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Meet Havana Chapman-Edwards: 10-Year-Old Activist + Founder of “Girls Have Rights”

At 10-years-old, Havana Chapman-Edwards AKA The Tiny Diplomat, has made strides in society that are anything but tiny.

The fourth-grader is the Founder and Executive Director of Girls Have Rights, a youth-powered organization dedicated to providing human rights and equal access to education for girls all around the world.

Havana discussed why she felt the need to become socially active, “I started my non-profit to help little Brown girls like me fight for their dreams, and those dreams start with an education, when I have the opportunity to talk with people, I tell them about a little girl in West Africa who didn’t have the opportunity to go to school but instead, sold mint leaves to help her family live. That little girl and millions of others are who I’m fighting for.”

From 2018 to 2019 Havana raised over $40,000 to help girls across the world obtain an education, she provided books, school supplies, toiletries, transportation, and clothing. Last year, She even designed the “Unstoppable” clothing line — with the tagline “A girl with a book is a girl that is unstoppable”. All of the proceeds of the line went directly to her non-profit.

As a huge book-lover herself (some of her favorites include “Firebird” by Misty Copeland, “Each Kindness” by Jaqueline Woodson, and Kwame Alexander’s “Rebound”), Havana knows the importance of putting books in the hands of girls all around the globe. She was even recognized by the International Literary Association for her work in promoting literacy representation after she learned via a Scholastic report that Black children, on average, have 37 fewer books in their homes than all children combined. 

For Havana, representation in all forms has always been important. Last year, she attended the Kid Lit Rally for Black Lives in Washington, DC, and read a poem she wrote with her father that centered on advocating against global racism, “We, the kids, need answers”.

Havana described the importance of the poem, “We wanted to honor our ancestors and admire how they sacrificed their lives for a better future. We wanted people to know despite their problems and the problems of the world, there is still power in wanting to be in a better situation. We wanted listeners to know that my mom and dad’s ancestry makes me who I am proud to be.”

This isn’t the first time Havana has used her voice to advocate for a cause. On the National School Walkout Day against gun violence in 2018, Havana was the only person in her Alexander, Virginia elementary school to join the protest. But Havana says she wasn’t really alone, “I knew that other activists and protesters around the world were walking out of their schools too. I wanted to stand up for all of the children that were affected by school shootings.”

During the walkout, Havana sported a bright orange astronaut suit, a suit that represents her dreams of one day becoming an astronaut. Inspired by icons like Mae Jamison and Leland Melvin, Havana said, “I want to reach for the stars and not allow anyone to stop me from reaching my dreams”. She and her father even went to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory while the Perseverance Rover was being built, so she was especially thrilled to see the rover safely land on Mars last month.

Here on Earth, Havana still has so much to explore. As the daughter of a writer and a U.S. diplomat, Havana has lived in six countries and visited over 30.

“We value the real-time global education that Havana is receiving by experiencing firsthand, the power of communication,” her parents said. “Regardless of the culture or country, children possess the ability to find common ground and are willing to learn from one another. At the core of our human existence, we are virtually the same but over time, we have been divided by color, race, and gender. Children help showcase a society that can work together, solve problems together and fight for one another together, this is the new normal.”

As she travels the world with her family, Havana has learned about new holidays, languages, cultures, and has even gained some valuable insight.

“I have seen girls in some of these countries not have the same opportunities as I do and that climate change is hurting a lot of people, especially girls,” she said. “I’m also learning that people are not so different. Although we eat different foods and have different religions, we all want a fair chance to grow up and reach for the stars or travel, but it starts with an education.”

When she’s not traveling, Havana spends time drawing, dancing, rollerblading with her friends, learning languages, hanging with her sister, and practicing piano with her father — playfully noting, “I’m a lot faster than him, but he can read the musical notes better than I can.”

This year, Havana aims to continue to raise money for her nonprofit to keep bridging the gap for girls’ education and even hopes to travel back to Ghana to see the girls at the St. Bikita Orphanage.

“I want to see girls grow up and become what and who they want to be and not be told what they can’t be,” she said.

Currently residing in Germany, Havana also aims to help the country’s refugees, helping to make sure that they receive, “computers for school, winter clothes, and fun games to help keep them happy.”

For any young person who also wants to change the world but is having trouble finding their voice, Havana offered these words of encouragement: “Don’t give up on what you believe in. Even if you’re tiny, your voice is not.”

To learn more about Girls Have Rights and support Havana in her mission to provide education to girls all around the world, visit https://www.girlshaverights.org/, and be sure to also follow Havana on Twitter and Instagram!

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