Maia Freudenberger

2017 Winner

Position: Founder and Executive Director
Organization: Projet Jeune Leader
Current Location: Africa, Madagascar

Bachelors from Haverford College

Additional Degrees and Certifications:
• Semester Abroad at the University College of London in the International Health and Development and Geography Department. Coursework includes: Water and Development in Africa; International Health Policy

Awards Received:

Young Alumni Award for Accomplishments in Leadership
Awarding Organization:
Haverford College
Date Awarded:
March 12, 2017

2016 Laureate Global Fellow
Awarding Organization:
Youth Action Net (International Youth Foundation)
Date Awarded:
July 28, 2016

Youth Leadership Program Top Model 2016
Awarding Organization:
USAID Leadership, Management, & Governance Project
Date Awarded:
August 30, 2016

Maia Freudenberger grew up in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar from age 6 to 17. After attending Haverford College in the United States, she returned to Fianarantsoa to found Projet Jeune Leader, a youth-led organization that seeks to prevent teenage pregnancy, school dropouts, and risky sexual behavior among young adolescents (10–15 years old). At the core of Projet Jeune Leader is a comprehensive sexual health and leadership education program for public middle schools in urban and rural Fianarantsoa. Over the past 4 years, the organization has grown from a staff of 7 to 38 and has reached over 29,000 middle school students. In 2016, Projet Jeune Leader won the “Youth Leadership Program Top Model” Award from USAID Leadership, Management, and Governance Project. Maia is also a 2016 YouthActionNet Fellow, an initiative of the International Youth Foundation. In the near future, Maia plans to attend graduate school in public health.

“By age 21, Maia co-founded Projet Jeune Leader in Madagascar. Today, she works with youth, schools, international and government bodies to champion adolescent sexual, reproductive and menstrual health; her work has reached 29k+ youth since 2013.

– Erin Portillo, Program Officer II at Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs

Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

Projet Jeune Leader is a comprehensive sexual health and leadership development program, currently running in 12 public middle schools (rural and urban). Our 38 young team members teach sexual health and leadership classes to students (integrated into the school curriculum), create a Youth Space in each school, offer counseling and medical referrals to students, and run creative after-school programming. Projet Jeune Leader currently reaches 12,000 middle school students a year. Under my leadership, my organization has also trained over 300 primary school teachers on menstrual health and hygiene; implemented a pilot re-usable sanitary pad project in 2 schools; and organized participatory sessions with over 200 parents on strategies to support their children through adolescence.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

I was frustrated by the fact that most SRH/FP programs focus on youth aged 15 and above. I created Projet Jeune Leader on the belief that comprehensive sexual health education and leadership education needs to begin at a younger age, before youth are sexually active. How are adolescents later going to be motivated to seek out contraception and to use it correctly if they first don’t understand their bodies, basic puberty information, and how to communicate assertively?

Give one or two examples of how you display leadership in your family planning work.:

Last year, Projet Jeune Leader co-published a girls’ puberty book and distributed 15,000 copies in the Fianarantsoa region. Rather than stop there, I have worked to expand the book’s reach: I convinced the Malagasy Minister of Education to allow for the book’s distribution to primary schools nationally, secured funding to print an additional 15,000 copies, and created an accompanying curriculum that has already trained 300 teachers on how to use of the book to teach menstrual health and hygiene.

If you are named a winner of 120 under 40, how will you use this new platform and the $1000 grant to advance your work?

I would expand Projet Jeune Leader to an additional rural middle school. Two Youth Educators would be placed in this school, and they would provide comprehensive sexual health education, counseling, and mentoring, to over 500 young adolescent boys and girls. I would also build a Youth Space in this new partner school, which is a classroom where the Youth Educators hold their classes, where they provide counseling to students, and where they offer games and educational magazines for kids.

Video Introduction

Photos of the nominee in the field/at work