My Lo Cook joins Girl Up as the Chief Program Officer where she will focus on global programs and engagement and oversee Girl Up’s global impact programming, policy initiatives, strategic partnerships, and communications. Prior to joining Girl Up, My served as the Executive Director for Shadhika, leading strategic planning for the organization that fights for gender justice in India.
She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from other international organizations, including The Center for Victims of Torture, Human Rights Watch, and Polaris, and has lived and worked in many different areas of the world including Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. She believes in grassroots leadership development and systems thinking to design capacity-building programs and human systems that lift up indigenous innovation, leverage existing government infrastructure, and engage the private sector.
My holds a master’s degree in international development studies from Chulalongkorn University and currently lives in Colorado, USA with her family where she enjoys spending time outdoors.
We sat down for a lightning round of questions with My to help introduce her to the Girl Up community, from memorable career experiences to her favorite self-care practice!
How did you get involved in gender justice work?
I watched my mother navigate traditional gender norms that denied her many life opportunities. Yet, she worked so hard her whole life for my sister and me to have the same chances my brothers do. So, I grew up with a fire in me to recalibrate gender imbalances around me. Throughout my career working on various human rights issues, I have seen women and girls suffer disproportionately compared to men and boys when bad things like violent conflict, natural disasters, epidemics, etc. occur. So being in a position to look critically at intersecting and compounding root causes of gender injustice and support people in creating their own solutions to address the unique context of their circumstances, is the work of a lifetime.
What does leadership mean to you?
In my experience, leadership means service and it is a lifelong practice of putting purpose before ego. Your success as a leader should be measured by your ability to create a supportive and intellectually challenging environment for the people you serve to reach their own definition of fulfillment and excellence. Leadership also means being willing to be the first one to test uncharted waters and take a purpose-driven stance, however unpopular.
What is one of your most memorable experiences from your career?
In my work, the most precious thing is people—the stories they tell me, the food they share with me, and the hard-earned lessons they impart. It is a real privilege to be invited to walk next to someone for a moment in their lives and know that the two of you will carry the meaning of that interaction forever. Meeting and working with people all over the globe has been the most humbling and heartening experience of my professional career. It is the fuel to my work!
If you could add a group of feminist icons (past and present) to Girl Up’s team, who would they be?
What I love about feminist icons is that they come in all different shapes, opinions, and colors, and what they have in common is that they never leave people indifferent. From bell hooks, Yuri Kochiyama, and Simone de Beauvoir to the Spice Girls, the women of Iran, and Mulan, their complicated, often controversial points of view always stir up conversations that push us to question the status quo—one way or another—and, ultimately, it pushes us to do better. So I would have an open invitation to all feminist icons to join us!
Your favorite way to practice self-care?
As a true introvert, lying down in the dark in silence—even for just a few minutes. It is a spiritual experience!