Tammy Tibbetts is my new hero. For one thing, while we’ve gotten tons of amazing submissions for women to profile in this series, she was the first one to step up and say, “me.” Profile me, I am awesome. I’m paraphrasing, she was much more modest about it – what she did say, though, was that “you have to be your own best publicist.” And it is exactly this kind of bold initiative that led her to create She’s the First, a non-profit that is dedicated to putting girls in third world countries through school.
Why girls? Why not children in general? The fact is, 70% of the youth out of school across the globe are girls, which is a staggering gap. And aside from general statistics which show that women put 90% of their income into their household, as opposed to men who only put 30-40% in on average, it’s not just the education itself that has a positive impact on girls. Education means being in school, which also means not having babies at the age of 15, and since the leading mortality rate among girls age 15-19 worldwide is childbirth, this makes a big difference.
I knew that the basic concept of helping girls in third world countries get an education was good, but all of the above facts came from the She’s the First website. Tammy has used her experience with social media and journalism to make the most of the Internet when it comes to sustaining and expanding her organization. They launched in 2009, borne from the initial idea of Donate My Dress, a directory of organizations that collected and distributed prom dresses to girls in need. Two years later, Tammy is transitioning to running She’s the First full time, a necessity since the number of girls supported jumped from 36 in 2010 to 150 in 2011!
“She’s the First is an organization that’s really designed for the future,” says Tammy of the organization’s Internet savvy existence. While back in the day we might have had pen pals in foreign countries who we wrote to with pen and paper, She’s the First is connecting girls in America with those in third world countries through the internet and social media. The immediate nature of these interactions creates a much stronger bond as well as a stronger platform for exchanging ideas and possibilities. “We can use technology to create a more journalistic information exchange,” Tammy points out, and she would know. Her degree is in journalism and while she ended up on a different path, it landed her where she is now and she wouldn’t change a thing.
When she started working on Donate My Dress, she was the editor of a prom website, spending her free time volunteering as the director of a foundation working to support children’s education in Liberia. Yes, you heard me: director. She was 23. Donate My Dress alerted her to the absence of a directory for school programs in the developing world, and I would just like to take a moment and point out that instead of patting herself on the back for her already wonderful accomplishments helping others, she instead looked around to see what more could be done. After posting an article about Liberia’s women and marriage on her Facebook, Tammy ended up in an email exchange with Christen Brandt, with whom she eventually met up with in person to lay the foundations of She’s the First.
Social media is also almost wholly responsible for raising not only awareness, but funds as well. There is a network of college students across the country who not only support She’s the First, but for example, raised over $21,000 via localized cupcake bakes last year. Tammy’s thoughts?: “Put your friends together, leverage your network to all contribute.” This is becoming a running theme in WWTDG – the idea of taking your personal resources, grabbing your friends, and changing the world. The beautiful thing is, in this age of Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter, Gchat and Tumblr, this is quite realistic. All one needs to do is get the word out, and if your cause is inspiring, people will want to be a part of it.
Which reminds me: if you would like to learn more about She’s the First and Tammy Tibbett’s work, their website is HERE, their Twitter is HERE, their Facebook is HERE and Tammy is on Twitter HERE. You can make donations HERE.
Women Working to Do Good is a series that Hello Giggles and the White House have been collaborating on. We will bring you stories of women in communities across the United States who we think are stars in their own right. Whether they are young entrepreneurs, active community organizers, or making a difference in a single life or community, we think these women are amazing and want to share their stories with you! Each story will also be featured on the White House blog, and we are working together to bring more strong female role models to the forefront.
If there is a woman in your community who you think should be honored in this series, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!