How to Balance Human Rights Advocacy with Student Life: Girls Learn International Founder Jordana Confino Talks to

Jul 08, 2011

Most middle schoolers are so wrapped up in personal crises, they don't even think about worrying about other kids. But Jordana Confino was different - she and her mother founded a nonprofit organization, Girls Learn International (GLI), before young Jordana even had a driver's license. In this interview,'s Education Insider talks to Ms. Confino about GLI's mission and how to balance schoolwork with philanthropy.

By Sarah Wright

jordana confino

During a time of personal upheaval that causes most kids to come off as pretty self-centered, Jordana Confino was worrying about how girls in other nations might get the same kind of education she received in the U.S. She founded Girls Learn International with her mother, which has since grown into a strong organization with multiple chapters in schools across the nation. Jordana has also grown and changed, and is currently a student at Yale University. We asked this extraordinary young woman about her charitable work, and what it's like to be a full-time student with a focus on helping others. Can you please tell our readers about Girls Learn International's work and mission?

Jordana Confino: The mission of Girls Learn International, Inc.® (GLI) is to give American students a voice in the efforts for universal girls' education and human rights. GLI currently has Chapters in around 60 American middle and high schools, as well as in two foreign schools, with plans to launch at least 22 new Chapters in the fall of 2011.

Each of these Chapters (which function as extracurricular or community service clubs) is provided with the GLI Program, which guides the students through exercises designed to familiarize them with human rights in general, women's and girls' rights as human rights, the role of education in bolstering the rights of women and girls, and human rights violations that are affecting women and girls around the world. Each Chapter is partnered with a foreign school located in a community in which girls have unequal access to education as compared to boys, and are often subjected to a range of human rights abuses.

The American students use the knowledge they have gained through the GLI Program to become advocates for universal girls' education and human rights. In addition, they raise money for their partner schools and engage in a meaningful cross-cultural project with the students in their partner schools. You and your mom had the idea to start the organization when you were in middle school. Do you think more kids that age should be made aware of the issues that their peers face across the globe?

JC: Absolutely. These issues are being confronted by girls who are the same age (or younger) than American middle school students. Who better to speak out for the rights of girls than other girls? I was shocked by how many of my friends were completely unaware of the human rights abuses affecting girls their age around the world. My mother, sister and I realized that kids need to be aware of these issues, the roots of these issues and ways to address these issues in order to become effective advocates for their global peers. Additionally, it is crucial to help kids realize that they DO have the power to make a difference in combating these issues and that it is not only possible, but also imperative, that they get involved. How has being introduced to these issues at a relatively young age changed things for you, both as a person and as a student?

JC: Becoming aware of these issues has changed me greatly both as a person and as a student. It has made me even more sensitive to incidents of discrimination and abuse in American culture, and determined to combat these incidents, particularly as they impact women and girls.

My work with GLI has inspired me to study psychology and law, with the goal of ultimately becoming a legal advocate for the rights of women and girls. My understanding of the obstacles so many girls face with respect to access to education has also made me very appreciative of the opportunities that I have. Additionally, my advocacy work to date has taught me the importance of speaking out against injustice and has made me a far more confident public speaker than I might have been. You're a college student now. How do you balance your school work and social life with your involvement with a charitable organization?

JC: The most important thing is to be organized. I schedule my activities and obligations in an old fashioned date book, and really try to plan out my week. I try to get my school work done in advance, rather than procrastinating, so that I will be sure to have time for my non-profit work and social life. Do you apply what you've learned in school to your work for GLI? Do you do the inverse, and apply your experience with GLI to your work in school?

JC: I have found that some of my academic work is very relevant to my work with GLI, particularly things that I have learned in my social psychology, education and human rights law classes. Additionally, my work with GLI has provided me with real life insight into the subjects addressed in some of my class work, including how being the victim of human rights abuse can result in post-traumatic stress (relevant to psychology classes), how to design a human rights lesson plan for children with disabilities (relevant to special education classes) and how the domestic and international legal system may - or may not - be an effective tool for addressing human rights abuses (relevant to human rights law classes). What are your plans after graduation, and what are you doing now to prepare for it?

JC: I plan to attend law school so that I may obtain a law degree and become a legal advocate for the human rights of women and girls. I am currently preparing by working as a research assistant to a law professor and studying for the LSATs. How can our readers get involved with Girls Learn International?

JC: Log onto and learn more about the organization. You can follow the links from the website to start a Chapter, or email Do you have any advice for current students who are interested in making a difference in the world?

JC: Go for it! You are never too young to make a difference. Plan carefully, make sure you have a clear message and let your voice be heard.

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