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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Graduate student’s nonprofit empowers young women in Ivory Coast

Backpack Girls Nation was founded in 2018. PHOTO COURTESY OF MALICKA BARRO

Malicka Barro, an incoming St. Joe’s graduate student in the Health Administration Program, started her nonprofit, Backpack Girls Nation, in 2018 to empower and promote education among Ivorian women and girls around the world.

Barro left Ivory Coast when she was only 13 years old, coming to the U.S. to further her education. She was inspired to start Backpack Girls Nation when she attended the backpack drive of a nonprofit called the Yes She Can Campaign that is run by one of her friends.

“They have an annual backpack drive every summer, and that really inspired me,” Barro said.  “We were able to partner up with them. Last year, we joined them and sorted out school supplies for [children of parents in the military] and created cards for them.” 

Inspired, Barro reached out to  her friend, Emma Kabran, who is also from Ivory Coast. 

“About two or three years ago, [Barro] texted me saying we need to do something for Ivorian girls– younger, Ivorian girls back home,” Kabran said. “Because not every family sends [these girls] to school.”

Kabran, who is now the event manager of Backpack Girls Nation, said the main goal of the organization is to “send supplies to Ivorian girls, and encourage them to go to school, or finance their education up until their graduation.”

“Some families can’t afford to send all of their children to school, so they just send the boys rather than the girls,” Barro said. “I wanted to create something for them, where I can fundraise money to sponsor some girls to go to school,  [and] empower a girl who might be thinking that she’s not worth it. No, [she’s] worth it. If I’m here—if I can do it—[she] can definitely do it.”

Education is a huge part of Barro’s identity, and she said she wants to highlight female entrepreneurship through Backpack Girls Nation. 

“We are trying to promote the importance of women having entrepreneurship, promote young female businesses back home, and encourage and have a platform to empower as many women as we can,” Barro said.

A backpack drive was scheduled  to take place this summer in Ivory Coast, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, plans have changed.

“We had a fundraiser for backpacks, books, pens, everything a kid needs to get through school,” Kabran said. “We were supposed to send it back home in July, but unfortunately the virus came through, and until everything gets better, we will be stuck here.” 

In the future, Barro said she hopes for Backpack Girls Nation to be a nonprofit that is known around the world. 

“I am looking for Backpack Girls to make an impact on the importance of women empowerment, the importance of girls getting an education, and inspire young girls [all over the world] to go after what they want,” Barro said. 


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