The movement to empower girls is riding a wave of renewal, with new summits, workshops and programs all aimed at helping girls grow.
The Girls Summit, sponsored by the Women on the Rise outreach program at the Museum of Contemporary Art, MOCA, in North Miami, will be held May 29-31. With programs for adults and girls, the purpose is to provide resources for therapists, teachers and other professionals that work with girls, said Anya Wallace, education program manager at MOCA.
Here’s a Q and A with Wallace about what’s behind the movement to empower girls:
Why is it important to empower girls?
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Because all girls are “at risk,” Wallace said. “They’re at risk of not going to college, of unplanned pregnancy, of not having access to information on how to keep their bodies healthy,” she said. “We assume that people who work with girls have the information to help them, but that’s not necessarily true.”
It’s 2013. Why are girls still at a disadvantage?
There is still an undercurrent in society that girls need to shape their lives in a certain way – to get married, to have children, and to be in the background and let the man shine, Wallace said.
Once in a class she was teaching, a girl started talking, and then a boy began to talk over her, Wallace said. She asked the boy why he continued to interrupt. “I didn’t hear her,” the boy said. “She wasn’t speaking loud enough.”
“That’s why we need to have programs for girls,” Wallace said. “To help them speak louder.”
Why do girls have trouble making themselves heard?
Girls struggle with making their voices heard because they have trouble with confidence, and they feel they need to match what boys are doing. They are still taking a step back. “But girls do have a voice,” said Wallace, a Ph.D. candidate in art education and women’s studies at Penn State. “It may be lower, but it still has power.”
What can parents do to empower girls?
Help her find her voice. Show genuine interest in the things she does. Be a good listener, and take her seriously. “As she gets older, it will help her learn that she should be taken seriously, by men and the world,” Wallace said.
Here are some local events that promote empowering girls:
- Girls Summit – May 29-31. Includes workshops for professionals who work with girls, plus evening activities for girls. Topics include body image, how girls can take leading roles in their community, health and sexuality and gender noncomformity. MOCA Art Institute, 770 Northeast 125 St., Miami. Visit mocanomi.org or call 305-893-6211.
- Girl Rising – A documentary about how the power of education can change a girl’s life. The film spotlights a Cambodian orphan who becomes a star student and an accomplished dancer, a Nepal girl who composed music to help her endure forced servitude and today crusades to free others, and an Indian “pavement-dweller” whose father sacrifices his own basic needs for his daughter’s dreams. It’s rated PG-13, and is $10. Tickets must be reserved online in advance. For information or to organize a screening, visit girlrising.com.
- June 1, 5:30 p.m., Urban Namaste, 915 NE 20th Ave. Fort Lauderdale. June 6, 7:30 p.m., Muvico Broward 18, 2315 N. Federal Hwy., Pompano Beach June 12, 5 p.m., Magnolia Place Stadium 16, 9645 Westview Dr., Pompano Beach June 13, 7:30 p.m., Oakwood Stadium 18, 2800 Oakwood Blvd., Hollywood
- Strong Women, Strong Girls – a mentoring program for at-risk girls that pairs mentors from colleges with elementary school girls in Miami-Dade. During the 2012-13 program year, 60 mentors from five college chapters worked with more than 400 girls at 18 partner sites. Fifteen adult volunteers served as leadership coaches and site monitors. To be a site partner, at least half of the children must be on free- or reduced-price lunch. To volunteer or for information, visit swsg.org.
- Embrace Girls – the nonprofit foundation offers after school and camp programs for elementary- and middle school girls. It includes academic tutoring, leadership training, life and character educational skills. The program serves 220 girls at five locations. Visit embracegirlpower.org.
- Girl Scouts – Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida has 15,620 girls and 6,100 adults involved in its program, which includes opportunities to build leadership, character and community service skills. Visit gssef.org.
- Girls Who Code – Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit that works to empower young women to pursue careers in technology and engineering, will offer a Miami program in the summer of 2014. Launched in 2012 in New York City, the program offers eight weeks of classes in robotics, web design and mobile development, and mentoring by female engineers and entrepreneurs. “It's clear the jobs of the future are going to be in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, and we have to empower young women with the opportunities to pursue these careers and become our next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators,” said Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani. “Too often when girls walk into a computer lab after school, it's full of boys, so they turn around and walk out. If we are going to close the gender gap and encourage young women to pursue fields like technology that are so male-dominated, we need to build the sisterhood, and that's what Girls Who Code is about.” To be a school or business partner, a mentor, or for information, visit girlswhocode.com.