SHE-CAN Global

Supporting Her Education Changes A Nation

aka SHE-CAN   |   Mill Valley, CA   |


Formerly Open A Door Foundation, SHE-CAN stands for Supporting Her Education Changes a Nation and our mission is to equip and empower young women from post-conflict countries to become leaders who change their nations. By creating pathways to tertiary educational opportunities, supportive mentoring and guidance, and leadership skills, SHE-CAN scholars emerge from our program as confident, vocal, and empowered change-agents ready to usher in peace, prosperity and women's rights into their community and nation.

Ruling year info


Co-Founder and Executive Director

Barbara Bylenga

Main address

P.O. Box 876

Mill Valley, CA 94942 USA

Show more contact info

Formerly known as

Open A Door



NTEE code info

Student Services and Organizations (B80)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Our planet is overwhelmed by insurmountable issues: climate change, clean water, war. These issues disproportionately impact women in the developing world. To reduce the inequality caused by these problems, women need to be empowered to sit at local, domestic and international decision-making tables. SHE-CAN gives low-income women from post-conflict countries the opportunity to gain the quality tertiary education, leadership training, and mentorship needed to break from oppressive systems. Scholars emerge from the program prepared to return to their communities as impactful leaders who promote more just, peaceful, and inclusive practices for all people.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

SHE-CAN Scholars

SHE-CAN focuses on places emerging from extreme crisis because these communities have the largest opportunity to reform entrenched systems in which young girls are rarely encouraged to strive for a higher education. As our world continues to get smaller, raising a global generation of capable and gutsy female leaders is of paramount importance.

As such, SHE-CAN identifies academically talented potential female leaders with limited resources in post-conflict countries (Cambodia, Liberia, Rwanda, and Afghanistan) through a six-month vetting process and provides them with college admissions preparation courses, supports them in identifying a critical need in their communities and initiating a service project to address it, and pairs them with a mentor team who provide support and guidance.

Once they win a full-ride scholarship to a top US college and begin their academic journey, we fund their non-scholarship costs and provide ongoing leadership training, their mentor teams support them emotionally and academically, and the SHE-CAN network as a whole supports their professional progress by increasing access to highly sought after internships, conferences, and networking opportunities. After graduation, the scholars return home as change-agents for their communities, with the support of the SHE-CAN network.

Population(s) Served
Women and girls

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

As of November 2018, SHE-CAN has helped empower 46 young women from post-conflict countries with over $12 million in full-ride scholarships, including 17 graduates who are already rising leaders in their fields at home. With these first graduating classes already launching their careers, it has become even more evident that scale matters in what SHE-CAN does; the more SHE-CAN sisters emerging from the program equipped with the tools to lead, the stronger and more capable for change their in-country networks become.

This is why SHE-CAN plans to scale its program so it is accepting 10 scholars from different 5 post-conflict countries by 2023, therefore graduating and sending home 50 empowered female change-makers every year.

In order to lay the groundwork to be in five countries by 2023, SHE-CAN kicked-off its expansion plans in early 2018. In partnership with the staff, a Brown University intern was hired to design and execute a research study into 14 potential new markets. The final report short-listed three countries that the Board of Directors voted on; Liberia was selected as the front-runner and the Executive Director went on a reconnaissance trip in March 2018. After returning from the trip, the Executive Director compiled a report on her findings and recommended Liberia as the new market. The Board voted once again and Liberia was officially selected as the newest SHE-CAN country in April 2018, with the first cohort of scholars being selected in fall 2018. SHE-CAN plans to scope one of the two remaining short-listed countries from the report in spring 2019. The staff plans to identify the final country after the next two markets are launched.

To prepare for this influx of new scholars, SHE-CAN plans to grow the other parts of the program as well. Starting with the SHE-CAN Scholarship Coalition, SHE-CAN plans to scale the Coalition to 60 schools. In order to reach this target, SHE-CAN's Executive Director will visit universities and invite them to join the Coalition. SHE-CAN has also hired a Communications Associate who will focus on building the national awareness of the Coalition through PR. Furthermore, SHE-CAN plans to scale the mentor program by cultivating new regions. They started by hosting an event in New York in early 2018, successfully recruiting three mentor teams, and plan to host recruitment events in other major hubs like Los Angeles, Chicago, and more.

Additionally, SHE-CAN plans to expand the services offered to existing scholars in order to ensure their success both during and after the program. In 2018, SHE-CAN’s Program Manager kicked-off the SHE-CAN Graduate Program by hosting a conference call with the program’s alumnae. The program alumnae will self-govern and self-lead this group that will keep them connected post-grad. Additionally, SHE-CAN hired a new Community Builder in 2018 who is working to launch the SHE-CAN Employer Consortium in 2019; this group will consist of potential employers who will provide invaluable internship and in-country job opportunities for the scholars. Finally, SHE-CAN will continue to offer its biannual leadership training to all program beneficiaries in order to strengthen their leadership skills.

SHE-CAN has a strong and influential network that grows organically. Starting with the mentors, there are currently 220 professional US men and women who have committed to mentor a scholar for five years. A few notable mentors include the CEO of Torani Syrups and Flavors, the former CMO of Intuit, an EVP of a private wealth management organization, and more. These high-level professionals are not just great mentors to the scholars, they also help provide access to new opportunities and connections to help SHE-CAN grow. Similarly, SHE-CAN has a donor base of over 1000 people who provide both invaluable funding and connections.

The 12 members of the SHE-CAN Scholarship Coalition are the cornerstone of the program and make it possible for the organization to operate. Coalition members have committed at least one full-ride scholarship to a SHE-CAN scholar so long as she meets minimum admission requirements. It is an equally beneficial relationship because SHE-CAN is an expert in identifying high potential young leaders, preparing them for college entrance exam testing, and building and maintaining a successful support system so that they can thrive in school. This maximizes the universities' scholarship dollars because SHE-CAN scholars have the support needed to succeed and because the school is able to push their scholarship dollars further down the socio-economic pyramid to the low-income international students that they often cannot find. As a result, this partnership has allowed SHE-CAN to leverage a relatively small amount of donor funding into $12 million in scholarships for low-income young women in post-conflict countries and growing these partners will strengthen SHE-CAN's capacity to serve scholars.

SHE-CAN also continues to build relationships with NGOs, US government agencies, and thought leaders who are developing and funding programs addressing issues around women's empowerment, global female leadership, and women's education in order to prepare for scaling.

Since 2011, SHE-CAN has selected 46 scholars from Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Rwanda. Scholars have won a total of $12 million in scholarships and have attended a total of 23 schools. Additionally, ten new candidates from Cambodia and Rwanda have been selected and are applying for 2019 admittance.

Of the 46 scholars, 17 are graduates and all are thriving in impressive careers and several are emerging as leaders including the Personal Assistant to Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Secretary to Rwanda’s Minister of the Interior, and a Manager of Social Impact & Healthcare at Kasha, a Kigali social impact start-up. To ensure the continued success of the graduates, SHE-CAN will launch an Employer Consortium in 2019. The network will include international companies and government agencies committed to hiring our bright scholars. This will enable graduates to obtain high-level jobs in their home countries and have an immediate impact on their community.

In 2015, SHE-CAN saw an opportunity to engage US schools as partners and formed the SHE-CAN Scholarship Coalition, comprised of partner schools who have each committed to award full scholarships to SHE-CAN candidates who meet their minimum admission requirements. The Scholarship Coalition now includes 12 schools, including: Bucknell, Beloit, Gettysburg, Lafayette, Lewis & Clark, Muhlenberg, Northwestern, Oberlin, Spelman, University of Minnesota, University of Portland, University of San Francisco.

Given their success, SHE-CAN expanded the program to Liberia in late 2018. For the 2020 academic school year, they plan on selecting 5 scholars from Liberia and 10 from Cambodia. They will scope their fourth country for its expansion potential in spring 2019.


SHE-CAN Global

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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SHE-CAN Global

Board of directors
as of 3/23/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mary Jane Luck

Levi Strauss & Co. Red Tab Foundation

Term: 2017 -

Barbara Bylenga


Nancy Murphy

Worldview Studios

Kristin Nicholson

First Republic Bank

Carol Chang

Private Management

Melanie Dulbecco


Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No