Recently, the Girl Up team interviewed Denise Dunning, Director of the Adolescent Girls’ Advocacy and Leadership Initiative (AGALI), and Emily Teitsworth, AGALI Program Coordinator. They spoke the initiative, it’s programs, and about what American girls can do to help their counterparts in developing nations and what their favorite girl power song is at the moment! Here is the full text of the Q&A.

Girl Up is a campaign of the United Nations Foundation that “believes that American girls are a part of the solution. We know that girls give, girls talk and girls get involved. This generation of girls cares about global issues and is concerned about the challenges facing other girls around the world.”

Recently, the Girl Up team interviewed Denise Dunning, Director of the Adolescent Girls’ Advocacy and Leadership Initiative (AGALI), and Emily Teitsworth, AGALI Program Coordinator. They spoke about what American girls can do to help their counterparts in developing nations and what their favorite girl power song is at the moment!

Below is the full Q & A text!


Girl Up: What is AGALI?

Denise Dunning: AGALI (Adolescent Girls’ Advocacy Leadership Initiative) is a global movement of leaders who are working to improve adolescent girls’ lives. AGALI provides training, funding, and support to leaders in Africa and Latin America who advocate for laws, policies, and funding to improve girls’healtheducation, and livelihoods.


GU: Can you tell us a little bit about the programs you support?

Emily Teitsworth: We support a wide variety of advocacy and leadership programs, from grassroots efforts targeting village chiefs in Malawi, to a project led by indigenous girls in Guatemala that has been successful in developing and implementing public policies designed by the girls themselves. One of the youngest girls involved in that project started showing up to meetings at age 9 and refused to leave, even though no one below the age of 12 was officially allowed to participate. Now, she’s 15 and is recognized as a leader in her community in Guatemala. When she finishes high school, she plans on studying to become a lawyer so that she can fight for the rights of other girls like her.

DD: Recognizing that AGALI leaders have the greatest understanding of the challenges facing girls in their communities, AGALI supports a diverse range of initiatives developed by AGALI Fellows. These programs include efforts to improve girls’ ability to stay in school, ensure that girls have access to sexual and reproductive health services and information, and that girls are economically empowered.


GU: What do you hope to accomplish with AGALI in the future? What are your goals?

DD: My goal for the AGALI program is to continue to improve girls’ lives around the world by sustaining the tremendous work of the AGALI Fellows. I hope that in the future, we will also be able to expand AGALI to additional countries so that we can empower leaders to advocate for the policies, programs, and funding that girls need to live safe, fulfilled lives.


GU: What is the best part of your job?

ET: One of the absolute best parts of my job is getting to spend time with inspiring girl leaders. A few months ago, I interviewed a teenage girl who was the Deputy Speaker of Liberia’s national Children’s Parliament. She told me about how when she first joined the Children’s Parliament, she was nervous to speak out, especially in front of the boys. Now, she is a champion for other girls and has helped advocate for the passage of national laws and policies that protect girls’ rights!


GU: Wow! That sounds so inspiring. What role can American girls play in helping girls around the world?

ET: I think one of the most important things that American girls can do is to spend time learning about the real lives of girls in other countries. Many of them have faced obstacles that we can barely imagine and have come up with ingenious solutions to address the problems facing their communities. I’ve always found that when I take the time to really imagine myself in someone else’s shoes, it helps me to better understand their life and to learn from them.

DD: American girls can encourage their friends, families, and communities to support girls around the world in whatever way they can!


GU: What is your girl power song at the moment?

ET: Full disclosure: I’ve been a big country music fan ever since I was a young girl growing up in rural Oregon! One of my favorite girl power songs to sing along to in the car is “Bye Bye” by Jo Dee Messina.

DD: “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield


GU: What is your favorite inspirational quote?

ET: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time; but if you are here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

– Lilla Watson, Australian Aboriginal Elder

DD: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Marianne Williamson


GU: Who is your female role model?

ET: One woman who I have always admired is the author Arundhati Roy. She’s a brilliant writer and activist who speaks out on environmental and political issues both in her native India and around the world.

DD: That’s a tough question – I’ve admired so many women in my personal and professional life. One who stands out is my Girl Scout troop leader from high school – she is an amazing community leader who leads by her example. She is generous, compassionate, and committed to helping others and has transformed the lives of so many girls.


GU: If you had to choose only one: pizza or chocolate?

DD: Chocolate, for sure!! I think it’s about time someone invented chocolate pizza!

ET: I think it’s about time someone invented chocolate pizza!


GU: Yum, chocolate pizza! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today, Denise and Emily! Keep up the amazing work.

Written by Emily Teitsworth

Emily Teitsworth, Program Coordinator, Adolescent Girls Advocacy & Leadership Initiative (AGALI)