Meet Alumn Isabella Chartouni, Founder of Be-A-Part!

School & class: Barnard College Class of 2015

Major: Political Science

Hometown: New York City

1. Congrats on graduating from Barnard! What have you been doing since you graduated?

Thanks! When I graduated I decided that first and foremost I really wanted to restart and revamp the nonprofit organization, Be-A-Part, that my friend Cami and I started in the beginning of high school. We both had really hoped to continue working on and expanding BAP during our college years, but as I am sure you all know, its not easy to keep up with it all! I reached out to tons of friends, both guys and girls, who had asked to be involved throughout the years. I haven’t yet re launched BAP-there is a lot more to do! Other than working on my own nonprofit, I started working for the Girl Rising campaign at the ABC offices. Not only was it inspiring, but it also helped me understand how to really manage a nonprofit. Lastly, I applied to masters programs in the field of international relations and law. I am now living in London and am at King’s College London in an MA program called International Peace and Security. 

2. What do you miss most about Barnard?

Now that I am at a different school, there is a lot I miss about Barnard that I did not realize when I was there! I truly miss the community and the environment of such strong and empowered people. I miss the feeling of being part of a network that behaves similarly to a social movement that seeks to engender change and always give support. I also miss the many forms of guidance given at Barnard. I took it for granted then- Don’t be like me! In the UK they do not remind you of deadlines nor give out guidelines for projects and trust me, it gets very confusing.

3. What was your favorite memory at Barnard?

Hm. I think it would be slightly inappropriate for here (haha). Truly though-there are too many to count!

4. As a graduate, what advice do you have for current Barnard students?

Don’t move into Butler, but also don’t slack off! Time management is key in order to do well academically and have a good time.

5. Before studying at Barnard, you founded a charity called Be-A-Part. What does Be-A-Part do?

Be-A-Part is a non-profit organization focused on issues surrounding child marriage, human sex trafficking, and children who are denied or deprived of an education. We have two goals: 1) to raise awareness among young women and girls who are not subject to such deprivations about their counterparts who are living in crisis situations, and 2) to fund established educational programs and health services that benefit girls in need throughout the world. Be-A-Part seeks to be a voice for girls and young women by providing funding and support for educational programs and healthcare to help break the cycle of child marriage, human sex trafficking, gender bias and deprivation due to conflict and poverty in order to offer the chance for girls to create a future for themselves.

6. What inspired you to start Be-A-Part?

It all started in ninth grade when I went to say goodnight to my mother and sat with her in bed watching T.V. We came across a PBS documentary called Child Brides: Stolen Lives, and my expected short visit to her room became much longer. Only 20 minutes into one of these young bride’s stories, I already knew that I was going to do something to help. What had started as a bake sale turned into years of work and finally an organization. In the 9th grade I started my organization, Be-A-Part, after watching the documentary. My goal then was to raise awareness of child marriage and help fund already established educational and medical institutions. Throughout college I remained passionate about this issue, but as a political science major with a concentration in international relations and human rights, I also grew passionate about many other issues, especially those concerning girls and women.

7. Have you always been passionate about women's issues?

To be honest, I really have not always been passionate about women’s issues. I went to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in NYC from 4 years old to 18 years old. We were taught as young girls in a very empowered environment that we were capable of anything we set our hearts and minds to. I never really understood what women’s issues consisted of until I reached middle school and was more informed and experienced. By that point I was able to realize that there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.

8. After starting Be-A-Part, you formed a partnership with UNICEF. Why did you choose to form this partnership?

We decided that in order to raise money and awareness, we had to have done our research. The following summer I spent many weeks collecting statistics, reading stories and facts and investigating the marriage laws of various countries. When I thought I knew just about everything one could on the topic of child brides, my 15-year-old pride encouraged me to take my big binder and go to Wall Street and propose my ideas to UNICEF. It turned out that I did not know everything, but UNICEF was supportive and encouraged me to develop my plans further.

9. How is Be-A-Part different from other non-profits?

I have decided to re-launch Be-A-Part to incorporate issues that girls face beyond child marriage, such as human sex trafficking, gender bias, deprivation due to conflict, and poverty. I plan to re-launch my charity with a specific goal of making these issues accessible and important to contemporaries of these girls and young women in developed countries like the US. To do so, I intend on utilizing social media and other platforms that appeal to millennials using relatable language and references to capture their attention.

Be-A-Part is focused on the millennial generation (without excluding those of other generations). We hope to spread our brand and donor experience to go beyond that of the typical charity. We plan to partner with designers, sponsor events, and create a “membership-like” experience for socially conscious and trend-conscious millennials. Making a difference in the world should not be a burden, but a fun and exciting experience. Be-A-Part has the potential to be a social trend. The website will be interactive, constantly updated and will offer more than just information and stock photos (as do the majority of other charitable websites). Social media will play a huge role in spreading the message, getting people involved and as a way of communicating.

10. What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own non-profit?

It can get very overwhelming at times, but the most important thing to keep in mind is to not give up on yourself. There is a reason why you started, there was a passion behind your actions, and there was the desire to help and to make a change.

11. Who is your biggest role model?

Amal Clooney- she is amazing! Not only is she an accomplished human rights lawyer, but she is beautiful, she has amazing style, and she is married to George Clooney.