Turning great ideas into healthier communities


Rise Up

PHI’s Rise Up activates women and girls to transform their lives, families, and communities through investment in local solutions, strengthening leadership, and building movements. Since 2009, Rise Up’s powerful network of over 500 leaders has directly benefited 7 million girls, youth, and women, advocating for over 100 laws and policies impacting 115 million people in Africa, Latin America, South Asia, and the US.

Rise Up unifies the power of PHI’s Let Girls Lead, Youth Champions Initiative, and Champions for Change to benefit 115 million girls, youth, and women globally. These initiatives all leverage our proven model for enabling visionary leaders and local organizations to lead large-scale change that improves the lives of girls and women. We advance exponential change by strengthening leadership, investing in local solutions, and building movements.

Program Director(s)

Denise Raquel Dunning

Program Site



2016 – 2018 ENGAGE (Enabling Girls to Advance Gender Equality)

Rise Up received $2.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create ENGAGE (Enabling Girls to Advance Gender Equality), an innovative approach to ending early marriage and enabling Malawian girls to finish school. We are honored that First Lady Michelle Obama selected ENGAGE to be part of the White House Let Girls Learn initiative.

2017 Rise Up Youth Champions Awarded Grant Funding to Advance Health & Rights

Rise Up is thrilled to award grant funding to visionary Youth Champions from Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, and the United States. These young leaders graduated from Rise Up’s Youth Champions Incubator in Silicon Valley, where they learned about leadership, technology, innovation and health. Rise Up’s grant funding will enable these inspiring young leaders to create game-changing initiatives to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people in their countries. 

Collective Impact Partnership: Increasing the Economic Power of Girls and Women in India

Rise Up, in partnership with the Global Fund for Women, How Women Lead, Public Health Institute, and World Pulse, is leading a three-year project, “Collective Impact Partners: Women’s and Girl’s Economic Empowerment Advocacy in India” to increase the economic power of girls and women in India, where currently only 29% of women formally participate in the workplace.

The Collective Impact Partnership (CIP) focuses on strengthening women leaders’ advocacy, individual leadership, and digital capacities by investing in women’s efforts to advance economic empowerment and justice for women and girls in Maharashtra, India. These activities and targeted strategies will be supported by a $2.1 million grant from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The project will work with a cohort of 20 India-based women leaders to advance their own initiatives and will award grants to eight organizations. The Collective’s advocacy and leadership development approach will enable women leaders to:


  • Advance public policies that enhance economic empowerment for women;
  • Improve the implementation of existing legislation to enhance economic justice and empowerment;
  • Increase resource allocation to support women’s economic empowerment programs; and
  • Create a safe, curated online space for Indian women and girls to connect and raise awareness among allies and influencers on economic justice and empowerment, campaigns, and policies.


As a group, the CIP members have ties to more than 1,000 partner organizations across India, on-going relationships with more than 3,000 individual leaders, and more than 100 years advocating for gender equality. For more information, click here to see the Rise Up one-pager.

Youth Champions Initiative

Rise Up is building a powerful global network of young sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice (SRHRJ) leaders who are improving access to quality family planning, comprehensive sexuality education, and abortion services. With the Packard Foundation’s support, Rise Up will enable a new cohort of visionary Youth Champions from Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Rwanda, and the U.S. South to advance innovation and quality in the field of SRHRJ globally.

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 has 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 have 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 has 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 five years ago. Rise Up leaders collaborated 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 up 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 is already creating important impacts in Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, and the US South. 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. Recent successes include:

  • 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.