Not-for-profit organization International Women’s Academy (IWA), which is headquartered in Jersey, Channel Islands, focuses on forming sustainable connections between female students around the world, regardless of social status, to improve access to education. The organization currently has about 20 clubs worldwide, in locations such as the US, China and Kenya. The founders, Dr Peter Le Masurier and Matthew Simmons, believe that by nurturing these relationships, girls can help not only themselves but others too. Jenna Jung, IB Diploma Programme student at Yew Chung International School, Shanghai, explains how the academy and this form of service learning has helped kick start her career.
I first came across the IWA in 2013. I was looking for something to help with my own personal development. From my first encounter with the organization, I knew I had found somewhere refreshingly different. I was inspired by how students around the world were creating opportunities for their peers in underprivileged areas.
Girls from all backgrounds can develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills, and improve their access to education. One aspect that stood out for me was that no matter how poor or remote an IWA club is, every girl is expected to share the responsibility to help others, whether at a local level or beyond.
I started a club at my own school with nine other students and immediately linked up with a group in Ghana (CIWA). My club began thinking of innovative fundraising projects, trying to focus on events that allow students to expand their own skills. For example, we hosted a talent show, which improved our understanding of event management. We successfully raised almost USD$1,000, which CIWA used to furnish their new computer lab. Everybody was incredibly motivated because we were connecting with real people who needed our help.
Then, last year, we ran a business competition. We asked groups of four or five students from years 7-9 to devise a business idea. Each received less than $20 for their start up and had to produce a business worksheet detailing profits and losses. Through a variety of business ideas, we collectively raised USD$4,000 for the Ghanaian school, while giving classmates an idea of what running a business is like.
Because of the success of our club’s activities, I was offered the Student Creative Director role at IWA in 2014. The position has been exceptionally important to me – it’s enabled me to consider what the clubs need to thrive and highlighted what skills I require for the future. I’ve also encouraged others to showcase their own special talents, surprising others and sometimes even themselves.
As Student Creative Director, I was given the amazing opportunity to promote IWA at the Association of State Girls’ Schools conference in London. This is a large annual conference for principals from girls’ schools to discuss pertinent issues. As I was the only student at the meeting, I was initially nervous, but with mentoring and coaching provided by IWA, I was able to successfully deliver the speech and received positive feedback from numerous teachers. Following the meeting, two new clubs were launched in the UK.
I’ve found that the IWA’s philosophy is consistent with that of the IB. The IWA encourages members to be inquirers by looking at different methods to solve problems. It also challenges members to be open-minded – by talking with the group in Ghana, we have discovered how those in another part of the world live, understood the issues they face and widened our global perspective.
IWA has changed me, and I have grown in so many ways. I think differently when solving problems and consider how the solution can benefit others, not just myself. I’m proud of my achievements. When faced with the scale of human tragedy on our planet, it’s sometimes difficult to know how you can make a difference, but I believe IWA has pointed me in the right direction.
Anyone interested in establishing a club or becoming involved should contact the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.iwa-education.com