Janel Dyan

Women Crushing It Wednesday

#WCIW: Monique Coleman

Global Advocate.  Champion for Women.  Determined Force for Good.

Born in Orangeburg, South Carolina in 1980, Monique Coleman knew she wanted to be an entertainer early in her childhood. From the Workshop Theatre School of Dramatic Arts to the Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, she became involved with plays, track, cheerleading, and volunteering to work with abused children.  All before graduating high school.

After graduating in 2002, Monique received her BFA in from the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago. Her acting career began with appearances in several commercials and guest spots on television series like Veronica Mars and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Her real break came, however, when she was offered the role of Taylor McKessie in the the hit High School Musical and it’s sequels. This remains her most well-known role to date.

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Despite her flourishing career, Monique always felt the need to give back, especially to teens, young women, and girls in the global community. In 2009 she founded GimmeMo, an online talkshow dedicated to empowering teens and talking about issues facing Millennial youth.  Her passion for the project and her public platform gained the notice of the United Nations and, in 2010, she was recruited to become the first ever UN Youth Champion for the International Year of the Youth.

Coleman was thrilled at the opportunity and excelled in the role, taking it on herself to embark on a six-month tour of 24 countries. In each destination, she worked with local government officials on behalf of youth and volunteered at youth organizations to empower and inspire local young people. She has worked closely on projects with UNFPA, UNICEF, UNESCO, USAID, and UN Foundation, as well as many local and youth led organizations.

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Throughout her travels, one issue was always close to her heart: the plight of young women and girls in countries with oppressive or abusive practices towards women. This eventually led Coleman to partner with the United Nations’ Girl Up campaign and its mission to “raise awareness and enable girls in our local community to change the lives of adolescent girls in 3rd world countries. Money raised will help send girls to school, improve health care facilities, and prevent early marriages.” Girl Up focusses particularly on Guatemala, Ethiopia, Liberia, Malawi, India, and Uganda, all countries where women struggle to be recognized as equal citizens and to gain equal rights to education, healthcare, and independence.  

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Recently, it was announced that Monique would be the newest Girl Up Champion with a mission to inspire American teens to take action to empower young women and girls in developing countries.  Echoing sentiments of fellow UN Girl Up activist Emma Watson in her 2014 UN speech, Coleman said upon her appointment,

“Teen girls, no matter where they live, deserve to have their voices heard. By working with Girl Up, I can amplify their concerns and give them a platform to make a difference.  I know that there are plenty of girls in the United States who are just like me, ready to stand up for the rights of girls in developing countries. Together, we have to empower, inspire and support one another through our diverse challenges — both here in the U.S. and around the world. If not now, then when? If not us, then who?”

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For her heroic stance on the rights of women and girls in developing countries, her global advocacy, and her determination to be a force for good, Monique Coleman is this week’s #WCIW.

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