After leaving her home in Greece at the age of 16, Tracy Edwards was working just to stay alive. “You name it, I did it!” she writes on her site, The Maiden Factor, which she later created as a charity to help raise funds to educate girls around the world.
Edwards was similar to the girls she now helps. Though she wasn’t forced to stop school to marry, she acknowledges the way it took another person to show her her potential. She needed the help of a very unlikely friend to show her how big her dreams could be.
This friend came in the form of His Majesty King Hussein I, King of Jordan until 1999. Edwards met King Hussein on a ship, working while he and his family celebrated the graduation ceremony of his son. She remembers his kindness, even when they were complete strangers, and the way he took a very deep interest in her life.
Small conversations grew into a lifelong friendship between the pair, made more interesting as Edwards revealed her plans to sail around the world with a women-only cew. When she mentioned the idea to the King, Edward writes that he responded, “You must do this!” and had her believing she could “conquer the world.” King Hussein loved the idea.
But Edwards quickly realized the additional difficulties she would face as a woman. Deciding to sail with an all-women crew made it near impossible for Edwards to find a sponsor for her race.
After years of failed attempts, Edwards found herself back in Jordan on a visit with the King. This time, the King introduced Edwards to Ali Ghandour, the CEO of Royal Jordanian Airlines, and he and Edwards worked out a sponsorship for her ship, the Maiden.
Edwards now describes the race as “in the history books.” The crew finished second overall with two leg wins, the best result for a British boat since 1977.
Many times in her writing, Edwards mentions the way she felt the gravity of King Hussein’s impact in her life only after he had died. She understood the importance of his friendship and kindness, and the way he helped empower her to change her own life.
This is what Edwards now hopes to do for girls all around the world. The Maiden Factor, a charity she created and named after her boat, works to empower girls around the world through education.
The charity’s site talks about the similarities between all girls, that they “…have big dreams for their lives, no matter where they live,” but that these dreams often end at an early age, when they lose access to schooling.
Achieving universal access to 12 years of fee-free, quality primary and secondary education for girls is the charity’s major focus. With 12 years of education, the charity’s site notes that childhood marriages would fall by 64 percent and child deaths under five years of age by 49 percent.
Like her friend King Hussein, Edwards understands the potential in all girls and the power of solidarity and empowerment. Her charity also partakes in The Maiden Message of Hope Relay, which sends a message of hope and solidarity from girls in the UK to girls all around the world, carried on each leg of Maiden’s world tour by two girls who are chosen by the charity’s supporting schools. At every country, the Message of Hope is presented on the docks, where additional messages can be added.
Edwards is a living example of empowerment, standing as an example for dreaming girls all over the world.
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