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 also run smaller programs in Cambodia and Lebanon, serving girls in poverty who are at-risk of dropping out of school or getting married early, and helping them to get a higher education. We are also exploring opportunities s to expand our work to Nepal, India and other locations.
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 more than 1350 girls from 30 villages in rural Bangladesh in the program with hundreds more on the waiting list. In 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. Today, 65 young women from the 8th grade through university live in our ever-expanding dorm.
Homes – We fund the Alingon Home in Khulna, Bangladesh, which currently houses 22 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 biggest program is currently in Bangladesh, where two-thirds of all girls are married before the age of 18. In the 30 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 eight years our Girls Education Program (GEP) has had nearly 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 more than 1350 girls from a broad age-spectrum, ages 10 to 21, we have been able to significantly reduce child marriage in most of the villages where we work. At least 400 out of 1,350 girls in our GEP would highly likely be married if not for involvement in our Program.
- We also measure our progress by the number of young women in our GEP who finish high-school and move on to pursue a higher education. Today, we have more than 90 young women living in Khulna city or other cities around Dhaka pursuing college studies, a number which includes 13 in nursing school. These young women all come from villages where previously virtually no women ever went to college.
How much time do Speak Up’s American board and staff members spend in Bangladesh?
Troy Anderson, our International Director, spends approximately two-thirds of the year in Bangladesh and is actively involved with all aspects of the Girls Education Program and our work with Alingon Home. Our other four board members, who serve on a volunteer basis, have all visited Bangladesh and actively participate in raising financial and other support for our programs.
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
Kathy Christie, website designer
What was your total budget for 2018 and what percentage went to administration?
In 2018, we raised just over $420,000 to support our work. In 2019 we anticipate raising over $500,000, enabling us to expand our work in several countries and support a growing budget as the girls in our GEP get older. Until 2019, our US operations were entirely staffed by volunteers, and our administrative costs were very modest, less than 5%. As our work in Bangladesh and around the world has continued to grow, we hired our first paid US staff in 2019, and so our administrative costs have increased somewhat this year.
How do I know my donation is being used wisely?
Speak Up for the Poor works hard to keep administrative costs low so that your donation has as high an impact on the lives of the girls we serve as possible. Click here to view our financial records.
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?
Speak Up partners with Bangladeshi NGO, Light Bangladesh in the operation of the Alingon Home.
Speak Up also partners with PROSES Bangladesh to operate our Girls Education Program.
We also cooperate closely with several other local organizations to ensure that there is coordination and no overlap between our services in surrounding villages.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com.