Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Women’s College students reach across the world to help Sudanese girls

In southern Sudan, a small thing like a pair of underwear can dramatically enhance a young girl’s educational experience.

Students, faculty and administrators from the Women’s College at the University of Denver are working to fix this problem through the “Bookpacks and Panties” campaign.

The Women’s College and its Business Minded Women student group have partnered with Project Education Sudan, a Denver-based nonprofit, to adopt the Ayak Anguei Girls Primary School in the Bor area of southern Sudan.

Women’s College students are raising money and soliciting donations to send backpacks — or bookpacks as DU students call them — containing underwear to each of the 600 girls at Ayak Anguei.

“The girls have uniforms, but they don’t have underwear, and when they are dealing with dirt floors and bugs, they need protection,” says Women’s College junior Ling Richardson, chair of Business Minded Women. “In Sudan, bookpacks are status symbols because they show that the girl is going to school.”

Each school’s logo and the Dinka word for sisterhood, “nyankei,” have been printed on each bag in recognition of the sisterhood between the Women’s College and Ayak Anguei. Each pack will include several pairs of underwear and a photo of Women’s College students in front of the Chambers Center, as well as a signed note from the purchaser to the recipient of the bag.

The Women’s College agreed to pay for the packs up front, and students plan to solicit donations from the DU community to reimburse the college for the cost of the bookpacks.

The partnership between the Women’s College and Project Education Sudan came about through a suggestion from Denise Pearson, associate academic dean for University College, who sits on the board of Project Education Sudan. Pearson thought that there is a shared mission between the organizations and connected Women’s College Dean Lynn Gangone with Carol Rinehart, executive director of Project Education Sudan.

“The Women’s College and its students understand, appreciate and are committed to advancing girls and women locally, nationally and globally,” says Gangone. “The partnership seemed to be a perfect fit.”

The Women’s College and Project Education Sudan hosted an event this spring to kick-off the sister school partnership. The event featured Sudanese cuisine, a photography sale and remarks by an elder from the Bor Women’s Association, a nonprofit created by Sudanese women in Denver.

“Hearing the personal stories and struggles of women from Sudan really spoke to my heart,” says Richardson. “These women know that in order for their country to improve, their girls must be educated so they can ensure that their own children will get an education. It’s so important for us to get involved.”

Gangone says the partnership will continue beyond the bookpack project. The Women’s College recently received a grant from DU’s Office of Internationalization to create study-abroad opportunities for Women’s College students. Gangone sees the Women’s College-Project Education Sudan partnership as a way to facilitate student study in southern Sudan while focusing on philanthropy in its internationalization efforts.

Carol Zak-Dance, a Women’s College faculty member who is stewarding the Project Education Sudan bookpack initiative, is pleased with the student response to the project.

“Our students never cease to surprise me in their commitment to live the college’s tagline ‘advancing our world . . . one woman at a time,’” she says. “I’ve heard many a student at Women’s College talk about their responsibility to ‘give back,’ and this effort with Project Education Sudan is just an extension of that giving on a global level.”

Donations for bookpacks can be made at the Women’s College during class weekends, or by arrangement with Zak-Dance at A $10 donation provides one bookpack, and a $20 donation provides three bookpacks.

[Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 12.]

Comments are closed.