We set out to find the Marie Claire readers who are giving back best. Women nationwide entered our contest to tell us how they're changing the world. Now, it's your turn to choose the winner, who will be featured in our November issue! Learn more about our finalists in videos made by our partners at Makers, then cast your vote. Voting ends at midnight on Sunday, September 7.
VIDEO 1: EMILY RALEIGH
At 20, New Jersey native Emily Raleigh is on her second year at the helm of Smart Girls Group, which she describes as "a multi-platform community" to empower women and girls. Struck by statistics that only 4.8 percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by female CEOs, Raleigh wanted a way to inspire the next generation of leaders. So, as a senior in high school, she wrote a book for her younger sister on how to be a "smart girl," and the Smart Girls Group was born. The group connects female trailblazers through the Smart Girls Sisterhood, which empowers young women (more than 1,000 members in 50 states and 44 countries and includes a college program called Smart Girls Society) to pursue their passions through online classes, book clubs, and a digital magazine. This summer, Smart Girls Group hosted its first conference in New York City with guest speakers such as Shiza Shahid, cofounder and CEO of the Malala Fund, and Brenda Berkman, the first NYC female firefighter. "I am confident that someday," Raleigh says, "we will see our Smart Girl Sisters in corner offices, spearheading movements, leading nations, and sharing smarts in their own unique ways." thesmartgirlsgroup.com
VIDEO 2: AZIE TESFAI
Azie Tesfai founded Fortuned Culture, a Los Angeles-based jewelry company that partners with global charities to shed light on social issues. Tesfai spent her childhood visiting her mother's family's homeland of Ethiopia, where the poverty she witnessed spurred her to find a way to help those in need. Proceeds from each piece of jewelry she designs go to "charities that contribute to the advancement of people out of poverty," including a school in Addis Abada, Ethiopia and an orphanage in Baja, Mexico. But sometimes she wants to do more than send a check. Earlier this year, she organized a trip to the Corazon de Vida Foundation in Mexico with The Honest Company and Rachel Zoe to donate baby supplies and clothing. Future projects include a partnership with a homeless shelter in downtown Los Angeles. "I didn't start as a business," she says, "but as a call to action." fortunedculture.com
VIDEO 3: ALEXA PHAM
A trip to Thailand in 2011 brought Alexa Pham from New York to the mountains of Chiang Mai where she met a refugee named Ning. Ning's mother was about to sell her as a sex slave, but Pham, now 31, managed to stop the sale. She realized Ning had no place to live or work, leaving her vulnerable to trafficking. Pham felt she had to do something. And she did, moving to Thailand last December and opening Chai Lai Orchid, an eco lodge and safe house to train at-risk women (18, thus far) for employment in the hospitality field. Proceeds from the resort directly support Daughters Rising, Pham's anti-trafficking nonprofit, which holds monthly workshops that offer sex education and computer and literacy classes. "It's our dream that through education, awareness, and female empowerment, we can create a world free from trafficking," Pham says. chailaiorchid.com