Turning great ideas into healthier communities

Denise Dunning, PhD, MPA

Director, Let Girls Lead, Champions For Change, and the Youth Champions Initiative

Dr. Denise Raquel Dunning is a passionate advocate for women and girls. She is the founder and executive director of Let Girls Lead, Champions For Change, and the Youth Champions Initiative, based at the Public Health Institute.  

 Let Girls Lead has contributed to improved health, education, livelihoods, and rights of more than 3 million girls by investing in girls and their allies through advocacy, education, economic empowerment, and storytelling. Champions For Change saves the lives of mothers, children and newborns in Nigeria by building a movement of Champions advocating for improved reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health. The Youth Champions Initiative advances quality and innovation in the sexual and reproductive health and rights field by investing in youth champions.

 Dr. Dunning teaches courses on Women’s Health & Empowerment for the University of California San Francisco and is also the executive producer of PODER, a short film highlighting the power of investing in girls. Dr. Dunning previously worked for the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Population Council. She also served as a Fulbright Scholar in Honduras, working with the United Nations Development Program on hurricane relief.

Dr. Dunning has a PhD in Sociology from the University of California Berkeley and a Master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Duke University. Dr. Dunning is on the Board of EngenderHealth, and is a native Spanish speaker who also speaks French, German, and Portuguese.

2016 Commission on the Status of Women Delegation

To bring a Let Girls Lead delegation of three girls and young women to New York to participate in 2016 Commission on the Status of Women. 

Addressing Gender-Based Violence in Guatemala and Honduras

Let Girls Lead (LGL) will invest in local leaders and organizations working to address the cultural and social factors that contribute to adolescent girls' high rates of gender-based violence which lead to early pregnancy, school dropout, maternal mortality, and pervasive poverty in Guatemala and Honduras.  LGL will provide technical assistance, monitoring, and grantmaking support to the three organizations.

AGALI Core Operating Support

This grant provides core operating support for the Adolescent Girl’s Advocacy and Leadership Initiative.

Girls Voices Initiative

The Girls’ Voices Initiative amplifies the voices and power of girls to influence the post-2015 development agenda, engaging 135 girl leaders in strategic advocacy with key national decision makers to support the Girl Declaration. Through  advocacy, high-level convenings and strategic communications campaigns led by girl leaders and supported by Let Girls Lead and UNICEF, the initiative will ensure that girls’ priorities and potential influence the agenda in Guatemala, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Uganda and at global and regional levels.

Let Girls Lead 2015-2016

Let Girls Lead will expand its work to improve girls’ lives and livelihoods in Malawi, Ethiopia, Liberia, Uganda, Honduras, and Guatemala.  Through intensive leadership development, grant-making, technical assistance, network support, and institutional strengthening, the LGL approach invests in local leadership to scale up promising grassroots initiatives that have the potential to achieve national-level impact.

Let Girls Lead Organizational Effectiveness

The objectives of this Organizational Effectiveness grant are to solidify and strengthen Let Girls Lead's organizational and programmatic infrastructure in support of sustained impact and growth – in terms of geography, program delivery/diversity, staff, and revenue streams.

Let Girls Lead Young Leader Delegation

Contribution to support the Let Girls Lead Young Leader Delegation at the 2015 UN General Assembly.

Let Girls Lead: Empowering Girls in Guatemala and Honduras

 1. Invest in the vision and strengthen the capacity of 18 Let Girls Lead (LGL) Fellows in Honduras through advocacy capacity building, leadership development, and organizational strengthening. LGL Fellows will increase girls’ access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education, information, and services and develop innovative strategies to address the critical SRH challenges experienced by marginalized adolescent girls;

2. Provide seed grants and technical assistance to fund and lay the foundation for LGL Fellows’ innovative strategies to improve girls’ SRH and rights in Honduras; and

3. Strengthen momentum to end child marriage and early unions in Guatemala by supporting country-based advocacy for the “Iniciativa de la Niña,” including through grants, technical assistance and alumni convenings.

Nollywood Champions Initiative

Champions for Change will improve Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights(SRHR) outcomes in Nigeria by providing participating Nollywood Champions with the advocacy skills and support needed to build a national movement to ensure the sexual and reproductive health of youth.

Planning for Gates Malawi Child Marriage Program

Public Health Institute will participate in key team meetings with GENET and ICRW in Malawi and submit to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation a first draft of the revised proposal for the Empowering Girls to End Child Marriage in Southern Malawi: A Solution and Evaluation to Stop Child Marriage Now project.

Rise Up: Empowering Girls in Central America

Improve marginalized adolescent girls' health, education, and equity through strategic advocacy for girl-friendly laws, policies, funding, and programs and empower girls in Central America to strengthen their leadership and advocacy through girl-led advocacy initiatives.

Rise Up: Improving Girls’ Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Rise Up will continue its work to improve adolescent girls' sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in Central America.

United Nations General Assembly

Let Girls Lead will organize a delegation of girl leaders at the United Nations General Assembly 2015 to share their stories and messages on a global stage. LGL will host girls from Guatemala, Malawi, and Uganda.

WHPA Health Improvement Card

Let Girls Lead will create a youth-friendly WHPA (World Health Professions Alliance) Health Improvement Card.  Using youth-friendly language, visuals, and layout, the card will provide organizations working with young people an important tool to engage and educate youth globally to ask questions and make meaningful and healthy choices.

Youth Advocacy Initiative in Kenya

Let Girls Lead will launch the Youth Advocacy Initiative (YAI) in Kenya.  The goal of YAI is to improve young people’s health and welfare in Kenya by empowering visionary Kenyan civil society advocates and strong local organization by combating the impacts of non-communicable diseases.

Youth Champions Initiative Phase II: Ethiopia 2015 Youth Leadership Bootcamp & Seed Funding

LGL will organize and conduct a Young Champions Initiative Bootcamp--Ethiopia to further develop a cohort of young Ethiopian leaders advancing innovative strategies to improve youth access to quality family planning, comprehensive sexuality education, and abortion services. PHI will strengthen the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) capacity of seven visionary young people previously selected by the Packard Foundation, and support them as they launch innovative initiatives designed to increase access to quality SRH services and information.

Financial Literacy Summit Panel Discussion: Bridging the Gender Gap (2017)

How does equal access to financial education tools and resources change by region? Which demographic is most at risk for not having equal access to...

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Guide to Girl-Centered Advocacy (2014)

We are proud to share the Guide to Girl-Centered Advocacy, from PHI's Let Girls Lead—a full capacity-building curriculum that engage...

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PHI50 Videos (2014)

In honor of our 50th anniversary in 2014, PHI created a series of videos that looked back at what public health has accomplished in the last half c...

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Economic Empowerment Strategies for Adolescent Girls (2013)

This report by PHI's Let Girls Lead provides a needed policy analysis of economic empowerment programs for adolescent girls in the Gl...

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Let Girls Lead 2013 Annual Report (2013)

The 2013 annual report highlights the ways in which the advocacy work done through Let Girls Lead is transforming the lives of adolescent girls in ...

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Let Girls Lead External Evaluation (2013)

Commissioned by the United Nations Foundation, this independent evaluation demonstrates that Let Girls Lead’s AGALI program has contributed t...

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Capacity Building & Training

With diverse public health programs spanning the globe, PHI understands how strong leadership and organizational management can enhance the success...

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Coalition & Network Building

Building strong coalitions and networks is essential to solving today’s pressing public health issues. The Public Health Institute (PHI) can ...

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Health Equity & Social Justice

Our health and wellbeing are directly impacted by our community environments. Unfortunately, not all environments are designed to promote and suppo...

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Leadership Development

Today's public health challenges are complex, rapidly evolving, and call for a new approach to leadership development—one that advances h...

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Outreach & Dissemination

The Public Health Institute is dedicated to lifting up public health best practices, while actively cultivating an engaged community of public heal...

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