Who We Are
We are students who know that the world under-invests in girls. We believe this is a very fixable problem we want to change.
Members of Circle of Women come from all different backgrounds and are scattered across the country - from New York to California and beyond. We may be diverse in our perspectives and experiences, but our passion for women's education and the global change that it can bring connect and unite us.
How it All Began:
Circle of Women is a unique non-profit, run entirely by full-time students. Its founding story provides a wonderful reflection on how one daring, innovative idea blossomed into the successful organization that Circle is today. Clotilde Dedecker – founding member and current Board Co-Chair – illuminates this journey:
“In the fall of 2005, Cristina Ros, Britt Caputo, and I had a conversation about the experiences in high school that impacted us most. The two common themes were our educational and voluntary experiences. In response to September 11th I had been involved in organizing students at all-girls schools to fundraise on behalf of school construction for girls in Afghanistan. Britt and Cristina were immediately intrigued, and together we resolved to bring this spirit of student organizing to a new level at Harvard. Together we developed a business plan, created our first project proposal, and began pitching to fellow student volunteers. The dialogue that ensued inspired so much momentum that we resolved to apply for 501(c)3 status, recruiting more volunteers and forging ahead to further develop an organization that now spans multiple campuses and countries. The foundation of Circle has been exchange, dialogue and learning through practice. It began that way and continues as a global community celebrating cultural bridges, education, and youth empowerment.”
After those first seeds were planted, the rest was history:
- In 2006, Circle commits to building a two-story school in Afghanistan with a local partner. By this point the circle has expanded from three to fifteen.
- In 2007, the first sponsorship event raises 20% of the project costs. Afghan contractors break ground on the site and The Harvard Crimson writes Circle’s first piece of press. One Crimson photographer is so inspired that she joins the team. Welcome, Emily!
- A dedicated group of Buffalo high school students soon start fundraising and hosting awareness events. A satellite “circumference” program launches – this program will go on to encompass a full network of high schools across the country, and the numbers are still growing.
- In 2009, Circle builds a security wall around the Afghan school and classes begin. Project Wardak – as it has come to be known – is truly in full swing. Today the school provides 700 women with a secondary education that would have been otherwise out of their reach. By now the circle has expanded to 40.
- Princeton students suggest funding Circle’s schools through a sustainable water purification system. Circle college chapters expand nationally and the 360 process of application is born. To date, Circle has twelve college chapters and is beginning to expand to include groups of professional women in areas like San Francisco, Boston, and New York.
- In 2010, Circle begins its second project – Project Keiri Reki – to refurbish a secondary school in Pakistan. New York high school students contribute funds and develop a pen pal program with students at the Pakistani school.
- In 2011, Circle’s Georgetown team builds a dormitory to provide housing near an otherwise out-of-reach school in India. This undertaking transforms into Project Rhema. Circle is currently preparing to send a number of computers down to the school to encourage key digital literacy skills among the students.
- In October 2012, Circle breaks ground on Project APU expand a secondary school in Malawi to accommodate more students. The school currently serves around 450 girls a year.
- In May 2015, Circle opens the doors to Project Daraja in Kenya. To account for a mandatory gap year between secondary education and college which leaves many girls vulnerable to early marriages and entry into the labor force, Circle builds an extra dormitory to accommodate girls who use the year to continue learning safely. Volunteers from the Westminster chapter to visit in 2016!
- In a whirlwind summer project in 2015, Circle aids a school in Tanzania — Project Orkeeswa — in building additional classrooms to support their dedicated and ambitious girls!
- In 2015, Circle gains Project Indore in India. With a generous grant of $31,000 from partner Blackboard, Circle sets in motion the construction of a dormitory, classroom, and computer room for rural Indian women to continue their education increase drastically low female literacy rates. Construction will finish in 2017.
Today, Circle of Women has grown to encompass over one hundred volunteers whose efforts span the entire country. We have raised around $600,000 to date for our projects, and continue to look for new funds and new partnerships to best serve girls around the globe. We are currently drafting projects in locations such as Ghana and Kenya and assessing the impact of our previous work. Our organization remains dedicated to a 360-degree model of empowering women on both sides of the globe through education. Not only do we make an impact abroad, but we equip our girls at home with self-reliance, professional skills, and increased capacities to both enhance their own lives and to contribute productively to their societies. We believe this is the best way to effect positive, global change.
So come join us – the circle always has room for one more.