Social Good

One Girl's Positive Influence

Positive Influence - August 2015

Since One Girl started in 2011, their fundraising campaigns like 'Do It In A Dress' and 'Run #LikeAGirl' have helped more than 4,500 women and girls access education; providing 200 education scholarships, a school for nearly 300 students and training to enable more than 3,400 women to set up their own business

Chantelle Baxter was just nine when she embarked on her first business venture, selling colourful hand-made friendship bracelets plaited with purloined wool to her schoolmates for ten cents a pop. But the budding enterprise was short-lived; profiteering was frowned-on by her school – and Chantelle had to turn her earnings over to charity.

Twenty years on, Chantelle has come full-circle, renouncing her own profitable business for the social enterprise 'One Girl' - a not-for-profit she set up to support the education of girls in Africa. Unsurprisingly, entrepreneurial skills are part of the package, with One Girl venturing into business training for girls and women in the communities it supports. Her goal is remarkable -“By 2020, we want to help educate one million girls in Africa," she says.

“I left school believing that the only way I'd ever be happy was if I made a lot of money"

After enrolling in a degree in multimedia design at RMIT, Chantelle left to join a digital agency - a stint which was also short-lived.“I wanted to make money immediately!" She went on to set up her own web design company where she successfully built up a clientele which included ANZ Bank.

 

Chantelle Baxter
Chantelle Baxter

The money flowed, Chantelle invested in property and spent the rest having a good time – but money wasn't making her any happier. “My life felt really empty and really shallow." It was in 2008 when, wanting to do something with meaning, she signed on as a volunteer for an aid project to help build a primary school in Sierra Leone in West Africa, one of the world's poorest nations.

Sierra Leone is one of the worst places on earth to be born a girl. Chantelle discovered that girls there are more likely to be raped than attend high school, and 44% are married before their 18th birthday. “I was so naïve!" she admits. For the next month, she labored in 35 degree heat, living in a remote community with no running water or power. She returned to Australia sobered by her experience there.

“Education is the pathway out of poverty," Chantelle says. “We believe – when you educate a girl, she'll change the world."

Determined to do more to help, she travelled to Africa in 2010 with friend David Dixon and met a 14-year old girl named Brenda who lived with her grandmother in Uganda. “She came up to us to beg for $40 to help to pay for her school fees. Her grandma was struggling to buy food and they could not afford school, but Brenda was desperate to go."

Chantelle and David decided to support Brenda through her first year of school. That was the beginning of the One Girl story. The next few years were a blur as the pair set up their non-profit organisation, sinking their own money into the organisation and linking with partners in Sierra Leone and Uganda.

Fundraising initially for education scholarships, they soon realised that there were barriers other than money preventing girls getting an education. Girls in many developing countries miss up to a week of school every month due to menstruation, because they don't have the resources to manage them. They are limited to fabric scraps and bark which often cause infections.

So One Girl set up a new program called Launchpad, selling biodegradable sanitary pads through a network of trained local women. The program brings business skills and employment to the community - and pads to girls.

Since One Girl started in 2011, their fundraising campaigns like 'Do It In A Dress' and 'Run #LikeAGirl' have helped more than 4,500 women and girls access education; providing 200 education scholarships, a school for nearly 300 students and training to enable more than 3,400 women to set up their own business.

“Education is the pathway out of poverty," Chantelle says. “We believe – when you educate a girl, she'll change the world."

Chantelle's booklet
Chantelle's booklet with inspiring words

Contributing Writer: Fran Molloy

Photographs courtesy of Brendan Fitzpatrick