As a way to promote the incredible work our Host Organizations are doing and to spread the word of the substantial impact Atlas Corps Fellows has on their teams, we want to share the story of Girl Up and their experience with Atlas Corps Fellows Patrícia (Class 42, Brazil) and Asma (Class 42, Tunisia).

Host Organization: Girl Up

Girl Up is a United Nations Foundation initiative that empowers adolescent girls across the globe through leadership development programs.

Fellow Supervisor: Julie Willig

At Atlas Corps, we have a tradition of stating our “Five Facts” when introducing ourselves to new people. What are your five facts?

Name: Julie Willig

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Role at Organization: Senior Director, Global Operations

Social Issue/Interest Area: Gender Equality

Fun fact: I play on a few softball teams in D.C., including the alumni team with my alma mater Vanderbilt.

Why did you decide to host an Atlas Corps Fellow?

Because Girl Up is going through an exciting strategic evolution to a global affiliate network, it was an organizational priority to bring in team members to support both the launch of regional operations in Middle East & North Africa (MENA) and the critical growth of our global operations, with a particular emphasis on support for our pilot affiliates in Latin America.

Why did you choose Patrícia and Asma as your Atlas Corps Fellows?

Girl Up is lucky enough to have two amazing Fellows as a part of Class 42. Asma as our Regional Manager for Girl Up in MENA and Patrícia as our Global Operations Fellow!

For the Regional Manager role for Girl Up in MENA, we were looking for a Fellow with a blend of strong experiences in youth engagement, programmatic delivery, and gender issues, and also a demonstrated ability to build relationships across various stakeholders (i.e., engaging directly with our youth members or developing a collaboration with a UN or corporate partner). We knew Asma would be the perfect addition to our team because she has an engaging approach and magnetic energy and brings in the right experience, from prior engagement with the UN to experience launching a youth-focused initiative.

Girl Up also decided to tap into the Atlas Corps network to search for a candidate to help build our go-forward global operations strategy and bring the idea of our global affiliate network to reality. We were looking for a Fellow with experience in strategy development, an interest in operations, and who could help build our global business operations—someone who is thoughtful, analytical, detailed, and could provide a new perspective. With the launch of our first two affiliates in Mexico and Brazil, we also needed someone strong from the Latin America region. Girl Up found the perfect fit with Patrícia. She brings in those critical skills, and also a rich gender background, experience across the region, valuable language abilities, and an important perspective on inclusion. We are so lucky that she joined the team as our Global Operations Fellow. 

Asma, Julie, and Patrícia

How have they both contributed to your team? How has their presence had an impact on your team’s dynamic?

Asma has demonstrated professional growth in a number of areas, most notably in strategic planning and program design. She marries her vision with Girl Up’s strengths and needs by being  open to and integrating feedback from across the team as well as from youth leaders to inform her strategy. She also demonstrates her ability to work collaboratively and build consensus across the team. I have enjoyed seeing Asma’s professional growth in successfully executing her first Girl Up event, creating the concept for a new Youth Advisory Group, and speaking at an international conference.

Patrícia, having the immense challenge of figuring out an undefined role and how to add value in a new department without much structure, has embraced the ambiguity and has put pieces together to make sense of the chaos and hone a vision for her role. Her most impressive growth to date has been with her oversight and support of regional operations. She has positioned herself as a respected colleague and mentor, improved collaboration, and created important avenues for two-way feedback.

How will your Fellow’s contributions and insights impact your organization in the long run?

Both Fellows will have a profound and lasting impact on Girl Up’s global network. Asma has conducted a thorough landscape analysis and developed Girl Up’s first regional strategy for the MENA region, creating an instrumental foundation on which we will build our programming and grow our movement. Her insights on the unique culture considerations and opportunities in MENA, as well as her commitment to elevating Arab identities are helping to advance our organization in important ways. 

Patrícia’s contributions have shaped the future state of Girl Up, playing an irreplaceable role in the launch and implementation of a new operating model. Her efforts are helping Girl Up decentralize programming to the country-level while simultaneously strengthening regional operations; her insights are pushing Girl Up to better achieve our goals of elevating local leadership and integrating global perspectives into our organizational strategy. She’s building new systems, processes, and resources that will significantly impact Girl Up in the long-term.

What have they taught you? Have you learned anything special about their cultures?

Both Fellows have pushed me to think about our work, our infrastructure, and our core issues in a new way. They have shared their values with me and have offered a fresh and important perspective. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with both Patrícia and Asma!

Fellow: Patrícia (Class 42, Brazil)

At Atlas Corps, we have a tradition of stating our “Five Facts” when introducing ourselves to new people. What are your five facts?

Name: Patrícia Ayumi Imada

Hometown: São Paulo, Brazil

Role at Organization: Global Operations Fellow

Social Issue/Interest Area: Gender Equality

Fun fact: I’ve been using Duolingo app everyday for over 580+ days practicing my language skills

What is your role at your Host Organization?

As part of the Global Operations team, I directly support the drive and daily regional operations and management towards the organization’s global growth to an affiliate network, including supporting the first two pilot affiliate entities in Mexico and Brazil. My role is to support the regional teams and serve as main liaison between them and HQ teams, ensuring that communication flows and functions flawlessly. I do so by assisting in payroll and guidance to new hires, ensuring they are confident, and providing business development support to regional managers in India, MENA, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

How is your experience with your Host Organization impacting your perspective? 

Because Girl Up is centered in a fast-paced changing scenario I have the chance to not only observe but also be a part of the way Girl Up has been ‘defying’ the traditional development logic of the nonprofit world by encouraging cross-generational exchanges at all levels of decision-making; providing space, opportunities and resources to girls and youth from other marginalized groups; and lastly, believing in the impact of their change-making journeys on their communities.

Since Girl Up is an organization part of the UN Foundation, I am also glad to have the extra opportunities to participate in webinars and hear from speakers from different UN Foundation initiatives, UN agencies, and other international organizations.

How has your experience with your supervisor impacted your perspective? 

To start, I (like my peers) look up to Julie and her experiences because she is the staff member that has been the longest at Girl Up, and I have also learned a lot about the organization from what others talk about her and their experiences. Working with her has been a privilege—through her thoughtful and caring leadership, she has taught me a lot about guidance and truly a partnership in decision-making. I’ve been able to take ownership of more responsibilities because she also challenges me to expose myself more and consider different approaches with some thought-provoking insights. I feel that we established a good relationship, and I am certain that it will go beyond this Fellowship.

Patrícia with a team member

One thing I would like to highlight in my journey is that I have been learning a lot from Julie and other women leaders (some of whom are also on the maternity/parenthood journey) about cultivating emotional intelligence and care—for self and for others in the professional world. This is something that abruptly came to the surface for me in this pandemic, and that I want to take as an important value onwards because of the impact it has had on the way I re-signify my own journey.

How have you grown as a social change leader through the Fellowship? How will you build upon the skills and knowledge gained during your Fellowship once you return to your home country?

The Fellowship is an immersive opportunity to sharpen hard and soft skills and expand upon my knowledge in management, communication, business development, languages and cultural differences, and gender and youth approaches in international development. It has been a constant exercise of putting into practice what I have studied and acquired in past experiences (both personal and professional) while also experimenting with different perspectives and different approaches. 

This journey has challenged me in many ways and taught me to cherish where and what I am now. I’ve come to realize that my smaller tasks and achievements from my first internships were building the trail that I have gotten to now. I would even say that it helped me understand that I was probably on a path to burnout before joining the Fellowship, as well as identify the things I want to continue to cherish and cultivate intentionally towards my next steps.

What is your most important career advice for young, talented social change leaders across the globe?

In these past years, I’ve learned that leadership is a journey and that we should “walk the talk.”

Fellow: Asma (Class 42, Tunisia)

At Atlas Corps, we have a tradition of stating our “Five Facts” when introducing ourselves to new people. What are your five facts?

Name: Asma

Hometown: Sakiet, Kef

Role at Organization: MENA Regional Fellow

Social Issue/Interest Area: Youth Leadership Development

Fun fact: I have the 6th sense!

What is your role at your Host Organization?

As the MENA Regional Fellow, I develop Girl Up’s strategic approach to program delivery and engagement in the Middle East & North Africa region by building upon the existing grassroots network of Girl Up Clubs and youth leaders throughout the region.

How is your experience with your Host Organization impacting your perspective? 

Working in a women-led initiative that serves girls has made me realize the power of females and their ability to make a great impact in the world. I have learned how to be more of a multitasker in order to coordinate different tasks and projects. I also got the chance to learn about the UN Foundation and its different initiatives and teams, as well as the UN system and different UN entities through seminars.

How has your experience with your supervisor impacted your perspective? 

Having Julie as my supervisor has been a great growing experience because she is both inspiring and hardworking, and she strives to be the best she can be. She has taught me to believe more in my potential and ideas to inspire girls.

How have you grown as a social change leader through the Fellowship? How will you build upon the skills and knowledge gained during your Fellowship once you return to your home country?

The fellowship gave me the chance to continue to serve and learn more about my region through my role with Girl Up. I have been connecting with amazing girls in my region who aspire to be the leaders of tomorrow and serve as role models for generations to come and contribute to regional development. I have been learning about the different countries in the MENA region and especially about girls and what they need to build their skills. I had the chance to explore different initiatives and bring in new ideas and structures to have a greater positive impact.

What is your most important career advice for young, talented social change leaders across the globe?

Follow your dreams and what you love! Be proactive and create opportunities for yourself and others. Serve for a great purpose and consider what you do as a mission to positively impact people’s lives. Always do your best to keep learning and growing.

More about Atlas Corps

Atlas Corps partners with mission-driven organizations (nonprofit, private, and government) to facilitate a professional exchange program for the world’s best emerging social change leaders to live and serve in the United States for a 12-month Fellowship. The Atlas Corps network currently includes more than 1,200+ professionals from 112 countries who have served at 300 organizations.

Interested in becoming a Host Organization for an Atlas Corps Fellow? Fill out Host Interest Form.

Photos from Girl Up’s archive