organization, but in Uganda and running two bases and many more staff, many more programs, same type of work, though. It was those stepping stones that I had along the way that just it was never outside of my capacity but I needed support. I needed somebody to help me and provide me with that guidance.
Sarah Ireland: But, again, I think it was that willingness to take that step of being like, "Well, this could go wrong, I don't really know." But I felt confident enough that it wasn't outside of anything that I wouldn't be able to do.
Brigit: Yeah, it's a fine balance, isn't it? Where you want to make sure that you're adding value in that role but it's also a stretch role so that you can grow and expand into it.
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, and there was a lot of staff capacity so working with people from the local communities who were employed with the organization and building their capacity in it. Your point on adding value, I needed to, if I was to build their capacity, I needed to be able to have the knowledge to be able to do that. That was a really cool component of all of my roles so far actually is building that capacity of other people around me. I did need to know that I could add value, that I was there for a reason, and that was really important as well.
Brigit: Yeah, yeah, cool. You were in Uganda and then what happened? How did you get to be leading up One Girl from there?
Sarah Ireland: Well, so there, I took a job with a medical organization based in London. They don't exist anymore, they were called Merlin and they were very much an emergency organization. I joined their emergency response team, so going and doing a couple of months in locations. I didn't have a proper base on their emergency teams, so responding to the conflict in Libya and Tunisia with the refugees from the Gaddafi conflict when he was falling from power, and Horn of Africa. So East Africa in the drought and then that was getting back into that emergency work. Then I took a job back in Australia with Save the Children, so based here in Australia, in Melbourne, but very much focused on building the capacity of Save the Children staff across Asia to be able to respond to emergencies. They didn't need people like me to go in and hit up responses that they could do it themselves. But then also responding to emergencies too.
Sarah Ireland: I did a lot of responses, it was two years also I was in that job and a lot of emergency responses in places like the Philippines that receive on average I think they get about 20 typhoons a year. Earthquake in my Myanmar, I went to Iraq to head up the Save the Children response to the refugee crisis coming from Syria. Just something would happen, get on a plane and go and either support people in that response or lead the emergency response myself. Which was, yeah, a really amazing two years of really honing those humanitarian skills, and I did some leadership training at that time as well which was great. Because it really helped me recognize things I'm naturally good at, but the things that I'm not. When it comes to those high pressure situations like when you're in an emergency response, they're the ones I push to the side because I know that it's easier to do the things that I'm naturally better at.
Sarah Ireland: It was good to really look at things that I needed to focus on to help me round out the type of leader I could be, especially, in those high pressure, very stressful, and chaotic environments. But then I took a shift and I decided I wanted to move out of that work into more advocacy and policy, so Save the Children rehired me, which was nice of them in an advocacy, humanitarian advocacy and policy. I started doing a degree part-time on international law focusing on humanitarian law and human rights law. I was able to work remotely with Save the Children from Lebanon. My partner had a job with Save the Children in Lebanon. I was based there and focusing my advocacy on the Syria refugee crisis and conflict in Yemen, and other aspects in the Middle East. That was great because it really enabled me to be able to come back to Australia and go to places like Cambria and speak to politicians or government agencies and say, "I'm there, I've seen it," or, "I was just in Iraq speaking to girls who have no access to education."
Sarah Ireland: Or seeing refugee, Syrian refugee kids begging on the streets because they've got no accommodation or no shelter or nowhere safe to go. I think that made such a difference to be able to come from living somewhere where I could see it, come back to Australia and say, "This is not just something that I've seen on the news or that I've read about, this is something I've seen." Yeah, that was a really great experience and a really nice shift for me into that advocacy and policy role and no longer looking at those immediate needs but looking at, in a humanitarian context, how I can advocate to governments to make long lasting change for rights of children and for women and girls. And then try and to put things into policy, which it was nice to be able to draw on my past experience of actually being in emergencies in an operational role to be able to draw on that experience to help me with my advocacy.
Brigit: Yeah, and it is again a very interesting shift from that more emergency in the moment, deal with the immediate issue versus how do we create this longer term change? Which I think is that's certainly what you're doing in One Girl where what I'm observing is it's much more focused on that longer term game and creating longer term change.
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, it is, and I guess starting from Myanmar where I saw the education having such a huge impact, and then throughout all of my work and all of the countries that I've been to, it's that I've seen that power of education for boys and girls, but really, particularly, for girls who so often miss out on that education. I've spoken to girls, I was in Iraq a few years ago, and I was speaking to girls who were in refugee camps in a few different places in northern Iraq, up in Kurdistan. They had fled the conflict with their family, and many of them had been in refugee camps for four or so years. Pretty much all of them weren't in school because there were no schools for girls in those camp, or their parents thought it was too unsafe for them to leave their tent or their parents didn't have money to send them to school. Lots of different reasons, and these camps had very little food, no clean water, no health care facilities, no areas for kids to play, just to be kids.
Sarah Ireland: I said, "If you could have anything, anything at all, what would it be?" Thinking, "Food, water, parents be able to have jobs." Pretty much every single girl said, "Education, we want an education." There's one girl, in particular, she's really stuck in my mind, she said, "If we can get an education, we can have a better life." To me, that just sums up everything that I've experienced talking to girls all over the world about education and what they miss out on when they don't have an education. But also what they get when they do have an education. The flow on affects girls, setting up homework clubs or that paying it forward, passing on what they've learned to other members of their communities. That's what we're doing at One Girl and so I really love, I really love that I've gone from working for a really big organization down to a small one that has this really niche focus on adolescent girls, young women, and education.
Sarah Ireland: Knowing that there are many different barriers that stop girls from accessing education, and at One Girl, we're trying to tackle a lot of those barriers and working, really importantly, working with the girls to give them the skills and knowledge they need so they can tackle those barriers. We do a lot of different things but at the core of everything we do, it's to get girls either in school or in vocational training or giving them the education that's suitable for them. But so they have the skills and knowledge to be able to succeed both in and outside of the classroom. That's just so important because it's giving them something that will benefit them for the rest of their lives and they can choose what to do with that education.
Sarah Ireland: If they choose to do what their mothers did and follow a very traditional path in their community, that's fine because it's based on the knowledge that they've gained of what their options are. But they might not choose that because of their education, they might choose to start their own business or to get a job in office or to do whatever they want to do. That, to me, is that choice is the power of education.
Brigit: Yes, and I think it's probably a very distinguishing factor because sometimes not-for-profits may have a very clear objective, "We're given you the education, now it's time for you to use it in this particular way." I just love that you allow... It's really handing the ownership back to the people, it's not you creating the change but you're just holding the container for people to change within that space. I'm sure even if girls are taking the more traditional route, are you seeing positive flow on effects as a result of them having that education?
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, studies globally back this up, that girls who finish secondary school, and that's really key, it's not just about getting girls through primary school, it's making sure they have the opportunity to get all the way through to secondary school. But they tend to have fewer children, that there are fewer teenage pregnancies, that they're given more control and ownership over their bodies. Even if they're choosing that more traditional route to have those choice of when and how many children... when to have children, how many children to have, more decision making in their family, more control over family finances. It's even whatever route they're taking, it's having more decision making, more control over their own lives and that's I think the key.
Brigit: I know that when you're looking at education it's not just simply like book learning, there are a number of other initiatives that you put into place. You want to talk a little bit more about those?
Sarah Ireland: Sure, so yeah, as you said, some of it is book learning, we run a scholarships program, which is simply getting girls into the classroom and giving them what they need to succeed while they're in there. Schoolbooks, school uniforms, solar lamps, so they can study at night. But, as you said, we know that that's not the only thing that girls need, so we also support teachers, particularly, female teachers but males as well to create more gender equitable classrooms, so girls have the opportunity to raise their hand, very simply, raise their hands in that classroom and answer questions. That they're giving equal space to the boys in those classrooms, and that the learning methods support a kid to be really encouraged to learn and succeed. But we also run programs like ones that look at how to ensure that girls have the knowledge to manage their hygiene when they have their period. That sounds, when I say that having grown up in Australia, that just sounds so obvious because my mom told me what to do and there were ads on television or someone at school told me.
Sarah Ireland: But if you've come from a community where there's so many taboos around even talking about periods, that nobody's ever told you before what will happen when you get your period that you don't even know it's something that exists, or that if they have told you, there's so much shame around hanging out that piece of material that you're using when you have your period to wash and dry. It doesn't get dried properly and you use it again and you might contract an infection or a disease because of it. Just making sure that working within that culturally appropriate space, we're giving girls the knowledge on how to manage their hygiene and health during that period but also what items to use. Whether it's sanitary pads, whether it's traditional pieces of cloth, but then how to wash and dry it properly. At the end of the day, it's making sure that a period isn't stopping a girl from going to school and learning.
Sarah Ireland: That we're bringing everybody into that discussion, it's not just a conversation for girls, it's a conversation for boys and men as well because they're brothers or fathers or male peers is in that classroom. It's also everybody, everybody should know how to support girls while they have their period or at least how to make it that it's not an inhibiting factor on her education.
Brigit: Yeah, just I don't know if you've seen there's a Netflix documentary called End Of Sentence Period?
Sarah Ireland: Yes.
Brigit: That's based in India, but it's a short 30 minute documentary and it's fantastic. I got so much insight into seeing just how different it is in different societies around the acceptance of periods and people's beliefs. The men were just so embarrassed, they couldn't even... they just denied even knowing what was going on. It's quite funny.
Sarah Ireland: I know, we actually watch that as a team in the Melbourne office, and one of our team is actually from Sierra Leone. We've got Sierra Leonean staff in Sierra Leone, but in our Melbourne office, and it was great to watch that movie and just have her insights into it as well from we work on this and we speak to people who are in our programs and our staff in Sierra Leone. But to sit there with Jennifer in our Melbourne office and have her say, "Yeah, this was what it was like growing up as a girl in Sierra Leone." But just makes it so much more real when this is real, this is what girls go through. It's not fair and we need to make sure that everybody has the knowledge to make sure that we need girls to get their periods. Periods serve a function but we also need to make sure that it doesn't stop them from doing things that are going to enable them to succeed in whatever they choose in life.
Brigit: Absolutely, and the more that I look into the menstrual cycle and how that can also influence our own cycles with projects, birthing new things, there is actually so much power in understanding our menstrual cycle. That's obviously outside of what we're talking about today, but we just see the massive contrast between girls, young women, or just society in general denying the whole concept of periods and it being something that's dirty and something you should be ashamed of. That contrasted to it being a source of power and a way of creating in our lives like, "Oh," you're like, "I just want to bridge that gap even more." It's great that you're doing that work in Africa to at least get to a point of understanding and acceptance and being able to function normally, being able to show up to school even when you do have your period like to be no different really.
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, and we do a similar program with sexual reproductive health and rights. Again, very much working with the entire community because it's not just a girl's responsibility to know what her sexual rights are or what consent is but also where the services are for family planning or any kind of sexual health and reproductive checkups. Working with the entire community to make sure that everybody knows the rights of girls in this environment, and looking at rights of teenage pregnancy and where they occur. That as well is a big thing that stops girls from going to school and they do fall pregnant as a teenager. Sometimes because of abuse, sometimes because they have needed the money to be able to buy things like sanitary pads or looking at all the different ways that these things happen and how we can ensure that the entire community has the knowledge. On, again, how to support young girls which is a really important program and something that we also make sure from both the menstrual hygiene and the sexual reproductive health and rights that it's integrated across all of our programs.
Sarah Ireland: In some ways, they can be standalone programs but in other ways they're just part of what we do. That's, I think, really important. We also do a lot of work, we have a program called Business Brains in both Sierra Leone and Uganda, and it's this really great program that supports girls both in school but also out of school. Acknowledging that there are some girls who, for other reasons, can't get into school. But also might not want to go to school, they might be more interested in that vocational pathway. Working with them and providing knowledge on things like financial literacy, how to run a business, how to run a profit and loss sheet, how to, something I've learned and definitely I could have done with this program I think a few years ago, but then looking at and working with girls on dreaming exercises. Helping them, giving them opportunities, so what do you want to do?
Sarah Ireland: Trying to open up their minds outside of those traditional pathways because if they've never seen anything other than their mom being a hairdresser or a basket weaver or any number of traditional practices, that they know that other opportunities exist. Again, if they want to go into those traditional practices, that's great, we will work with them to give them the skills to be able to earn more money and succeed even more in those areas. But also giving them the choices that exists in other areas, and we're doing a lot of work at the moment on say market analysis to look at those emerging markets. Where are some markets like new climate technologies or agribusiness that aren't actually dominated by men yet? There are these particularly in very patriarchal societies, it's very difficult for women to break into job markets where it's a very much a traditionally male held environment.
Sarah Ireland: Looking at areas where there's this space for them to go into and really own and lead, which I think is a really exciting prospect. Also, really exciting areas like new climate technologies and green farming practices. But we also make sure that within this program, they have the menstrual hygiene training and sexual reproductive health and rights, but also leadership and decision making and confidence building. All of these more, I guess, soft skills that actually are super important and so we do things like set up girls clubs, where girls themselves have the opportunity to shape the rules of that club and to share leadership and ownership and be responsible for presenting back to the traditional elders in the community. And playing part in community decision making, which is really an important part in their development as well.
Sarah Ireland: I guess what I really like in our programs is that it combines those hard skills with the soft skills and to combine this holistic view of actually what it takes to succeed and the different skills that you need.
Brigit: That's fabulous, and what are some of the results that you're seeing like how do you know that you're successful in these communities that you're serving?
Sarah Ireland: At a very, I guess, the... It's not a basic level, I guess a very easy one to look at is within our scholarships program where we support girls to just get into that classroom, get into school, in Sierra Leone, the average completion rate of high school for girls is around 16%. In our program, it differs per year but it's anywhere between say 85 and 95%. Yeah, it's just that providing girls with the opportunity and the support, and that's it, they can take it from there. The feedback we get from those girls is just like, "I want to be number one in my class, I want to be head student, I want to learn as much as I can, I want to provide all of the learning that I have so other girls can learn." There's this one girl who told us that all she wanted to do was learn as much as she could and give that knowledge to as many people as she could in the hope that one day she has taught the first female president of Sierra Leone.
Sarah Ireland: I loved that because it wasn't even about her becoming president, it was her about sharing that knowledge, and just that humbleness. It's just it's really amazing and a lot of girls say just the very act of putting on that school uniform gives them the confidence and allows them to walk down the street with their head held high. That's just putting on that school uniform makes such a difference and to me that's really special.
Brigit: Yeah, it's awesome, love it. You probably have so many of those stories of where it's changed individual lives but then also community lives as well.
Sarah Ireland: Yeah.
Brigit: So tell me a little bit more then about the people who are supporting One Girl. What's the split between, say, businesses and individuals? There are quite a few businesses supporting One Girl?
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, there are including Biddy Tarot, which is great. But, it is, I mean, we really... It is a combination of businesses and individuals and to us they're all incredibly important to us because we're a really small organization. So it is individuals, it is businesses like Biddy Tarot that put aside a portion of their profits to give back to an organization like One Girl and supporting girls and young women in places across the world. We commit to girls, particularly, in our scholarship program but even in say the Business Brains program it's over multiple years. Because we know the giving, providing these skills and education takes time, and we commit to those girls in their scholarships program. We commit to them for their entire school journey from when they come onto the program to when they graduate secondary school. That's a huge commitment for us to make as a small organization that has...
Sarah Ireland: We don't have any grant that lasts longer than a year, and so having organizations like Biddy Tarot, like regular givers, general public who provide $25 a month or somebody in their workplace who does workplace giving. That to us allows us to make those commitments, and so a girl doesn't have to worry about if she's going to be in school next year. She can just worry about has she done her homework or what it means to actually be a kid and be learning and in that school environment. Knowing that she's got enough other pressures on her life, anyway, outside of the school. That's why it's a lot of small, medium businesses that support us, and I've been amazingly blown away since I've been in this role by the passionate supporters and that community around One Girl. It really is a community that it's really passionate about girls' education. I think one of the reasons people love One Girl is that we speak really honestly. We did a report on our scholarships program last year, and it's a report that anybody can read.
Sarah Ireland: We had an evaluation of it and it's the way we speak is the way that anybody... 13-year-old girl in Australia, a girl in our programs in Sierra Leone or Uganda, a business owner, somebody in the development sector, anybody should be able to reach our reports or anything we say and take away the same thing. That I think is a really important thing because so often you talk to other people in the sector but you don't talk to people in your community. We are a girl led organization, so all of our programs, the girls themselves are part from right from inception all the way through to evaluating the program. That's really important to us to have the input of girls and young women. Girls who graduate our program have the opportunity as alumni to come back into the program to actually help implement it as well. We look at work placements or mentoring so they can mentor and be role models for younger girls.
Sarah Ireland: Really having that cycle, and we try to do that in Australia as much as possible as well by listening to our supporters, making sure that they're not just there to give us money but actually be part of our community. As much as we can, it's a big part of our strategy is to elevate the voices of girls and young women. If we had an event on International Women's Day in Melbourne and we had a panel of young women talk about things like role models and representation and the whole thing around if you can't be it you can't see it. How important it is to get women in all areas of leadership or all industry and women from all backgrounds, so we can all see our place and moving forward. I really loved that we chose people, chose women who hadn't necessarily been on a panel before, or maybe had just been on one before. Knowing that it's one of the things we want to do is use our platform so other women and young women can speak.
Sarah Ireland: Maybe then the next time they go on to another panel, or they'll get another panel speaking because they've had that opportunity and they can say they've been on one already. Making sure we're doing that in Australia as well as our programs overseas.
Brigit: Yeah, love it. Something I really admire about the One Girl organization is that you do, you keep it real, you're authentic, you're relatable, you're approachable and it's ground up. It's not the formal stuffiness that sometimes you can encounter. To write like the reports that you share, what I love is that you share the good and the bad. This is where we're going really well and this is where we're learning some stuff and we've got to figure it out. I think it's just, yeah, very admirable. I wanted to ask what your advice would be to other business owners and entrepreneurs who might be considering donating to not-for-profits, whether it's at that very early stage. Because I remember like I started out just by donating small amounts to different organizations, and over time that commitment's definitely growing. But what advice would you have to someone who's thinking, "Yeah, this sounds pretty good. How do I support?" Whether it's One Girl or different, any not-for-profit, how do we start this process?
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, I take my hat off to any business who's starting out and is giving a portion of profit to a charity, or sorry, to a not-for-profit because that's something that you're working for and is your livelihood, and I think it's an amazing thing for somebody to do. I always tell everybody, I do a lot of talks at schools and I talk about finding your passion, and my passion really is girls' education, I'm in the right job. But other people have different passions and are interested in different areas. There's a not-for-profit out there that's probably supporting that area, so look at something that aligns on very much a values led person and in a way that my CEO position at One Girl and we have a values led organization. Looking at the values of your organization and where does it align? Does it align with the values of a not-for-profit or in the work that they do? To me, making that alignment and looking at the different focuses of the for profit and not-for-profit I think is a really good place to start.
Sarah Ireland: For us, our business partner program, so where we have businesses support us on a regular basis, it starts at providing $1,000. Which can seem like a lot of money for businesses that just start out, but it's not as if you have to be in a position where you can give 20,000 or 30,000, or it can be small and that spread over a year for us. I'm sure other organizations will be similar or different benchmarks but it's really about asking because even if an organization comes to us, and one has recently and they said, "Look, I don't think we'll be able to give more than 600 this year." That's not enough for them to go on our formal business partner program, but what we can do, and being a small organization we can do this, is we can provide them with a logo that says Proudly Supporting One Girl. At least, it's something that is a start and that maybe that will help them then next year be able to get to the 1000 or bigger as they grow.
Sarah Ireland: I think my advice would be not be afraid to reach out, and if you don't get the right person to speak to, if you don't get the right field, then you go to another not-for-profit. Looking at different ways that you can support some businesses, just say we'll give you X amount of money per year where other businesses say, "We think it will be around this much but it's based on how many customers or clients or a percentage of tickets we sell to the workshops we run." We're really flexible with that as well, we say, "Okay, well, what do you anticipate?" We put them because there are different benefits you get depending on where you, as an organization, you fall in our business partner program. If somebody at the end of the year actually has funded us with much more than they anticipated, we can retroactively give them the different case studies or anything else that would be at that higher level.
Sarah Ireland: We make sure that we actually we know that it's not cut and dry or black and white for a lot of businesses, things can change. We try to work with them and provide them with the support that we can to help them with their fundraising as well. But also make sure that they have everything they need to be able to speak about One Girl. I think that's really important, if you're putting something on your website or speaking about the partnership that you have been confident that you can actually speak about it and not, again, not be afraid to go back to the organization and ask for 10 minutes of their time or a bit more information so you feel confident about that.
Brigit: What are some quick ideas around fundraising activities that businesses could do?
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, some people do, one business they did like they were setting up a... They had skincare and they were an online business and then they were opening up a store. They had their launch night and all of their profits just from that launch night came to One Girl and then they went back to their usual commitment that they've made. That was they were doing that anyway, and so using that, and I went and spoke at the event. Often in Melbourne where it's easier for us we go and we can speak at stuff like that. If we're traveling and the opportunity matches with the organization, we can speak at their business even if it's not a public event, we make any opportunity that we can to talk to employees as well just to bring that bit of a personal experience to it so it seems a bit more real for businesses to know what they're supporting. And tell them some of the stories of the girls that their money is supporting.
Sarah Ireland: But other businesses do things like a percentage of or they do a wine night or they'll purchase stuff from our... We have an online shop, so sometimes they'll purchase KeepCups or their One Girl water bottle and hold a raffle or an Instagram competition or something. They're getting more people in but they're also supporting us by giving away some of our goods that they've purchased or using that as a fundraiser. Then a lot of people do the functionality, so having people when they do an online checkout in the store. So having people when they get to the checkout the opportunity for the customer to actually donate as well, and then the business can then match it. That's also supporting One Girl by encouraging or giving the opportunity for the customer to donate not just the business. Which I think is nice because it's that mutual the business and the customer doing the same thing.
Brigit: Yeah, that's something that we certainly shifted towards because originally I would just donate on behalf of the business. I thought, "This feels good, however, how can I leverage our beautiful community who..." I want to be able to share that experience with them that the money that they're contributing to Biddy Tarot is now being fed through to One Girl and other not-for-profits where it's having this massive impact through the community. I think the more that we can engage our audience and our communities to be part of the contribution can be really mutually beneficial.
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, and we're a really small not-for-profit that we don't have a huge marketing budget. It's really difficult for us to, we have our community, but it's really difficult for us to reach people outside of that community. Having organizations like the Biddy Tarot website, having that information about One Girl and then spreading that information with your community really helps us as well. One of our values is collaboration, and as much as possible, trying to make these partnerships with businesses a collaborative environment where we've got ideas but you might as well. That how can we work together for the mutual benefit of girls everywhere to spread that knowledge about girls' education, to bring more people into the community. Even if they don't become financial donors, that just to support or spread the knowledge about the absolute impact on the entire world that girls' education has. If it's just one of your community talking to somebody else about girls' education, then that's great, that's what we're after. If they want to also donate, that's also good too.
Brigit: That's very good, yes. Awesome. What's coming up over the next 12 months for One Girl and perhaps yourself too?
Sarah Ireland: Yeah, well, for me, I'm very happy at One Girl. This has been one of the... I've had lots of great jobs in terms of the short-term deployments and emergencies. But as an actual job itself, this has been one of the most rewarding and exciting jobs that I've had. I have an amazing team that really helps with that because really that workplace culture, both in Australia but also we work really hard to make sure that the team in Sierra Leone is part of that. But one of the great things about being a CEO is that I can direct that culture as well, and so I can look at experiences that I've had with different organizations and think, "Oh, I didn't feel great working in that office environment. Okay, so what didn't I feel great about and how can I make that not happen in One Girl?" That's a really nice position to be in, and as well with a small team, everybody plays a part in that. Sitting down with everyone and saying, "Okay, well, what do we need? What does everybody need to be able to get meaning and happiness out of work?"
Sarah Ireland: I really, I really love that, and it just fills me with this sense of real pride to have been able to lead that but also I really feel like if I stepped out of that, that would continue. That's because the team itself, like it's not just me, it's everybody which is great. For One Girl in the next 12 months, we're really looking at growing our programs, so from the fundraising side, it's how we can reach even more people and get more funds in to support our programs and how to do that in a sustainable way. It's not so intensive on continuing to go out to the same supporters. That how can we grow our supporter base from that's fundraising and communications. But with the programs, we've done a couple of... we did an evaluations of our Business Brain program this year and so we've really learned what was great about that program and things that needed to be changed or things that we were doing that could really strengthen or things that actually we needed to start doing.
Sarah Ireland: We're just launching the next phase of that program now and doing lots of gender analysis around our programs to make sure that we're not having unintended consequences, or that we are considering gender which sounds obvious but it's actually a really deliberate thing that we need to do to look at, "Are we placing girls in situations where it might be harmful for them in the long term or that is creating more jealousies in the community or that we are actually doing the right thing?" Really being deliberate about a lot of those things, really integrating girls. We have been doing this but, again, making it very deliberate, making sure the girls have those opportunities to run and to lead the programs themselves with obviously with our support. But these are community led programs, and so really giving that power to girls in the communities. That's really exciting.
Sarah Ireland: Then looking at other ways that we can expand either in Sierra Leone or Uganda or where there are other opportunities for us to look at this approach that we have to go led programming and to really that focus and that expertise the organization has on adolescent girls and education. Whether there's ways that we can work in other countries or support other organizations who are already working in those countries but we can help them strengthen their focus on adolescent girls. Yeah, we'll see but it's very-
Brigit: That's all.
Sarah Ireland: ... it's very exciting and I just one of the things... I've said this many times but one of the things I love about One Girl, one more thing I love about One Girl is that we're a small knit like agile organization. We can have these ideas and think, "Okay, well, let's do it, let's try and very much keeping at the heart of who we are that startup mentality and that entrepreneurship," and think, "Okay, well, let's pilot it, let's test it, let's learn from that, and see what happens." I really love that about being in a small organization that you can be nimble and agile and pilot and test and learn in those quick ways.
Brigit: Yeah, and I love the whole idea that really anything is possible and it's like, "Well, if we can do it in Sierra Leone, we can do it where else and we can take over the world and do it everywhere. It's great, and to someone who, for me, who hasn't worked in nonprofit like the whole idea of going into these countries and creating such huge change just feels so daunting and overwhelming for me so I love that you're able to get in there and make these changes happen. And that you're ready and willing to deal with whatever is needing to be dealt with in order to create that change. I think that's really admirable.
Sarah Ireland: Thanks. One of our values is positivity, so it's solutions focus but it's always looking at, "Okay, well, this is what we did, this would be the impact." It's not looking at, "Well, these are these terrible situations that girls live in. It is in what we can't do or anything like that it's like, "If we educate these girls, this is the amazing impact." That's a really good mindset I think for us to be in as an organization.
Brigit: Yeah, absolutely, and where can people find out more about One Girl?
Sarah Ireland: Jump on our website, onegirl.org.au and you can find everything you need to on the website. We also have our fundraiser, our big fundraiser of the year, Do It In A Dress, so you can find that doitinadress.com and that is this super fun, positive fundraiser that happens September and October every year. That you put on a school dress and you raise money doing... some people jump out of planes or go snowboarding, some people just do a bake sale or wear it to work, so whatever fits into your life. But it is about putting on the school dress because you passionately believe that girls everywhere should have the opportunity to put on a school dress and go to school as well. If that's the sort of thing that you want to do, a lot of people find that a really fun and visual display of their passion for girls education. You can also find that either through the One Girl website or doitinadress.com.
Brigit: Awesome, and I know that's been a very long running campaign, probably because it's so successful and so much fun.
Sarah Ireland: It is, I did it last year and I wore my dress for all of October. It was not easy but it was very fun.
Brigit: Love it. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Sarah. Today has been a really interesting conversation with probably an area that many of us don't know enough about and it's so good to hear about the positive work that you're doing with girls' education and women's education as well. So keep doing what you're doing and really appreciate you sharing your stories and wisdoms today, thank you.
Sarah Ireland: Thank you, Brigit, and once again, thank you so much for your support as well, individually and from on behalf of Biddy Tarot. It really does mean a lot to us, thank you.
Brigit: Awesome, our pleasure. Cool, and that's a wrap. Thank you for joining me for today's episode of the Intuitive Entrepreneur podcast. If you love this episode, please leave an honest rating and review on iTunes. It really helps to get the word out and, of course, I read every single comment. If you want weekly inspiration to help you trust your intuition, align with your purpose, and create huge business success, then head on over to brigit.me and sign up for my free weekly emails. That's B-R-I-G-I-T.me. See you there.
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