|19 Jul 2023|
|United States of America|
|2023 Finalists Global Student Prize|
Francesca originally hails from Madagascar, where economic poverty caused her family to experience many different trials, including anxiety and illness. Her interest in psychology started in childhood when she began to observe the behaviour of those around her and tried to understand the reasons behind their actions. As she grew older, she read more and more on the subject, and developed as a scholar and thinker with an academic performance that never let her down. Francesca’s parents made tremendous sacrifices, and her hard work paid off when she received a full-ride scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation at Brown University.
It was while serving an internship at the Union of Professional Graduates in Social Work in Antananarivo that Francesca witnessed first-hand how a lack of education about psychological abuse (often the most pervasive form of abuse) led to the helplessness and disempowerment of many women in Madagascar. This experience sparked a passion within her to make a difference in the lives of young Malagasy children and adolescents who face emotional abuse. That's when she founded Omena – an organization with the mission to teach Malagasy children how to recognize emotional abuse in their relationships. The goal is to help create a generation of children and young adults with greater self-esteem and inner strength, empowered to drive positive changes in their communities. This is accomplished by equipping, supporting and empowering young adults and children with the social and emotional tools to nurture self-esteem and empathy, following a social-emotional learning curriculum that has been designed in collaboration with the Institute of Social-Emotional Learning, the One Love Foundation, and Educate2Empower Publishing.
Since then, Omena has become an award-winning international nonprofit, and the first organization in Madagascar to address the serious impact emotional abuse has on individuals, the community, and the inherent culture in the country. Omena’s vision came to fruition in October 2017 when Francesca was selected as a Clinton Global Initiative Fellow, giving her the opportunity to work with other inspiring young leaders. Since 2019, Omena has partnered with international and local NGOs as well as Madagascar’s Ministry of Education to help 1,500 students in underserved communities, where 90 per cent of young people have reported experiencing emotional abuse. In the past three years, Omena’s impact has been noted by UNICEF, the Clinton Global Initiative, MTV, the Boston Globe, and many more. Francesca’s contribution has been recognized with the Projects for Peace Award from the Davis Foundation; she is also a Forbes Under 30 Scholar, a TEDxBrownU Speaker, and a Business Today Impact Challenge Finalist. With the Global Student Prize funds, Francesca would give extra support to Omena’s programs both online and on the ground – unlocking the immense potential to take the organization to the next level of impact.