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October 04, 2022 6 min read
MAIKA is partnering with She is the Universe to work towards a more just, empowered, and sustainable world–and we believe that together we are stronger than alone.
She is the Universe has a mission to support young girls around the globe to step into the truth that they are powerful beyond measure.
In support of International Girl’s Day (October 11), when you make a purchase on the MAIKA website on October 11-12, we ***MAIKA will donate a portion of the proceeds from sales on October 11th and 12th 2022 to SheistheUniverse.org***
She is the Universe founders Laura Peña and Sara Surani met MAIKA Founder Viola Sutanto on the stage at the World Domination Summit this summer, shared each other's stories, and instantly clicked. Together, they talked and dreamed about the future–especially for young girls like our daughters, nieces, and students. The current state of the world is worrisome, and yet, there is an impact that MAIKA and She is the Universe are making in different communities, and we are filled with glimpses of hope. Hope inspires us, motivates us, and demands us to dream of a better future for our girls.
She is the Universe creates programs, opportunities, and a community to show young teenage girls that they are not alone in their challenges, strengths, interests, insecurities, and dreams. They share their stories and bring together girls from 50+ countries worldwide to empower them through storytelling, community, and leadership training.
To learn more about their origins story, here's what Sara Surani has to say:
Why Girls and Why Now?
By Sara Surani, Co-founder, She is the Universe
When I was little, I didn’t feel brave enough to show people who I was. I was either too shy or too energetic. Too short or too clumsy. My hair was a different color and my English was accented. I was scared to speak up and nervous to fall down. My best friends were my Junie B. Jones books and a rock I painted blue with three googly eyes. Yet, under the covers of my Barbie blanket, I dreamed of what my future could be like.
At seven, I wanted to be a veterinarian-ballerina, at ten I wanted to be a doctor, at fifteen I wanted to work at the United Nations. In my dreams, the world felt like my playground. I was proud to be a girl. I didn’t know what was possible or impossible for me.
While I dreamed of these opportunities, I knew life for my cousins on the other side of the world in Pakistan was different. At seven years old, I didn’t understand what gender inequity meant, but I knew that it wasn’t fair that all over the world, women, and girls have to tread a little longer, run a little faster, and jump a little higher to be on the same playing field as men and boys. This lit a little fire within me, a fire that still burns strong.
According to the United Nations, in order to reach the global goals for sustainable development, wemustempower girls. It has been shown how 2.1 million children under the age of 5 were saved between 1990 and 2009 because of improvements in girls’ education. It is undeniable that when girls’ empowerment and gender equity are taken into consideration while designing programs and policies, girls are more likely to attend school, earn an income, bear children later, and have a higher quality of life. Empowering girls leads to healthier families and can break the cycles of poverty around the world. When girls are empowered, everyone benefits. Girls are our future.
And yet, 50 million 12-year-old girls live in poverty. 98 million girls from all over the world are not receiving an education. 12 million girls across the world are married under the age of 18 every year; some girls as young as 8 or 9. Only 30% of researchers are women. 15 out of 195 countries have female leaders. Only 6 countries give women equal legal rights as men.
This needs to change, and we cannot keep waiting.
It can be heartbreaking to read statistics about gender inequality. It can be even more frustrating to experience them. And as a girl, it is overwhelming to feel like you are alone in this fight.
Four years ago, Laura Peña, Dominican filmmaker and girls advocate, wanted to make sure girls know they are not alone. She had a dream, Laura wanted to tell the stories of girls to the world. She wanted to use the power of storytelling and the media, capture “everyday girls” stories, and show the world the powerful force for change they are. So she decided to pause her entire life, use all of her savings and do something about it. She went camera in hand to search for 111 girls from every continent, from every race and socioeconomic background, and asked them a few simple questions: “What are your dreams and how can we help you get there?” After talking with hundreds of girls from around the world, Laura started to have a better idea of what they needed. So what do most of them need? One word: Support. So, she started to wonder, what does this support look like? That is how She is the Universe–a global movement for girls' empowerment–was born.
Two years later, Laura and I met in a small coffee shop in Peru, and I fell in love with the vision. At the time, I was doing similar work–working with youth empowerment and education through storytelling and community-building in the Amazon jungles of Peru. I saw how teenage girls in some of the world's most remote and rural communities dreamed of becoming the same things I did when I was younger–a veterinarian, a doctor, a world-changer. I saw how even though talent is equally distributed, opportunities are not, and how many of these girls simply did not have the opportunities to make their dreams a reality. I also saw how they often did not have the community to support their dreams and how alone they felt navigating these tough feelings. Their stories stayed with me, making my heart crack wide open yet beat even stronger. The fire in me burned even brighter.
When the pandemic hit, I was relocated to the United States in the middle of the night, leaving everything behind: my apartment, my job, my belongings, and my community. I felt disoriented and lonely. I wondered how many teenage girls felt similarly, how many of them were craving community just like I was. During the pandemic, Laura and I reconnected and worked together to create monthly Girls Circles to make Girls feel less alone. This quickly expanded to Mastermind programs, a World Changers program, and a program to train other girls to be facilitators and change leaders in their community. Our small community grew and grew, reaching beyond 50 countries and girls and women from all over the world. More joined our team, and teenage girls started working together to design leadership programs, mentor one another, and empower one another. We had our first in-person leadership retreat in the Dominican Republic this past April, where we brought together girls from all over the country to encourage one another, learn about compassionate leadership, and live their dreams together. We hope to design leadership retreats in every country, so every girl feels more empowered and less alone in the pursuit of her dreams. Now, miraculously, the initiative that started to support teen girls is being led by teenage girls.
At She Is The Universe (now a 501c3 non-profit), we hold hands with other warriors in this fight for girls’ empowerment. We know the power of a girl and her voice: we recognize the confidence that comes from a girl telling her story and believe in the power that her story can create in the lives of other girls watching her.
We also believe in starting young. We want every girl to embrace her story. We aim to reach and empower them before others start writing their narratives for them. Before they are intimidated by glass ceilings and daunting statistics. Before they start believing in the wordimpossible.We celebrate falling, getting bruised, and standing back up. We work to inspire curiosity and befriend those curiosities. We encourage dreaming big and chasing those big crazy dreams. We support girls to truly believe they can create an impact and change the world. Because they are.
As Malala Yousafzai explains, “There are two powers in the world; one is the sword and the other is the pen. But there is a third power stronger than both, that of women.” Through stories of girls from all over the world, we hope to mobilize this third power: that of women--a community of girls from all over the world who are leaning on each other, supporting each other, and climbing the highest of mountainstogether.
Find out more about She is the Universe at
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