Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is Speak Up a religious organization?

Speak Up is not a religious organization. We serve, hire and partner with people of all different backgrounds to achieve our goals of empowering girls in poverty. Our current staff team in Bangladesh is made up of Hindus, Muslims and Christians, all working together to serve the poor.

What are Speak Up’s areas of focus?

Speak Up exists to create a new reality for girls in poverty.  Our goal is to transform the way the world thinks about poor girls and ensure these girls have the opportunity to live up to their potential. Currently, Speak Up’s work is concentrated in Bangladesh, one of the poorest and most crowded countries on earth. Bangladesh also has the second highest rate of child marriage in the world.

We currently serve girls in poverty in three inter-connected ways:

Education – We run a Girls Education Program (GEP), which helps girls in poverty stay in school and avoid child marriage. We believe that educating and empowering girls in poverty is the best investment we can make in the fight against injustice and poverty. We started the GEP in 2012 with 21 girls in 5 villages. Today we have almost 1,000 girls from 26 villages in rural Bangladesh in the program with hundreds more on the waiting list. In January 2014, we opened a dorm in Khulna, Bangladesh for college students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to pursue the next phase of their education.

Homes – We fund the Alingon Home in Khulna, Bangladesh, which currently houses 24 girls who were removed from local brothels.  These girls are not sex workers; their mothers are. Without intervention, they would likely be forced into child prostitution.

Justice – We investigate cases of rape and abuse of minor girls; partner with police and local authorities to investigate and prosecute illegal child marriages; and partner with local officials to investigate and prosecute other crimes and abuse of girls in poverty.

Besides providing financial support, how does Speak Up encourage families to keep their daughters in school?

We work closely with the parents and guardians of each girl in our Girls Education Program (GEP) to ensure that they support their daughter’s education and goals. We encourage this familial support in a number of ways, including involving parents in a monthly meeting in each village, and providing a series of training seminars and meetings with local officials to ensure both that parents’ voices are being heard and that they understand the importance of supporting and encouraging their daughters.

We clearly outline the benefits to a family of having their daughter finish school and get a job rather than being married as a child, and we also make sure that parents know the law in Bangladesh: that child marriage is illegal and carries significant legal punishment, that school attendance is obligatory, and that the police and local authorities will work with parents to ensure their daughters are safe, free from harassment and child marriage pressures, and equipped with all the resources they need to succeed.

How are you measuring your success?

Our work currently is based in Bangladesh, where two-thirds of all girls are married before the age of 18. In the 26 villages where we work, the number is historically closer to 90%, and virtually no women ever finish even a 12th grade education in these villages.

  • In contrast, over five years our Girls Education Program (GEP) has had a 95% retention rate every year, meaning that only a very small percentage of our GEP girls are dropping out of school to get married.
  • While it is difficult to calculate a change in marriage rate among a sample of 1,200 girls from a broad age-spectrum, ages 10 to 21, we have been able to significantly reduce if not eliminate child marriage in most of the villages where we work.  At least 400 out of 1,200 girls in our GEP would highly likely be married if not for involvement in our Program.
  • 51 of 54 the girls in our program (94%) passed their 10th grade exams. Prior to the GEP, at most 20% of the girls in these villages would finish the 10th grade.
  • Five girls in the GEP are now in nursing school, with at least four more set to start nursing school in December. These girls will all be the first women from their villages to ever be nurses.
  • We have 33 girls from the GEP living in the city to attend different colleges or universities. Again, these girls are the first women from their villages to pursue a higher education.
How much time do Speak Up’s American board and staff members spend in Bangladesh?

Troy Anderson, our International Director, spends approximately half the year in Bangladesh and is actively involved with all aspects of the Girls Education Program and our work with Alingon Home. Our other three board members, who serve on a volunteer basis, have all visited Bangladesh at their own expense and participated directly in the work.

Who is on Speak Up’s Board of Directors?
  • Troy Anderson, Founder and International Director
  • Debbie Maddocks, owner of Green Rhino Consulting and Speak Up CFO
  • Dr. Brad Bursch, pediatrician
  • Paula Kendrick, owner of Claims Management Plus

> Read more about our board members.

What was your total budget for 2015 and what percentage went to administration?

Our budget for 2015 was $320,500. Because our US operations are entirely staffed by volunteers, our administrative costs have historically been modest, less than 5% over the last thee years.

> View Form 990’s showing our financial records for the last four years.

Are my contributions to Speak Up tax deductible?

Speak Up is incorporated in the State of California, and is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.  All contributions are tax-deductible to the maximum extent allowable by law.

When was Speak Up established?

Speak Up was incorporated in the State of California in 2004 and officially began operations in 2008.

Does Speak Up partner with other NGO’s in Bangladesh?

We partner with Bangladeshi NGO Dhruba to run our Girls Education Program. As a local NGO with a presence in the villages, Dhruba has provided the on-the-ground network and connections we need to run our GEP, including providing staff and tutors.  Speak Up also partners with Bangladeshi NGO, Light Bangladesh in the operation of the Alingon Home.

Do you need volunteer help in Bangladesh?

Yes, we love to have people interested in our work come and volunteer and learn more about the issues we are working on in Bangladesh. We particularly could use people who would be able to teach English or basic computer skills to girls in our Girls Education Program (GEP). Our greatest need would be those who are willing to spend a significant amount of time in country.  We consider applications on an individual basis, and are interested in working with people of all ages and backgrounds. If you are interested, please send an email to contact@speakupforthepoor.org.

Do you need volunteer help in the U.S.?

Yes, we could use your energetic support of our work here in the USA! If you are in the Los Angeles area, we have opportunities to volunteer with events and in our office. Please send an email to contact@speakupforthepoor.org for more information.

What if I have more questions?

You can speak with our CFO, Debbie Maddocks, by calling our office at 626-396-6913 or by emailing dmaddocks@speakupforthepoor.org.