The following is a conversation between Dayle Haddon, the Founder and CEO of WomenOne, and Denver Frederick, Host of The Business of Giving on AM 970 The Answer in NYC.
Denver: When your first act was that of a supermodel, gracing the covers of over 100 magazines, and being the only person to have ever had contracts with the four major beauty companies: Max Factor, Revlon, L’Oreal, and Estee Lauder, it’s a little hard to imagine that your second act could be as successful. But for my next guest, it has been… and, may I dare say, more meaningful as well. She was recently the recipient of the Philanthropy Award by the UN Women for Peace Association and was nominated as one of the Top 50 Philanthropists by Town & Country Magazine. She is Dayle Haddon, the founder and CEO of WomenOne. Good evening, Dayle, and welcome to The Business of Giving!
Dayle: Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here, Denver.
Denver: Tell us about WomenOne and the mission and goals of the organization.
Dayle: WomenOne is a non-profit that I founded when I saw that there was an opportunity to make a difference for girls. I had been with a larger organization, and I just felt that girls education was a game changer. At WomenOne, that’s what we do. We find girls most at risk, and we get them into school and get them educated so that they have their place, their chance, their voice in the world.
Denver: Let me pick up on what you just said there. There is no shortage of challenges out there, Dayle, and you could have picked any one of them. But you just said, educating girls was a game changer. Why do you believe this is the one that can have the greatest impact?
Dayle: Being privileged to have been a UNICEF Ambassador for so many years, I had wonderful opportunities — fascinating opportunities to travel the globe, especially Africa, but also South America — to really witness the works that they do. And what they do is really important. And it is very hard to pick, whether it’s clean water or food or vaccinations, or a myriad of other things. But I felt that education– the studies that I did– education changed the other ones. It had the biggest impact. And educating a girl– The UN says that when you educate a girl, it’s like educating seven people because her impact on her family and the community is so huge. As a matter of fact, Muhammad Yunus said that he focuses on women because he says in his book, Banker to the Poor, that when he gives to a poor man, the first thing he does is spend it on himself.
Dayle: But he finds that when women have their first earnings, first it’s spent on her children, then her home, and then the community.
Denver: I think that women plow back 90% of what they earn into the family, while men only do about 40%.
Dayle: It’s interesting, isn’t it? I think it’s that nurturing quality as well. But a new thing that I just found out from the book, Drawdown. It’s extraordinary about the environment that educating a girl has a number six positive impact on the environment. When a girl is educated, she positively affects the environment.
Denver: What does it mean when a girl gets educated? What does it mean to her children… or the number of children she has… or when she gets married? What are some of the ramifications of getting a girl an education?
Dayle: An educated girl usually will have less children, and they will be healthier. She is the first teacher in a way, so her children will probably be educated. That’s just some of the positive effects. Her choices will be better. There are less occurrences of HIV-AIDS, when a girl is educated. Less occurrences of violence when a girl is educated. As a matter of fact, when I was in Turkey, I was in a room that was educating women over 60– the first time that they were learning to read. And one woman came in late and was so excited, and we were saying, “What happened? What happened?” She said, “Because I can read now, it’s the first time I could get myself to the hospital by myself because I could read the signs on the bus.” You don’t really think about that.
Denver: Yeah. But it is very, very sweet and very important. As you said, you were a UNICEF Ambassador. You did that for about 12 years, and you traveled the globe, and you really got involved. You were not staying in the cushy hotels, but you were out there getting your hands dirty right on the front lines. Where along that journey, Dayle, were you moved to start up a nonprofit and to launch what was to become WomenOne?
Dayle: Well, I thought about it a lot, but I wanted to get a lot of experience under my belt. I couldn’t pick a better organization than UNICEF to learn and to be in that UNICEF family. Some of them are saints on the ground that are working there. But it was in a trip in Angola, and I was in a rural clinic with a group of people. And women had walked all night with babies strapped to their backs to get medical attention because it was the only place for medical attention for miles around. And one of the doctors pulled me aside and said, “Wow! Could you help us?” and I went, “Yeah, sure!” And he said, “We are missing two microscopes. So if you could just help us get those two microscopes.” I said, “Yeah, yeah, no problem!” So I went up to the organization, I said “Could you give them two microscopes so they can do their job better?” And they looked at me and they went, “Dayle, that is way too small for us.” So at that point, I just thought: Oh my gosh, it’s not too small for those women that walked all night! So there is room for a smaller organization to work alongside the larger organization that is dealing with bigger problems… and to work together.
Denver: Very smart.
Dayle: And that’s when the idea of WomenOne was born.
Denver: There you go. Well, quality education and gender equality. Now, those are two of the United Nations 17 sustainable goals. How is the world doing in seeing that girls are getting a quality education and are being provided the same educational opportunities as boys?
Dayle: The numbers differ a little bit, but it’s about 65 million girls out of school globally still. So it’s still a problem, as is quality education. Basically, the tendency — traditionally in many of the homes, especially in the developing countries — the finances that they have will go to a boy, not to a girl. And a girl that turns age 12 or 13 is where we approach the girl and we try to keep that girl in school. For every year that we can keep her in school, her earning power will go up. The GDP will go up for the country… Generally, a girl that age will be either brought back into the family to work; she will be married off, or she will be sold off. We try to stop that as best we can, or we support and work with the community to help them realize why the community will benefit and how it will benefit if they keep their girls in school.
Denver: We’re doing pretty well, I guess, across the globe with primary education, but as you suggest, when they get to the secondary education, that’s where the fall off really occurs.
Dayle: The government, a lot of times, pays for primary but not secondary. So that comes out of the family pocket, and that is the challenge. So you need organizations like WomenOne that are around. And there are a few of us, quite a few of us, that really supplement that. It’s coming from the private sector to help support that because sometimes you think: Why am I going to help a girl so far away? I live in America or whatever. But actually the world is getting smaller and smaller, and it is extremely important. It is essential, as a matter of fact, that we create pockets of sanity, pockets of calm all over the globe because eventually we will be affected by that lack if it doesn’t happen.
Denver: Yeah, you are so right. It was really striking to see how many of these girls, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, get pregnant or give birth between the ages of 15 to 19. And then to compound that situation, the school often stigmatizes them and doesn’t let them go back to school. Correct?
Dayle: There are some countries now that are putting out a mandate, a law, saying if you’re pregnant, you can’t go to school. And sometimes a girl is pregnant not by her own volition.
Denver: Oh, I’m sure.
Dayle: But also some of the girls we worked with in our school in Kenya, we had to add, with the help of counselors, sex education as one of the things because they don’t understand the procedure. They’re fed a lot of information which I won’t go into detail, but that is not truthful. So we help them understand what happens, so that they don’t get pregnant and have to drop out of school.
Denver: You just mentioned that there are about 65 million girls around the globe who are currently out of school. That is an incredible amount of untapped potential. Tell us about your work and what you’re doing to help address this problem.
Dayle: WomenOne at first, it was one woman, and I was the woman. The idea was to help women one by one. It was a smaller organization that was very hands-on, working with communities on the ground. The first project that I had was– I was going with a Canadian company called “We”. It was called “Free the Children”. They’ve changed it to “We”. They are extraordinary. It’s two brothers from Canada. I went to help build the first all-girl high school in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. And while I was helping build that school, literally brick by brick… I was there for a month… And I found out that the tuitions weren’t all were paid for. So I asked if I could take that on. If WomenOne could take that on. That was our first project.
And I came back to the States, and people are very generous when you tell the stories. And so these girls would have been circumcised; they would have had an arranged marriage; and they would have probably had a life of poverty. And I stayed with them throughout the four years of high school. And now they are lawyers and doctors. It was very very exciting. But we’ve worked with the Syrian refugees in Jordan and Turkey. I’ve traveled all over Turkey. We’ve supported girls in Turkey as well. Some of the programs are already in place. We built a school in Haiti and in Senegal. Our central program is in Kenya.
Denver: As a matter of fact, you’re going back to Kenya next month, I understand. I know that Center of Worth project there is very, very close to your heart. Tell us about it and why it is so special to you.
Dayle: We had a partnership with Mastercard Foundation, and that was very exciting. They incubated us. We did a study on Comparison of Countries. The studies that we came up with, the government actually asked to borrow some of our papers because we found that there was an overlooked segment, which was young mothers. We were mentioning before, they are not allowed to go to school, or they don’t have the means for childcare so they have to drop out. That’s just a life of poverty. That circle will not be broken if they can’t get back into school.
We decided that Kenya was the place where we wanted to focus on with that incubation that we had with Mastercard. After interviewing a couple of hundred people, a partner on the ground… this is the second time I go back, and we’ve been funding kids from the street. So they lived and worked on the street. Many of them are abandoned. And some of the stories are extraordinary. I sat holding a girl’s hand, with tears running down my face, tears running down their face. But they are doing really, really well. They are in school. They are doing extraordinarily well.
What does beauty mean? What is being beautiful? If you’re beautiful at 20, can you be beautiful at 50 or 60? I’ve written a couple of books on it. Beauty should be with us. If one is beautiful all one’s life… It’s just defined differently with each age. We have to be open to hearing the secrets of each age.
Denver: That’s extraordinarily rewarding. You come from the beauty and fashion industry. And boy, women buy a lot of stuff from those industries. Do you feel that they are doing what they should be doing to give back, to help benefit women? Or do you think they have a ways to go?
Dayle: I’ve been in this industry for a really long time. I call myself a dinosaur in the beauty industry. Having worked with so many of the big companies, I’ve had a lot of time to think: What does beauty mean? What is being beautiful? If you’re beautiful at 20, can you be beautiful at 50 or 60? I’ve written a couple of books on it. Beauty should be with us. If one is beautiful all one’s life… It’s just defined differently with each age. We have to be open to hearing the secrets of each age. What is beautiful about being a 40-year-old or a 50-year-old?
Because otherwise, we are just stuck with a wrinkle-free beauty at 20. I do feel, especially with the work that I’m doing, that generosity is a very important aspect of beauty and being beautiful. If you are not a generous person in many, many ways… Kind to people. Giving. Thoughtful. How can you be beautiful even if you have adorable little eyes and a little button nose? How can you be truly beautiful if it doesn’t come from within?
The industry can do more. It can do more. It is open, and they are trying to find creative ways. It is not their business, but I think with the millennials and the young people, they are asking more of each company. It’s like saying, This is great. And it is similar to another company. So, which company is doing more for the world and for people? I think that’s the question that is going to be asked more and more now. How is that company giving back? So I think there’s still more that they can do. They are incredibly powerful. They have the ear of women. They are capitalizing on women. So why not give back with each project in innovative ways? It’s trying to find innovative ways, not just dollar for dollar, but also get the consumer involved in the story and understanding of what’s happening, of what they’re doing when they buy something.
Denver: Sounds like good business to me.
Dayle: I hope so. I think so.
The industry can do more… I think with the millennials and the young people, they are asking more of each company. It’s like saying, This is great. And it is similar to another company. So, which company is doing more for the world and for people? They are incredibly powerful. They have the ear of women. They are capitalizing on women. So why not give back with each project in innovative ways?
Denver: I think it is. I kind of glibly said in the opening, “Oh, so she started a non-profit organization…” It is really worth taking a moment to appreciate what that means. These are not easy undertakings, especially when you’re serving girls in all different parts of the world. What was the most difficult part for you getting WomenOne started… and then successfully launched?
Dayle: It’s a really interesting question. I think always we have creative impulses inside, but we have to see it to reflect it back to us to understand it. I think building the website was like a mirror for me of who I am. I would build the website, and I’d get a lot of voices going. Ooh! That’s not hip. And that’s not popping. And that’s not happening. And I go, Yeah, but it’s me. This is who I am. So it’s reflected… I would find out who I was through the reflection of the visuals until I got it humming.
As you go into the nonprofit business, there is so much to learn. I mean, you start so naive. If I knew what I know today. I don’t know. Maybe I wouldn’t have started it! I’m so glad I did because it is one of the most thrilling and satisfying and exciting things I’ve ever done in my life.
I can see that all the things I did before actually prepared me for it. I come from an aesthetic world — the highest aesthetics. Even though we’re dealing with developing countries, I wanted it to be aesthetic and happy and joyful and about hope. I’m not about selling, so to speak, “sadness and pain”. Education is about hope. Education is about giving the opportunity and the place for somebody that wants it so badly and will do something with it. And that’s where we all benefit.
Yes, there are challenges. And yes, it’s hard to raise money. And yes, you get a lot of no’s. And I always think: “No” sometimes mean “maybe”. They just don’t know yet. But they will. They don’t know me. But I think it’s being creative, thinking out of the box. It’s being thick-skinned in a way… But also when you’re fighting for somebody else… it’s easier to fight for somebody else than yourself. I’m not asking it for myself. I’m asking it for these girls. The trips are really important for me because I come back so full. I come back so full of their stories.
What is so moving… and it moves me to tears is that I stand there, and they have nothing. They have no roof. They have no chairs. They have mud and dung walls. They have no colorful things on the walls. They have nothing that would inspire them, but they want an education so badly. I look at them and I say, “I want you to know that you are not by yourself. I am going back to the United States and to Europe, and I’m going to speak to people about you… and tell them how badly you want this education. And they’re going to think about it. And they’re going to think about you.” I have moved them to tears. They cannot believe somebody so far away will think about them and want them to do well. It inspires them.
Denver: It’s got to be one of the first winds at their back that they’ve ever felt.
Dayle: Yeah. Exactly. I sat with them, and I said, “What would you like?” And I was thinking they would like a toy or this or that. One voice said, “I would like to have — his classroom was under a tree — I would like to have a roof, a real classroom.” I said to him, “Just think how smart the tree is.” The other kids said, “I would like more food.” And that was really hard because they have– They’re subsisting and trying to study on one meal a day, so we try and do some of that too. We can feed them as well as educate them.
Denver: What you said a moment ago struck me… what you’d done previously being in the fashion industry and the beauty industry has helped inform the way you approach WomenOne. Tell us how it’s been helpful in terms of launching this organization.
Dayle: There’s something about vibration. Just being in aesthetics all the time… You know, you vibrate to aesthetics… When you’re around flowers or nature, it’s a vibration that calms your whole system. High creativity people are creating at their highest level something from them. The vibration is very high. To be always in that might not be as interesting, and being always in the dirt and the mud might not always be interesting. But the balance of the two — when I’m in the mud and the dirt… and I was lost in the Congo climbing a cliff via penlight, in rebel territory — it’s not that I always do that. The aesthetic part of it stays with me, and it vibrates to those girls and children that I’m meeting as well. The balance of the two, the breadth of my experiences are very rich for me.
Denver: That’s great. Tell us about your funding model. Who have been some of your key supporters and partners? And where do you generate your revenues to support this work?
Dayle: We’re working on that all the time. It comes from very generous personal donors. We have been very lucky. I reached out to Mastercard, and they loved what we did so much that they did something they hadn’t done before. They supported us for two years… Doing what I had mentioned before so that we could study and compare countries and decide how to go in there the best way. We’ve got funding from LBMH to build our school in Senegal. My gosh, foundations… family foundations. Sometimes out of the blue…. A book was sent to me by a travel company, and every year they give back. And we were one of the ones; they call it “The Giving Tree.” And we we were one of the ones who had no idea how they even heard of us. Even in your program now, some person is sitting out there will think of us, WomenOne, and contact us or go on the website. So it’s individuals…
Denver: Apple has been a supporter too.
Dayle: Yes, they have a “Benevity Program.” Hopefully, I’m going to speak to the employees at Cupertino and get them excited about working with us.
Denver: I’m sure you will. You’ve also had a number of interesting partnerships with people like Duke University and the International Rescue Committee. What have you done together with them?
Dayle: Thank you for asking me about that because that was really, really very exciting. I had been with the Turkish Philanthropy Funds. I had made a tour around Turkey. This was early on in the Syrian crisis. There were at that time, maybe 5,000 Syrians that had been killed. I said I would tour all around Turkey, but I did want to meet with the Syrian refugees. When I sat down with them with an interpreter, the women would have their hands crossed. They were very defiant. They thought that the war would be over shortly. And they said that they weren’t going to learn Turkish.
By the time we finished, we were in each other’s arms and crying and I went, Oh my gosh, now I have to do something for them. So we went back to Duke University. We created a partnership. We supported four Fellows in the field. We had two fellows in Turkey, two in Jordan, in Zaatari Camp, which is the second largest refugee camp. It’s about up to 95,000 refugees in that camp. It’s pretty extraordinary. So we created a program, and part of the program was media and leadership. We gave the girls cameras. We asked the girls to film and photograph what they couldn’t speak about. The end result is stunning. They’ve won many international awards, including at Sundance.
Denver: Fantastic. Leaders in the nonprofit sector, Dayle, are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of work culture… and how you need to fully engage and inspire and motivate the people who work there. You’re a pretty small organization, but how would you describe the corporate culture of WomenOne? And what are some of the things that you’re doing to make it a special place in which to work?
Dayle: I like for people to be hands-on. I like for people to feel motivated in what it is they’re doing, no matter what it is… whether we’re adding up finances or expenses…. But it is all important to getting those girls an education. We work a lot with interns. I take time to share with them what I’ve learned in this field– that you can’t take things personally. You have to go after what you want. You have to keep your eye focused on what you want. I liken it to the sport of fishing. I tell them how fishing is a really good metaphor for business — and that will maybe be for another interview, I don’t know — but things like that and they love it because they don’t have work experience.
And I’ve worked with some of the biggest organizations and companies in the world and lectured internally for them. A lot of them are afraid of risk and daring. I was asked to speak about risk and daring. They are afraid to dare. They are afraid to risk. I feel it is important that people feel that what they are doing, no matter what they are doing in the company, is making a difference. There has to be a bit of a hierarchy. But if they show initiative, they are right up there. If you show me initiative, if you show you can do it, you’re going to get responsibility right away.
I like them to travel. I like them to go and see for themselves. Once you see and go there– which we’re planning more and more that people come and see it in person. Then you have that experience, and you come back here, and you’re so energized to make a difference.
Denver: That’s great because I think a lot of leaders in the nonprofit sector think they have the mission, and everybody is connected to the mission. But unless you’re out there seeing the work, you really are not that connected to the mission. You really have to visually see it and have hands on to really be connected.
Let me close with this. You have impacted the lives of so many girls. I know it’s hard for you to pick one story. But is there one that really captures the essence of your work and that has really moved you?
Dayle: There are so many stories that have moved me. I’ve held the hands and hugged people and had them cry in my arms and held a baby’s hand as she was dying of HIV-AIDS and comforted the mother. There is a story that really strikes me. One of our girls in Kenya who is a Maasai– Maasai are known to be very powerful warriors– She was 12 and going to be married off to a 65-year-old man by her family, and she wanted an education. She said, “I would rather die than do this.” So she ran away from home and put herself in a tree — she told me this whole story while I was holding her hand and she was crying –She put herself in a tree to be killed by an animal in the middle of the night. She went through the night, and she was still alive. And at that point she said, Okay. I am still alive. I have a purpose. And I’m going to fulfill that purpose. She is one of our top students.
Denver: Oh Wow! What a story that is! Well, Dayle Haddon, the Founder and CEO of WomenOne. Thank you so much for being here this evening. Tell us about your website, the information that listeners will find there, and how they can help support this work if they should be interested.
Dayle: I’d love them to come on the website. It’s www.womenone.org. You can see what we’re doing. Read about us. There is a donate button if you wish, and every bit helps. It’s also liking us on social media, and all of that is extremely important because getting the message out, and also getting the numbers out. On my Instagram — Dayle Haddon — a lot of large organizations, media organizations, look to see… how many followers you have… So it does help when you follow. If your listeners can log on and follow on WomenOne and on Dayle Haddon, that would be great too because that helps us negotiate. If they want to donate, we would love it.
If they want to travel with us, we would be interested in that too. And get the message out. If they will just get the message out about the importance of educating girls, the work we’re doing at WomenOne. And support any of the organizations that are doing good. As long as you do your part, even if it’s a little part, just do your part. We’re infinitely, potentially compassionate people. We are one with this planet. We can make a difference. Your difference doesn’t have to be going off to Africa. It can be just in your own community.
Denver: Well, I’m following, Dayle. Thank you so much for being here. It was a real pleasure to have you on the show.
Dayle: Thank you so much, and thank you to all your listeners.
The Business of Giving can be heard every Sunday evening between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Eastern on AM 970 The Answer in New York and on iHeartRadio. You can follow us @bizofgive on Twitter, @bizofgive on Instagram and at http://www.facebook.com/BusinessOfGiving