The memories and scars of war are Karen’s driving force for wanting to impart change in Africa and in turn be a role model to girls and women. Karen Koukou-Twaglee was born in West Africa, Liberia in the early 80’s at the onset of tribal and political unrest, which led to a gruesome civil war in the late 1980’s that claimed the lives of thousands of civilians. At the innocent age of 6, Karen came face to face with death when a grenade hit her neighbor’s house while she and some friends were outside playing. Within minutes of the grenade hitting, rebels poured into her community shooting at civilians, looting homes and committing unimaginable atrocities to women. After being forced out of their home, Karen and her family lived in a refugee camp for months, surviving only on mushrooms. By some miracle, she, along with some family members were able to escape to the Ivory Coast. It was while living in the Ivory Coast that she was granted a visa to the United States.
Karen was blessed with a second opportunity of life and a somewhat normal childhood in the United State. She maximized every opportunity that she has been given. Having developed an awareness and passion on women issues-specifically women affected by war and poverty in Africa, she felt moved to do something. The statistics are staggering: 33 million primary school-aged children in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have the opportunity to attend school, 18 million of these children are girls; 40% of Africans over the age of 15 and 50% of women above the age of 25 are illiterate. Karen made it her passion and lifetime mission to shine light on the plight of females in Africa. As the former Miss Liberia USA 2007 and Miss Africa USA 2007, 4th Alternate, her platform was “turning oppression into opportunities by empowering and educating girls.” She believes that investing in girls’ education is by far the most profound way anyone can help alleviate the poverty and gender gaps in Africa. If girls are not educated, empowered, and given equal rights and opportunities-educationally, economically, and socially there is no way they can effectively contribute to the socio-economic needs of Africa. The Power to Do Something was birthed through this vision. The organization’s goals are to educate, empower, and inspire underprivileged girls and women across the African continent so that they can be able to reach their fullest potential. These goals were inspired by Karen’s belief that women hold the key to true development in Africa. Karen life is Jesus inpsired and God ordained. She is a graduate of The University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a degree in Political Science and Psychology and is in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Higher Education Leadership and Administration. Karen currently lives in Minnesota with her family. In addition to being the founder and executive director of The Power to Do Something organization, she works full time as a Program Advisor and Capella University.