Meet them where they are


From the Desk of
I am so thrilled to officially launch ISSUE, the Maverick Collective’s immersive virtual experience! Think of this as your bi-monthly intellectual indulgence. Chocolate for your brain and a massage for your soul.

Dear Maverick Community,

I am so thrilled to officially launch ISSUE, the Maverick Collective’s immersive virtual experience! Think of this as your bi-monthly intellectual indulgence. Chocolate for your brain and a massage for your soul. We launch this inaugural ISSUE on the first full day of the Biden-Harris administration in the United States, and the start of PSI’s next 50 years. It is a day of hope and possibility!

If you are going to do one thing for yourself this month, get down with this ISSUE! Envisioned and produced by the inimitable Darley Tom with Bridget Hanagan, and in collaboration with guest editors Caitlin Heising and Jess Jacobs, this edition will take you to Nicaragua and Cote d’ Ivoire to see two projects that are catalyzing contraceptive access for girls. In our news-style program, Maverick Beat, you will hear directly from Caitlin, Jess and PSI’s Carlos Vargas, Gaby Kasongo and Marie Baptiste with real-life accounts of program successes and navigating challenges like civil unrest, harmful policies and a global pandemic. In our Masterclass, we bring you none other than the world’s leading expert on adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health, Dr. V. Chandra-Mouli of the World Health Organization, in conversation with Nigeria’s Adolescents 360 Project Director Fifi Oluwatoyin Ogbondeminu, and social anthropologist Dr. Rebecca Calder. In Unfiltered Momentum, we just get to hang together and bond.

Ready to get going? Whet your appetite with Heart Homework. Sit back with a glass of something and watch Maverick Beat. And RSVP for the Masterclass on February 3 and Unfiltered Momentum on March 3.

Welcome to ISSUE. It’s going to be a great year.

With love,

Rena Greifinger
Managing Director, Maverick Collective by PSI

Maverick Beat:
Meet them where they are

Tune in to Episode 1 of Maverick Beat where, over the course of two segments, we spotlight “Teen Moms Adelante” in Nicaragua and “Building a Brighter Future for Girls” in Côte d’Ivoire.

Giving Teen Mothers Contraceptive Choice to Decide Their Futures
I felt that I identified with the purposes of the project, and everything they told us was relevant to my life. I stayed [with the clinic] as a promoter.

Geydi is a 20-year-old living in a rural area outside of Managua. She has been married for four years and is pursuing a technical degree in Pharmacy. Geydi is a frequent user of Red Segura Clinics, as she does not have the financial resources to pay for services at private clinics and prefers not to visit the public hospitals that are often crowded and require long wait times. Geydi currently lives in her parent’s house and shares her space with more than 10 family members. The lack of privacy in the home often leads to challenges and difficult situations.

Geydi’s dream is to live in her own house with her partner, which led Geydi to think about the right time to have a child. To better educate herself about her options, she sought out information regarding family planning through a friend she met at the Red Segura Clinic.

Geydi found out about the clinic three years ago through a friend and classmate who attended training at the clinic to become a volunteer promoter. Volunteer promoters connect with other young people to bring awareness on family planning methods, violence prevention, and preventing pregnancies at an early age.

“I felt that I identified with the purposes of the project, and everything they told us was relevant to my life. I stayed [with the clinic] as a promoter, promoting the services of family planning counseling, HIV testing, PAP, medical evaluation, and psychological care. I also began to receive medical services from the clinic. The first service I received was a family planning method (Implanon). I sought out this method because I did not want to get pregnant, I was newly married, and it gives me security for three years. I am studying while my partner works part-time, and we are preparing to improve our housing situation.”

Geydi is happy that she can share important information with other young women: “I am very happy to help reduce pregnancy at an early age. It has been a joy to meet people from the clinic. I am grateful for all the information that was shared with me, and now I feel more empowered to speak with other young women. I hope that this project will continue and that more young people benefit from the clinic.”

Geydi, Red Segura Clinic patient and promoter, Nicaragua

  • 1,300 young people reached with family planning methods
  • + 200 young female community leaders trained through the project
All girls should be able to decide when they have children, and should be able to put their health first. Caitlin Heising

Almost a quarter of teenage girls aged 15-19 in Nicaragua are pregnant or have given birth. Social stigma, poverty, and lack of access to sexual and reproductive services, information, and products contribute to teen pregnancy, greatly endangering girls’ lives and lowering their social and economic opportunities.

The Maverick project in Managua, Nicaragua aimed to reduce repeat pregnancies among teen mothers and support young girls to pursue their dreams. By building the sustainable clinic model Red Segura to deliver high-quality, integrated sexual and reproductive health services designed for young people, the project empowered teen mothers to lead the lives they desire.

My favorite food in Nicaragua

I had tostones (fried plantains) at every possible meal in Nicaragua. The first time I had them was with my mom, who joined me for a few days during my first project visit. Even better with fried cheese on top.

A memorable visit

Malcolm and I visited the Mombacho Volcano national park, near Granada, at the end of my first in-country trip. We walked around the crater, saw some brilliant green frogs, and took in the natural beauty of Nicaragua.

An unexpected moment

One thing we learned during the HCD process was that transportation was a major barrier for young people seeking reproductive health services, particularly for girls who lived outside the main city center far from youth-friendly healthcare centers. With this in mind, we developed the promotora model, working with young women who were trained to provide basic health education and share resources with their peers. A key responsibility of the promotoras became to accompany other girls – either helping them map the bus route or literally going with them – to our project’s model clinic in central Managua. We also created a mobile clinic that could visit more remote communities, and invested more in community partnerships to reach young people where they already were. Looking back, it seems quite basic, but the transportation issue hadn’t been top of mind for our project team until we heard it directly from the girls we were working to serve.


Advancing Ivorian Girl’s Access to Contraception So They Might Achieve Their Dreams
“Mama Bety” is (a) parent mobilizer, working to ensure that parents are engaged and well equipped to support their daughters in decision making around modern contraception.

After an initial design workshop — collaborating and co-creating with youth from Cote d’Ivoire — PSI developed a Parent Mobilizer program in response to young people’s desires for safe spaces to discuss sexuality and reproductive health with their parents.

“Mama Bety” is one such parent mobilizer, working to ensure that parents are engaged and well equipped to support their daughters in decision making around modern contraception. Recently, a peer mobilizer introduced Mama Bety to a pair of sisters, aged 17 and 19, at a PSI mobile health service event. The girls had both been using the injectable contraceptive method, but after experiencing side effects, their worried father demanded that they stop subsequent injections. He was hesitant about all contraception, but his daughters wanted to continue protecting themselves from unintended pregnancy.

Mama Bety encouraged the girls to bring their father to the Entre Nous event and spoke to him for nearly half an hour— explaining the importance of modern contraception and the ways in which women and girls use, and often experience, each method. By creating a safe space for their father to ask questions and become an informed advocate, Mama Bety gained his support for his daughters to try a new method –the implant.

When asked why he’d changed his mind, the father said that he understood the importance of contraception, and after talking to Mama Bety, he felt more confident knowing about the potential side effects of the different methods and the fact that none of them cause infertility. Mama Bety highlighted the importance of parent-child communication, encouraging him to continue talking to his daughters and listening to them. Both girls received the implant and felt both relief and delight in knowing that they had their father’s support.

  • 31% of youth in Cote D’Ivoire want to use contraception but have no access to it
  • 238 deaf girls were reached with information
to be able to be working with young women and to be able to be working on access to contraception was deeply connected to my interests and values. Jess Jacobs

In Côte d’Ivoire, contraceptive prevalence is 14.3% among women of childbearing age and 7.3% among adolescents aged 15 to 19. As a result, 31% of contraceptive needs are unmet among young people aged 15-19.

The Maverick project in Côte d’Ivoire aimed to reduce unwanted teenage pregnancies. The project offered girls aged 15-19 an appropriate space to reflect on their future, determine the steps to get there and provide them with the knowledge, social support, and access to contraception to delay pregnancy. A special initiative of the project was to bring contraceptive information to the deaf community which had been marginalized in family planning programs.

My favorite food in Côte d’Ivoire

The food in Côte d’Ivoire is so good. Beyond good. They make something called attieke, which is sort of like cassava couscous – it’s a little tangy, and goes so well with all the spicy sauces they cook their meats and fish in. It’s my favorite. And they use plantains a ton, fried to make alloko or smashed to make foutou. Poisson fumé (smoked fish) is unbelievably good. One of the visits we had a celebration for all the grand-soeurs who participated in the project and they pulled out all the stops at one of my favorite restaurants in the city for all the young women. It was such fun, and so delicious. My mouth is watering thinking about it.

The fashion in Côte d’Ivoire

The fashion in Abidjan is so good. It is an art form of its own. They have the most beautiful fabrics, which you buy by the “pagne” (2×6 yards), and the most talented tailors. Le pagne Baoulé is a traditional Ivorian fabric, but it’s used primarily for very special events like weddings. The wax fabrics are the most commonly seen, and come in every color, loud and subtle, for men and women. I was always super scheduled when I was visiting, so I never made it to the tailors, but I have piles of fabrics I bought from my trips there and can’t wait to go back to have them made into something incredibly stylish (and culturally appropriate for me to wear…). Driving through the city on a casual Tuesday, you would see colors, shapes and patterns which blow the street style of New York Fashion Week out of the water.

Meeting Sara

Abidjan is such a dynamic city that most of my trips there (I was lucky enough to visit five times over the course of the project!) are replete with memories. But one in particular stands out: the first, during a causerie (“chat” in French, the casual educational gatherings we piloted) in which we sat with a group of girls from Abobo[pictured here], which is an impoverished peri-urban part of the city, who really didn’t know much at all about the reproductive system and contraception, and were talking about the use of a coca cola and coffee mixture to get rid of pregnancy. When the grand soeur (meaning “big sister” – the trained and paid peer educators) told them that it wouldn’t work, because the stomach and the uterus were separate, they pushed back, asking why, then, would a pill you swallow work to prevent pregnancy? A totally logical question! We ended up in a conversation about hormones, which was a totally new concept to them, and by the end of the conversation, they understood how the pill worked (and the implant, and the injectable…). It outlined for me, in a big way, the concept of “dignity” for youth in this work. It isn’t about telling them something will be good for them, and them magically accepting that and changing their behavior. It is truly about honoring their intelligence, their curiosity and their right to have all the information they require to make informed decisions about their bodies and their futures.

What I learned through this experience

I dove into this work with very little experience to back it up — the largest single gift I had given prior was $10,000 — so I could write a book about what this experience taught me about myself. Most significantly, the element I will take away is the power of trust and relationship building. To walk into this project with no expectation of outcome, to give into the process in partnership with the field team and the girls/young women themselves, allowing the space for true learning and for development which truly centered those closest to the need. We watched the first iteration of this project, driven by our preconceived idea of a “gathering space” for girls, totally fail (we ended up bearing witness to a non-trained peer leader affirm one of her friend’s beliefs that the implant could get lost in your body and make you sterile forever- our program manager, of course, corrected this rumor). But in its place emerged a delightful and organic connection between make-up, skincare, hair care and contraception — all as part of showing up in society as the best YOU you can be — which led to more accurate information, more excitement around contraception and more uptake of services was an incredible thing to watch (and something USAID would never have looked at twice, which taught me the importance of flexible, innovative funding, but that’s the subject of another musing). This energy and approach will inform my philanthropic work, and, for that matter, my non-philanthropic work, for the rest of my life. I suppose until something even more inclusive and just and freeing and transformative comes along.


Master Class:
Meet Them Where They Are

In this Master Class we will be joined by three leading experts in adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health.

In this Master Class we will:

  • Explore the global context of adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH)
  • Exchange best practices in designing with and reaching young people and how to take these best practices to scale.
  • Sharing insights, lessons and the path forward for PSI’s flagship adolescent health project, Adolescents 360.

Watch here


Carlos Vargas

Director, Red Segura Medical Clinic

Carlos Vargas leads the Teens Mom Adelante program since 2017. Carlos is a psychologist and has worked with youth and adolescents his entire career. He has extensive experience working with youth, focused on issues of drug addiction, sex crimes, human trafficking, and gender-based violence. At PSI/PASMO, Carlos works directly with Red Segura clinics focused on HIV/AIDS, stigma and discrimination, and sexual and reproductive health. Carlos is from the northern region of Nicaragua and now resides in Managua with his wife and two children.


Caitlin Heising

Founding Member, Maverick Collective

Caitlin Heising is vice chair of the Heising-Simons Foundation, a family foundation based in Los Altos and San Francisco, California. She received a Master of Public Administration at the London School of Economics (LSE) with a focus on social impact, graduating with distinction in 2020. Previously, she worked with Article 3 Advisors, a human rights and strategic philanthropy consultancy based in San Francisco. In 2014, she joined the board of the Heising-Simons Foundation, where she has developed a grantmaking program focused on human rights and criminal justice reform in the U.S.

Caitlin serves on the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch and is the vice chair of HRW’s U.S. Program Advisory Committee. She sits on the Advisory Council of the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice based in London. She is also a founding member of Maverick Collective, a global community of strategic philanthropists and advocates working to end extreme poverty by improving the health and rights of women and girls around the world. She was a 2016 Research Fellow at Institute for the Future, where she collaborated on research projects exploring the future of philanthropy and social innovation. Caitlin holds a BA in international relations from Brown University.


Gaby Kasongo

Reproductive Health & Family Planning Technical Advisor

Gaby is an expert in maternal health with more than 10 years of experience in the fields of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), human resource training, and development in Central and West Africa.

Gaby holds a degree in Cultural Development and Nursing and currently serves as a technical advisor in reproductive health/family planning at PSI Côte d’Ivoire. In this role, Gaby provides technical assistance to local staff for the implementation of SRH projects with the goals of increasing informed demand and access to quality services as well as contribute to the favorable SRH environment for women of childbearing age, including young people.

Gaby has proven leadership in managing budgets and partnerships to align with global and national strategic priorities. Her role as a technical advisor focuses on taking a gender approach in the design and implementation of SRH projects to strengthen the empowerment of girls and women.


Marie Fedra Babtiste

Country Representative, PSI Côte d’Ivoire

Marie Baptiste has been with PSI since 2014, first as chief of party in Angola, now as country representative in Côte d’Ivoire. She has spent many years in program management positions around Francophone and Lusophone Africa. Ms. Baptiste also holds a Master of Public Administration.


Jess Jacobs

Maverick Collective Member

Jess Jacobs is a feminist artist, activist, and philanthropist. A creative storyteller, Jess is galvanizing the movement for equality through the fight for women’s reproductive rights.

Jess is co-founder of women-led, New York-based production company, Invisible Pictures, whose mission is to develop, finance, and produce film, television, and digital content with a focus on authentic representation, wherein women and underrepresented individuals are at the center of their own stories. She regularly collaborates with non-profit organizations such as Planned Parenthood, CHANGE, and National Women’s Law Center on special projects that advance women’s reproductive rights – most notably, by partnering on the creation of a short film on the Global Gag Rule (Global HER Project), which Teen Vogue distributed in advance of International Day of the Girl in 2019.


Dr. Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli MBBS, MSc

Scientist Adolescent Sexual & Reproductive Health, WHO

Dr Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli leads the work on Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health (ASRH) in the World Health Organization’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research (which includes the UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF/WHO/World Bank Human Reproductive Programme).

His work includes building the evidence base on ASRH and supporting countries to translate this evidence into action through well-conceived and well-managed policies and programmes. His experience in generating knowledge and taking knowledge to action is global in scope and spans over 30 years.


Fifi Oluwatoyin Ogbondeminu

Project Director, Adolescents 360

Fifi Oluwatoyin Ogbondeminu is a Public Health Specialist with over 15 years of experience in Project Management and leading successful public health development programs. She is responsible for the overall strategic leadership, as well as management of the A360 Amplify project in Nigeria.

A successful leader with a strong sense of teamwork, a positive attitude, and a friendly personality while working with and leading coworkers. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy and master’s degree in Public Health from the University of Benin, an MBA from the University of Roehampton, UK and currently working on a Doctorate in Public Health. She also has in her portfolio several awards, accomplishments and publications.


Dr. Rebecca Calder

Director & Co-founder, Kore Global

An anthropologist by training, Rebecca has spent decades leading gender and inclusion focused research, training, evaluations, designs, and project implementation in Asia, Africa and the Pacific.

She’s passionate about gender equality and social inclusion, and has recognised experience on economic empowerment, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender and social norms, social protection, and gender-based violence. Rebecca has extensive knowledge of key concepts, frameworks, approaches and evidence of what works to achieve empowerment for adolescent girls and women, and extensive expertise in designing and leading innovative qualitative research and designing and leading complex evaluations. Rebecca has worked with a number of impact investors and philanthropists, and over 80 social enterprises across Asia and Africa, on deepening understanding of gender and inclusion issues in order to maximize impact.


Rena Greifinger

Managing Director, Maverick Collective

Rena Greifinger is an award-winning social entrepreneur, philanthropy leader, and advocate for women and girls. She serves as Director for Philanthropy for PSI and Managing Director of Maverick Collective.

Rena has been at PSI for 10 years, having spent the first five leading the organization’s work in design-thinking for adolescent sexual and reproductive health. She is a recipient of the Harvard School of Public Health’s Albert Schweitzer Award, Sara’s Wish Foundation’s Global Humanitarian Award and was named one of Apolitical’s Top 100 Influencers in Gender Policy in 2021.

She holds a Master’s of Science from the Harvard School of Public Health and when not working, loves to climb mountains and chase after her two littles.