Location: Cambridge, Mass.
Anne Cheung is committed to giving women in Cameroon a fair shot at an education. When her friend Anne Rapin returned from serving in the Peace Corps there, she told Cheung that she was haunted by how women and girls were treated in the small sub-Saharan African country. Cheung, a scientist at the biopharmaceutical company Biogen (No. 298), decided to use a small referral bonus she had received to seed a scholarship program for girls in Cameroon. A few years later, in 2008, Cheung and Rapin founded A2Empowerment, a non-profit informally partnered with Peace Corps volunteers in Cameroon. That first year, they awarded scholarships to cover 12 months of secondary education for 17 women who had either dropped out of school or who were likely to do so, according to the assessment of Peace Corps volunteers. Women in Cameroon are often forced to leave school if they become pregnant, says Rapin, and some of the recipients had not been to school in years. A2Empowerment has now funded more than 500 scholarships, including one for a woman to attend university. Says Cheung, “It’s so rewarding to think about what it provides the girls and the hope it gives them. It’s something I’m not ever going to stop doing.”