Life’s Broad Sea: Denise Dunning of Let Girls Lead

February 20, 2014

Change agent: Let Girls Lead's founder and executive director Denise Dunning, first row, second from right, leads teambuilding exercises for advocates in Guatemala. Courtesy of Denise Denning.

The theme of this year’s International Women's Day is "inspiring change." It's an approach that resonates with Denise Raquel Dunning '98, who has dedicated her career to improving the health and well-being of girls and empowering them to become advocates for change in their communities.

Dunning is founder and executive director of Let Girls Lead, an international movement dedicated to improving the education, health, and livelihoods of more than 3 million girls since 2009. (Dunning also teaches courses on women’s health at the University of California at San Francisco.) Let Girls Lead’s vision is that girls have the power to transform their own lives, families, communities, and the world. Working with hundreds of leaders and local organizations, Let Girls Lead has helped end child marriage in Malawi, reduce teen pregnancy and HIV infection in Guatemala and Honduras, and guarantee legal protection for girls through Liberia’s new Children’s Law. 

¡Poder! focuses on Let Girls Lead’s work in Guatemala. The short documentary tells the story of two indigenous Mayan girls living in rural Guatemala who successfully lobbied the mayor of their town to invest in girls’ health and education. Fittingly, ¡Poder! is scheduled to have its world premiere on International Women’s Day this March.