Turning great ideas into healthier communities


Rise Up

Rise Up activates women & girls to transform their lives, families & communities for a more just & equitable world through investment in local solutions, strengthening leadership & building movements. Since 2009, over 600 leaders have successfully advocated for 120 new & improved laws & policies impacting 135 million people around the globe.

Program Director(s)

Denise Raquel Dunning

Program Site



Collective Impact Partnership

The Collective Impact Partnership (CIP) leverages the powerful work of Rise Up, How Women Lead, the Public Health Institute, Global Fund for Women, and World Pulse to increase the economic power of women and girls in India. With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CIP’s innovative approach builds women leaders’ advocacy, individual leadership, and digital capacities to advance economic empowerment and justice for women and girls in Maharashtra, India.

Gender Equity Initiative

Rise Up is building a global movement of visionary social entrepreneurs dedicated to advancing gender equity. Rise Up invests in women and girl leaders in Nigeria, Mexico, India, South Africa, Kenya, Brazil, and the US to strengthen their organizations, lead change in their communities, and advance national-level impact through improved laws, programs, and funding for women and girls. Rise Up provides the training, funding, and resources leaders needed to achieve large scale change.

Let Girls Lead

Let Girls Lead is building a global movement of Champions who empower girls to attend school, stay healthy, escape poverty, and overcome violence, impacting the livelihoods of more than 40 million girls across the globe, through the passage and implementation of laws, policies and programs that guarantee girls’ rights. Rise Up’s award-winning Girl-Centered Guide to Advocacy curriculum engages girls and their allies in strategic advocacy and enables our partners to build a better life for girls everywhere. We also developed a Girls’ Voices Curriculum in partnership with Girl Up, for adolescent girls to make changes in their own communities.

Youth Champions Initiative

Rise Up’s Youth Champions Initiative (YCI) invests in powerful young leaders ages 18-29 who are leading the sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice movement in Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Rwanda, and the United States. Our externally validated model enables young leaders to create large-scale change through leadership development, technology, innovation, and advocacy.

Here's How We're Making a Difference

A Multi-Pronged Approach to Improving the Lives of Women, Girls and Youth

Rise Up activates women and girls to transform their lives, families and communities through investment in local solutions, strengthening leadership, and building movements. Here's how we made a difference around the world in 2017:

  • Rise Up advocated for 16 laws, policies and budgets benefitting and women. Rise Up grantees are advancing large-scale change, including a huge policy win in Guatemala, and new steps to implement Liberia's Girls' Manifesto in support of the National Children's Law.
  • Rise Up provided $574,500 in seed funding directly to organizations in 10 different countries to advance the rights of women and girls. 
  • 72 youth and adult leaders learned how to launch advocacy campaigns and gone on to train upwards of 1,777 more advocates, a multiplying investment that is powering a movement.
  • Rise Up supported 16 leaders to share their powerful work at the UN General Assembly and other global convenings, amplifying their voices with policymakers and funders. 


Advocating for the Rights of Women and Girls by Working to Outlaw Child Marriage in Guatemala

Rise Up Leaders in GuatemalaAfter leading a campaign in 2015 to increase the legal age of marriage in Guatemala to 18, advocates with PHI’s Rise Up successfully pushed for the closure of a loophole in the law in 2017, ensuring that no minor may legally be married for any reason. Rise Up began funding several Guatemalan partners to advocate for a law to end child marriage, collaborating with a coalition of civil society partners to push the Guatemalan Congress to pass a national law banning underage marriage. That law contained a loophole, however, stating that minors could still be married with permission from a judge—meaning girls could still to be forced into early marriages against their will.

Rise Up leaders continued fighting for girls' rights by advocating for an amendment to the law, and in August 2017, the Guatemalan Congress repealed the child marriage loophole. Now, no Guatemalan minor may legally be married for any reason, no exceptions.

Developing the Next Generation of Global Champions for Women and Girls

When Rise Up met Rosana in 2010, she was a visionary leader and the founder of a safe home that gave 25 girls a secure place to live, and a chance to go to school. Through participating in Rise Up's programming, Rosana learned about advocacy strategies, and the transformative power of partnerships, direct dialogue, and how young people can advocate for their own needs.

With the launch and success of a children's rights advocacy campaign supported by Rise Up, Rosana went from protecting 25 girls in her safe home to securing the rights of 2 million children in Liberia with the passage of the National Children's Law, which guarantees children the right to education, healthcare, and protection from violence.

In 2017, Rosana was elected to the House of Representatives in Liberia, becoming the first woman to represent her district. Rosana has fought tirelessly for implementation of the law she championed, and her influence and legacy continues. Rosana's impact is exponential.

Rise Up champions like Rosana are advocating for girls and women in some of the most challenging environments around the world. They fight every day for girls to finish school, for young people to access reproductive health services, for women to overcome gender-based violence, and for girls' and women's basic human rights.

Enabling Global Youth to Create Large-Scale Change Through Leadership Development, Technology, Innovation, and Advocacy

Youth Champions Initiative (YCI), a program of PHI's Rise Up, builds powerful young leaders who are leading the sexual and reproductive health and rights movement across the globe.

In 2014, Youth Champions participated in the 50th Anniversary Incubator in Los Altos, California, USA. This intensive workshop integrated hands on capacity building in the areas of sexual and reproductive health and rights, leadership, innovation, and project development. The Incubator provided the Youth Champions with the opportunity to strengthen their skills and leadership capacity, learn from internationally recognized SRHR experts, develop their own SRHR projects, and share their vision for SRHR with the Packard Foundation staff. YCI also provides on-going technical assistance to enable the Youth Champions and their organizations to most effectively implement their innovative SRHR projects.

YCI made a difference in Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, and the US South. Monitoring and evaluation demonstrated that the Youth Champions significantly strengthened their leadership, and that their innovative projects improved SRHR in their communities:

  • Leveraging WhatsApp in India to deliver youth-friendly mobile instant messaging on SRH

  • Developing an animated television series in Ethiopia about girl super heroines fighting for girls’ health and rights

  • Creating comic books in Pakistan to deliver healthy menstrual hygiene information to girls and their families

  • Teaching youth in the United States to use art, dance, and spoken word poetry to advocate for comprehensive sexuality education

Investing in Young Leaders to Champion the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Movement

The Youth Champions Initiative, part of PHI's RiseUp, invests in powerful young leaders in Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and the United States who are leading the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) movement.

In Pakistan, one 2016 seed grantee, Ali Raza Rizvi, is using short films and street theatre in the remote areas of Karachi and Interior Sindh to prompt new community discussions about the importance of SRHR.

Raza Rizvi’s Ehsas Films is also creating new live and online platforms to discuss SRHR after each screening, performance, and posting.

Ongoing monitoring and evaluation demonstrates that the Youth Champions have significantly strengthened their leadership, and that their innovative projects are already improving SRHR in their communities

Lifting Up the Power of Girls in Kenya

PHI's Rise Up has impacted the lives of more than 7 million youth and women, through leadership efforts around the globe.

In Kenya, 54 girl leaders from PHI's Rise Up are implementing campaigns to end the harmful traditional practice of female genital mutilation and reduce girls' dropout rates from school in the marginalized Maasai community. In 2018 they helped increase the budget for girls' education and scholarships in Kenya's Kajiado County, with the potential to impact all 140,000 adolescents in the county.

Passing Landmark Legislation in Nigeria to Improve the Health of Women and Children

Thanks in part to PHI’s Champions for Change, under-served families in Nigeria now have access to free, comprehensive healthcare services, helping to reduce the high rates of maternal and infant mortality. The program's country representative played an instrumental role in advocating for the law’s passage, leading targeted efforts towards religious stakeholders and developing messages for collective advocacy efforts. All proved successful in December 2015 when the President signed the National Health Bill into law, helping to keep millions of Nigerian women and children healthier.

Preventing Violence Across The Globe With Policy Change

Working with local girl- and youth-rights advocates, Rise Up has influenced 124 laws and policies—including raising the age of marriage and increasing access to eduation and rights for girls—impacting more than 115 million individuals in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the United States. 

PHI's Let Girls Lead has championed the passage of the national Children’s Law in Liberia, supported the ratification of a national treatment protocol for sexual violence survivors in Guatemala, and created a national advocacy network that helped to pass legislation outlawing child marriage in Malawi and Guatemala.

Protecting the Rights of Girls and Youth

Photo credit: Let Girls LeadPHI’s Let Girls Lead provides technical assistance and training in policy advocacy, as well as seed funding, to African and Latin American champions for girls’ rights and health.

Let Girls Lead alumni have  become  powerful policy advocates and contributed to important victories, including passage of the national Children’s Law in Liberia, ratification of a national treatment protocol for sexual violence survivors in Guatemala and creation of a national advocacy network to eliminate child marriage in Malawi and Guatemala. It’s estimated that the work of Let Girls Lead has touched 7 million girls around the globe.  


Rise Up Founder and Executive Director Named Top Family Planning Leader

In 2016, PHI's Denise Dunning was named in the 120 Under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health.

Dr. Dunning is the founder and executive director of PHI’s Rise Up program, which benefits 115 million girls, youth, and women globally, and reaches across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the United States. This award recognizes Dunning’s exemplary leadership to advance family planning and reproductive health. Learn more about the award.

Supporting Local Leaders in the Fight for Transgender Rights

Two women in conversation over legal documentsIn San Luis Potosí, Mexico, transgender women are not legally documented as women, and therefore unable to enroll in higher education or to vote. To address this issue, in May of 2019, Rise Up Leader Andrés Costilla Castro and Amigos Potosinos, a program organized and funded by Rise Up, successfully advocated for the rights of trans people to include their preferred gender identity and change their name in official government documents across the state of San Luis Potosí. This change to the Civil Registry Law removed one of the main obstacles identified by trans people to accessing health, education, and economic opportunities and enables them to have official government documentation confirming their preferred name and gender identity. Furthermore, Amigos Potosinos's efforts have helped to curb the daily stigma and aggression that occurs when there is a misalignment between a trans person's lived identity and their assigned legal identification.