I founded Dream Equal with the mission of empowering all people to realize their full potential regardless of gender.
A girl doing a power pose during one of the first-ever dream equal empowerment programs.
My speech about my journey creating Dream Equal at the 2019 United Nations Foundation's Girl Up Leadership Summit. I start speaking at 1:18.
Dream Equal Logo
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Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?
Eligibility: Date of Birth
February 14, 2001
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Phone Number: (402) 484-1004
4830 Thomasbrook Lane
Lincoln, NE 68516
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Date You Started Your Project Started
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)
1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Although they seem harmless on the surface, studies have shown that the prominence of gender stereotypes in our society creates an unsafe environment and hurts children’s mental health. These boundaries affect children’s life prospects by training them to only dream within the stereotypes that fit their gender. This is disastrous because when we hold back the potential of some groups of people, we hold back the collective potential of humanity.
2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Dream Equal has three essential pillars: empowerment, education, and advocacy. We strive to EMPOWER youth to reach their full potential regardless of gender and societal barriers. We seek to EDUCATE our communities on the negative effects of gender stereotypes and how to effectively combat them. And, we work to ADVOCATE for a more gender-sensitive education system and world. I came up with this solution when I read a study explaining that gender stereotypes start to develop at the young age of six. Thus, I deciphered that intervention must start young for us to see long-term change. Seeing that the education system is where most young people spend their time, I decided to use it to put my idea into action. We run after-school programs to teach children how to effectively combat gender stereotypes and work with schools to implement gender-sensitivity training for staff. Also, in order to tackle gender inequality on a societal and systematic level, we focus on all genders. By doing our best to use gender-neutral branding/marketing techniques and focusing on our overall goal of empowering youth, we are able to attract all genders (not just girls) to participate in our movement.
3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?
Although I didn’t know what they were at the time, I started to feel gender stereotypes projected on me at a very young age. In high school, I hit an incredibly low point when sexist comments spread to my social media. I was facing so much sexism that I dreaded going to school every morning. I remember being angry as I vented to my dad about the issue I was facing. That’s when he told me “Ina, I know you’re going through a lot. But you have to remember, how lucky you are to have a support network. Many kids don’t have that, you need to do something about this.” I was scared to try and fix the problems that surrounded me. I had never been looked at as a leader, I was quiet and most definitely not confident. Despite this hesitancy, I could not stop thinking about what my dad had said. So like the good student I was, I started to research and begin my journey to fight for gender equality.
4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”
5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
When someone gets involved with Dream Equal, one of our curriculum trainers takes the time to individually trauma train and educate the student on how to effectively teach and use our curriculum to empower elementary schoolers. This person is then grouped with 2-3 other youth leaders and is assigned to an elementary school where over a period of 12-14 weeks they lead 10-15 elementary schoolers through activities that help them develop confidence and learn how to combat gender stereotypes. At the beginning and end of the program, the youth leaders are instructed to give program participants an “empowerment assessment” to assess the participants’ improvement and our impact. On average, we have found that participants’ “scores” raise 3-4 points on a scale of 10. This improvement shows itself in many ways but most prominent by the kids radiating confidence and showing leadership skills.
6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
Unlike other initiatives, Dream Equal focuses on taking a prevention over cure outlook towards tackling gender inequality. Instead of focusing on teenagers, we sustainably focus on tackling gender stereotypes at the age in which they develop. This allows us to target an audience that normally wouldn’t get involved in the movement. Our programs are also completely non-partisan and instead of focusing on just cis-girls we focus on ALL genders and how the issue of inequality affects everyone. Lastly, we are completely youth-led and don’t charge any fees which increases accessibility.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Quality of impact has always been more important to me than quantity of impact, and since I founded Dream Equal I have kept this at the heart of the organization. To this date, Dream Equal has spread to over 19 schools and ran more than 42 multiweek empowerment programs. We have also partnered with the Salvation Army to host a day-long “empowerment boot camp” in which we utilized our curriculum to provide young kids with the tools to combat gender stereotypes in their daily lives. Together these programs have directly reached upwards 500 young people. Recently, we obtained approval to write a district-wide gender-sensitivity curriculum that will teach teachers and staff members how to use gender-neutral language and create a classroom atmosphere that doesn’t impose gender stereotypes. When implemented, this curriculum/training will reach over 44,000 students and educators.
8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
Due to its impact and the national publicity we were receiving, youth from all over the country started reaching out to me wanting to launch similar programs in their communities. Thus, I have taken a gap year to expand Dream Equal all over the US and surrounding areas. We are currently revamping in order to allow for the most successful and effective global launch. We will launch at the end of this year with all the resources, curriculum, and instructions necessary for youth to start a Dream Equal movement wherever they are based. This year it is my goal to establish consistent revenue streams by partnering with socially conscious companies as well as establish at least one Dream Equal chapter in every US State and Canadian province.
9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?
10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations less than $100
Donations between $100-$1k
Donations between $1k-$5k
Donations over $10k
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?
Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?
Communities of color
Religious minority (non-Christian)
How did you hear about this challenge?
Word of mouth
Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?
Sarah Raza, Jothi Ramaswamy, and Nadya Okamoto