An Interview with Mandi, Leah, and Annie – We Are Girls Austin Attendees

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Mandi Melendez, her two daughters, Leah and Annie, along with Mandi’s mother joined Girls Empowerment Network for the 2018 We Are Girls Austin Conference, which was supported by the Dove Self-Esteem Project. We love seeing three generations of women passionate about igniting the power in girls! We interviewed Mandi and her daughters about their experience at the We Are Girls Conference and their thoughts on the importance of self-efficacy. Below is our interview with:
Leah (age 8)
Annie (age 10)
Mandi (age 39)

How was each of your experiences at the 2018 We Are Girls Austin Conference? How did this event encourage, inspire, and/or empower you?
Leah: It was great – I loved it! It encouraged me to go to different or harder classes even if there are older girls in higher grades. I was interested in those classes and the leaders encouraged me to join. I felt confident!
Annie: It was amazing! Before I never really thought about certain jobs but now I really know that girls can do and be anything.
Mandi: This was the best conference yet, because both of my girls AND my mom were able to join and see the power held by this group of young women. It was amazing to see the faces of these generations as they took in the energy, love and support that is available to this growing generation.

Why do you think that Girls Empowerment Network is important? How has this organization impacted each of you?
Leah: So we can have fun and learn to be better people.
Annie: It shows girls they can be themselves and still do anything. They don’t have to try to be anybody else. They can show their true colors. I was impacted by seeing all the different women at the conference telling us about their jobs and encouraging us to be ourselves and do what we love.
Mandi: GEN offers myriad supports to girls that reach them at a deep level. As a mother, I try to reach my daughters with messages about their self-worth and encourage them to take their rightful place in this world. Hearing these messages, and so many more, from inspiring, intelligent and confident women (who aren’t mom!) and girls their own ages really strikes a chord with my children.

Why do you think that self-efficacy, self-compassion, and self-acceptance is vital for girls?
Leah: So that we are nice to ourselves and don’t need to feel self-conscious. Instead this teaches us to be good to ourselves and treat ourselves as well as we would treat others. Self-efficacy is important so you can learn more and not get caught up in others’ expectations.
Annie: These are important because without them we might make a mistake and beat ourselves up about it, but if we have these qualities we will feel good about ourselves.
Mandi: Girls become women, and becoming their best selves in a world full of challenges isn’t easy. Knowing who they are, what they deserve and what they are capable of as they mature protects against many hardships and guides them as they each walk their own path.

If you could share encouraging and affirming words to a ten-year-old girl, what would you say?
Leah: I would say, “You are capable and valued.”
Annie: You are amazing! Keep being yourself.
Mandi: Life is complicated sometimes. You don’t have to do it alone! Reach out, seek mentors, ask for help when you need it. You deserve support.

What is one of the biggest issues that girls are facing today? Are we as a society working to better that experience? If yes, how so? If no, how would each of you suggest we begin to address this challenge?
Leah: Being self-conscious and not nice to themselves is one of the biggest issues girls face today. Society is working on that, especially Girls Empowerment Network! They encourage us in the conference to be kind and not self-conscious. GEN empowers us!
Annie: Not believing in ourselves is one of the biggest issues girls are facing today. Certain groups in schools are helping to combat this, and things outside of school like the conference.
Mandi: Girls today face so many challenges, one of the biggest being the hidden impacts of negative beliefs about themselves and their gender. Lack of confidence, perceived and actual limitations, and harsh self-talk take a huge toll on their development. Society contributes to the solutions, but the problems are so much bigger. We need more support at the community level, and caregivers need to engage with available support more fully so that their children have access to all that is available as they grow.

Many thanks to the Dove Self-Esteem Project, which supported the 2018 We Are Girls Austin Conference and helped make it the powerful day that Mandi, Annie, and Leah describe!

Vanessa Wright